Academics

Honors in Biology

Scholar Honors and Research Honors Tracks

Guidelines and Schedule: Class of 2021

Updated March 30, 2020 (Version 8.0)

Honors in Biological Sciences can be earned via one of two tracks. The first, Scholar Honors, recognizes exceptional academic performance in the major demonstrated by outstanding success in the classroom (minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.75 or above) along with accomplishments in research leading to submission and acceptance of a scholarly thesis. The second, Research Honors, demands a solid record in the classroom (minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.3 or above) but has a greater emphasis on accomplishments in original research, typically in a laboratory setting, leading to submission and acceptance of an in-depth research thesis.

Both tracks require formal declaration of intent to seek Honors in Spring Quarter of the third year of study.  An Honors degree is only available to students who will graduate as fourth-year students in the Spring quarter.  Students planning to graduate prior to completing at least four full academic years are not eligible.  Students who have taken a leave of absence, spent time at another institution or transferred from another institution may apply for Honors as long as they have been in residence for their full third year as a student in the College.

The Biology Honors program is overseen by the Honors Faculty comprising a Director and Co-Director (to be named) and Curriculum Committee (I. Rebay, J. Greenberg, R. Keenan, S. Kron, L. Mets, S. Sisodia, A. Sperling, B. Kee, D. Nicolae, M. Swartz, W.-J. Tang, P. Sereno, and J. Malamy (ex officio), with additional faculty to be added).

Acceptance into the Research Honors program includes a guarantee of stipend and fee support for research during the summer prior to graduation.  Half of the support will be provided by the BSCD with matching funds provided or arranged by the research Mentor, unless other funding is obtained.  No similar BSCD support will be provided for Scholars Honors candidates who opt to pursue research over the summer, but they are welcome to obtain funding from other sources including their Mentor.

The details of each Honors program are provided below.   

Scholar application format:

For candidates seeking Scholar Honors for graduation in Spring, 2021:

A) No later than noon on Friday, April 17, 2020, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of The University of Chicago.  They will be sent a request by the Director via Kila Roberts for a letter of support and commitment.

B) No later than noon on Friday, April 17, 2020, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members.  They will be contacted by the Director via Kila Roberts to submit a letter of recommendation.

C) No later than noon on Monday, May 11, 2020, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

 

Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referenced. Figure legends and table entries should be Arial 9.  No text in figures or diagrams should be smaller than Arial 9.

 

Application Documents:

Cover letter

1) A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, the thesis project, selection and qualifications of the mentor, overall intellectual goals and any plans for post-graduate education.

 

Supporting documentation

2) A biographical sketch in the format of the Biosketch Template.

3) A scan of your U of C transcript (official transcript not needed)

4) A plan for all Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation. 

 

Proposal

5) A project description in the format of the Research Proposal Template

or

5') Abstract of no more than 1/2 page describing overall project goals and rationale and detailed project description in an appropriate format to the field, covering the scientific problem and its significance, aims and methods of study, anticipated results, pitfalls and alternatives, and broader impacts, consisting of no more than 3 pages, inclusive of figures and tables, with numbered citations.

6) Bibliography of up to thirty references in PNAS format, with PubMed links to each paper.

 

Addendum (optional)

7) Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages, including abstracts, manuscripts, etc.

 

Scholar candidate selection:

While a minimum GPA of 3.75 is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree. Selection of candidates for Scholar in Biology Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based upon, A) the academic record, and particularly the selection of Biology courses completed and grades received (which must be B+ or better), and relevant honors and fellowships; B) evidence of active participation, leadership, advocacy, research or other extracurricular activities demonstrating a commitment to scholarship in biology; C) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letter(s) of recommendation; and D) commitment and appropriateness of the mentor, relevance of the topic to contemporary biology, and rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan.  Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by June 1, 2020.

Candidates may contact the Director via Kila Roberts regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date.  Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

 

Scholar Honors curriculum:

Failure to complete the requirements outlined below on time will result in loss of candidacy for Honors.

There are no requirements per se for specific courses or to be in residence during any quarter.  Any changes in the proposed Biology coursework plan must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed.  The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully.

For 2020-21, given that Spring quarter 2020 will have already been spent off campus during a time when most research was disrupted, it will be very challenging for Scholars candidates to justify why they cannot commit to spend the next four quarters on campus engaged in uninterrupted research.  A truly compelling argument would need to be made establishing why it is critical to the success of their research project to be off campus for a quarter during their last year.  Other off-campus activities such as study abroad will not be considered as acceptable for this year's class.

Note that Scholar Honors candidates are encouraged to participate in the Research Honors curriculum (see below) but must make a committment to participate in the full three quarter course sequence to obtain credit or grades.  Thus, Scholar candidates must register for the Summer quarter and cannot join the Research Honors courses only in Fall and/or Winter.  Auditing the Research Honors courses can be arranged with permission of the Director.

 

Spring quarter, 2020:

Informal program welcome meeting by Zoom on June 5th.

The 2020 Rowley Honors Symposium has been cancelled.

 

Summer quarter, 2020:

By end of tenth week:  A thesis committee proposed by the candidate must be approved by the Honors Director. The committee must consist of three members of the Honors Faculty as listed above. The Director will chair all Scholar Honors thesis committees. The Mentor is not a member of the thesis committee.

 

Fall quarter, 2020:

By end of first week:  A detailed thesis précis and outline, endorsed by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.

By end of third week:  A first thesis committee meeting must be held attended by the candidate and mentor at which the candidate will present their thesis proposal. For Scholars candidates who plan to be abroad during Fall quarter, the thesis committee meeting must be completed prior to departure and the précis and outline must be submitted at least a week before the meeting.

By end of fifth week:  The thesis plan must be approved by the thesis committee.

 

Winter quarter, 2021:

By end of eighth week:  A second thesis committee meeting must be held attended by the candidate and mentor.  For Scholars candidates who plan to be abroad during Winter quarter, the meeting must be held in person, prior to departure.

 

Spring quarter, 2021:

By end of second week:  A complete thesis draft, approved by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.

By end of sixth week:  A final thesis must be accepted by the Mentor and thesis committee.

Participation in the Rowley Honors Symposium by presenting a poster is required. Oral presentation optional.

By beginning of finals week:  An official transcript must be provided showing satisfactory performance (B+ or better) in all Biology coursework and final overall GPA of 3.75 or higher.

Research application format:

For candidates seeking Research Honors for graduation in Spring, 2021:

A) No later than noon on Friday, April 17, 2020, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of The University of Chicago.  They will be sent a request by the Director via Kila Roberts for a letter of support and commitment.

B) No later than noon on Friday, April 17, 2020, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members.  They will be contacted by the Director via Kila Roberts to submit a letter of recommendation.

C) No later than noon on Monday, May 11, 2020, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referred to. Figure legends and table entries will be Arial 9.  No text in figures or diagrams will be smaller than Arial 9.

 

Application Documents:

Cover letter

1) A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, prior or ongoing research, the research project, selection of the mentor, and any plans for post-graduate research or other training and education.

 

Supporting documentation

2) A biographical sketch in the format of the Biosketch Template.

3) A scan of your U of C transcript (official transcript not needed)

4) A plan for Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation.

 

Proposal

5) A research proposal in the format of the Research Proposal Template.

 

Addendum (optional)

6) Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages, including abstracts, manuscripts, etc.

 

Research candidate selection:

While a minimum GPA of 3.3 is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree.  Selection of candidates for Biology Research Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based on, A) evidence of commitment to and substantive experience in biological research; B) rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan; C) Biology courses completed and grades received (which must be B or better); and D) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letters of support and recommendation.  Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by June 1, 2020.

Candidates may contact the Director via Kila Roberts regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date.  Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

 

Research Honors curriculum:

The Biology Research Honors program will require continuous participation from the end of the Spring quarter of the Third year through Spring quarter of the Fourth year.  This precludes any extended absence from campus during any academic quarter, including Summer.  Distractions such as TAships or other jobs, except for work study positions, that do not advance the research project are strongly discouraged.  Any changes in science coursework must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed.  The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully.

 

All accepted Research Honors candidates will be awarded a $5000 summer research fellowship consisting of $4000 stipend and $1000 for fees, program and research costs. 

Funding for the fellowship will typically be $2500 from the Honors program matched by $2500 from the Mentor or their Department. 

To save their Mentor from having to contribute the $2500, students are encouraged to seek alternative summer funding from the BSCD by applying to one of the programs listed here https://bscd.uchicago.edu/page/bscd-summer-research-programs.

Students who are able to obtain a summer fellowship funded by a source other than the BSCD (e.g. NSF REUs, Beckman Scholars, programs listed here http://ccrf.uchicago.edu/ ) will qualify for additional funding from the Honors program to pay fees, program and research costs and/or raise their stipend up to a maximum of $5000, as permitted.

 

Spring quarter, 2020:

Informal program welcome meeting June 5th.

The 2020 Rowley Honors Symposium has been cancelled.

 

Summer quarter, 2020:

Registration for BIOS00295 Honors course, graded with no credit conferred.  No other coursework is permitted.

Ten weeks of full-time research on campus. No other paid work is permitted.

Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.

Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Background" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

 

Fall quarter, 2020:

Registration for BIOS00296 Honors course, graded with 100 units credit. Registration will only be offered after acceptance of the "Background" chapter draft for Summer quarter.

Poster presentation at retreat at beginning of quarter.

Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.

Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Methods" thesis chapter and an outline of the "Results" chapter due at end of quarter.

 

Winter quarter, 2021:

Registration for BIOS00296 Honors course, graded with 100 units credit. Registration will only be offered after acceptance of the "Methods" chapter draft and "Results" chapter outline for Fall quarter.

Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.

Form thesis committee of three faculty with at least one Honors Faculty to serve as committee chair.        Committee must be approved by Director. The mentor is not a member of the thesis committee.

Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Results" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

 

Spring quarter, 2021:

Full thesis draft endorsed by Mentor presented to thesis committee by end of third week.

Thesis must be defended in front of the thesis committee by end of seventh week.

Accepted thesis signed by Mentor and thesis committee due by end of eighth week.

Final transcript showing satisfactory performance in all Biology coursework.

Participation in the Rowley Honors Symposium by presenting a poster. Oral presentation optional.

 

 

What's the deal with the Honors program?

The best source of information on how this all works is the current and recent Honors students.  Kila Roberts has a list of current students that she can share. 

Once you learn about the Honors programs, you may discover that both Research and Scholar Honors fit you or maybe neither.  Bottom line, the Honors program is not worth the trouble if you consider it something to put on your resume.  The goal of the Honors program is to increase the rigor of your scientific education and provide a stronger foundation for future research. 

 

So, like what if there is no Summer quarter, 2020?

Some crises are not crises until they actually happen and then when they happen they are not crises next to the other stuff that is happening.  If Summer quarter doesn't happen, not being able to get going on Honors research will likely be only a minor part of your and our problems.  For now, please assume that faculty and research groups will be back at work and that research labs will be open as of the regular start date, maybe delayed a week or two, for Summer quarter.  Please plan to be ready for full-time research as of that date.  If the situation changes, then there is a new situation. 

 

Will all students who submit a complete Scholar or Research Honors Proposals be accepted?

Only those students who appear on track to achieve the level of accomplishment that would be expected of a Biology Honors graduate will be accepted.  The selection criteria will be applied in a balanced manner, with the consideration that students may display strength in one area sufficient to offset a weakness in another.  On the other hand, students who submit a complete proposal but show no evidence of excellence, commitment or unusual promise in any aspect of their record as Biology majors will likely not be invited to complete an Honors thesis.  While high grades, honors, activities, accomplishments and an exciting thesis proposal are all important, the Curriculum Committee will consider the level of enthusiasm and support from the faculty writers critical for all applicants, insofar as Honors reflects a recognition by our faculty of their best students. 

 

How strict are the GPA and Biology grade limits for consideration for Scholar or Research Honors? 

 

The ≥ 3.75 GPA, B+ or better in Biology grade criteria for Scholars will be enforced except in rare cases. 

Students with a GPA close to 3.3 or who may have received one Biology grade below a B may still be considered for Research Honors.  Again, excellence in the classroom and committment to research are each important, but enthusiastic endorsement from faculty who have taught or mentored a student is more significant.  Strong support from your Mentor can more than make up for a lapse in one course or another.

Any student who wants to be considered despite their GPA or grades is encouraged to send an email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu and formally request permission to apply.  The letter should briefly describe the problem and any offsetting considerations such as a particularly strong research background.  Students who provide a strong argument are likely to be invited to apply, but without any promise of acceptance.  In their application, the cover letter should provide a compelling statement regarding the qualifications offsetting the academic performance, and describe any factors that mitigate the grade issues.  The candidate should also make sure that their Mentor and the faculty member(s) providing a recommendation are aware of their grades and courses in some detail as well as any explanation for the prior difficulties.  The invitation for a letter of support will almost certainly ask the Mentor to address this weakness and the faculty writing recommendations will be free to comment as well.

 

What do you mean by a "full faculty member" for the Mentor and/or Recommenders?

Briefly, a Mentor should have an appointment as a faculty member of the University of Chicago with an appointment in a Department or Committee of the Biological Sciences Division/Pritzker School of Medicine that offers them the opportunity to serve as a thesis advisor for a graduate student PhD dissertation project.  Typically, these faculty supervise graduate and post-doctoral trainees, write grants to support their research, have an office and other space on campus where they conduct research, and so on. 

Some potential Mentors may have their main office off-campus, as at Argonne or the Field Museum, but are still engaged with the Hyde Park University campus.  Other potential Mentors may plan to be away from campus for long periods during the four quarters of Honors research.  In each such case, a clear plan needs to be presented to ensure that the Mentor and candidate will be able to work together effectively.

The University of Chicago has several faculty tracks, leading to confusion.  In general, faculty with appointments in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) track would all be considered as appropriate as Mentors whether they are Assistant Professors, Associate Professors or full Professors.  Faculty including Assistant Professors, Associate Professors and full Professors on the School of Medicine (SOM) track are generally appropriate.  However, SOM faculty who are still Instructors or have only a clinical affiliation are not appropriate.  Similarly, faculty who are called Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor or Research Professor may not be appropriate, although there are many exceptions. 

As a general guideline, all Recommenders should be faculty who could serve as an Honors Mentor.  Ideally, they are sufficiently familiar with College students via their teaching and/or mentoring activities to offer an informed opinion of your suitability for Honors in Biology.  A useful recommendation might come from a faculty member who collaborates with your Mentor, but not from someone who is directly supervised by them.  Your second recommendation might come from someone who would not be a mentor but who you have worked with at another institution, like from a summer research internship.

Lecturers and Senior Lecturers in the BSCD, listed here https://bscd.uchicago.edu/content/staff , are not appropriate as Mentors or Recommenders. 

Any questions about whether a potential Mentor or Recommender is qualified can be directed to the Director via Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

 

Can Scholars Honors join the Research Honors Research in Progress classes and get credit?

Yes, Scholars candidates are completely welcome and encouraged to register for the RIP class sequence as long as they participate fully.  This means they must register for the Summer quarter course.  They can also audit, meaning attend and participate in, the RIP class without registering if they don't need the course credit, with approval of the Director.

 

Are there any constraints on Scholar Honors candidates once the proposal is accepted?  Is it just make the deadlines and maintain the GPA and Biology grades until graduation?

While Scholar Honors involves few requirements, it will be expected that work will start on the thesis in the Spring this year and then continue through the year, in regular consultation with the Mentor.  Time away such as study off-campus is no excuse to suspend work on the thesis.  The two thesis committee meetings must be completed on time and progress deemed acceptable by the committee and other deadlines must be met.

Any change in the thesis topic and/or Mentor would have to be approved by the Honors Curriculum Committee and likely no later than the end of Summer quarter.

 The full year of research provides time to make significant progress on the topic.  As such, students may fail to receive Honors because the thesis falls below the level of accomplishment expected.  If the progress reported to the thesis committee is unsatisfactory or the thesis draft is not judged as substantive, intellectually rigorous, insightful, and representative of what should be possible with a full year of sustained effort on the proposed topic, Honors may not be awarded. 

Thus, any issues that have begun to affect progress, like problems with experiments, lack of access to resources, an uninvolved mentor, etc., should be discussed with the Honors Director early on, so that a reasonable response can be agreed upon, whether revising the goals or even a complete change in project.

 

To what extent are Scholar Honors theses expected to contain results from original research conducted by the candidate?

We do not intend to require Scholar Honors students to all pursue conventional original research projects that require collecting new data via bench or field experiments, direct observations or measurements, computational modeling, etc. but to allow wide latitude to consider alternative thesis concepts.  So, while a Scholar thesis can certainly be based on independent experimentation, observation and/or modeling, the Scholar track can accommodate other options as well such as pursuing a critical analysis of existing data or a large literature. 

Scholars might opt to pursue a critical analysis of existing primary data and the related body of literature.  One might imagine theses that constitute a critique of a healthcare policy such as methadone maintenance, a meta-analysis of recent clinical trials of anti-depressants, or an argument against punctuated equilibria based on a fossil collection or genomic data.  The topic must touch on a current issue in Biology, including medicine and other applied fields, be described in a compelling thesis proposal and be supported by a willing and appropriate Mentor.  If the thesis precis and abstract and then the final document are accepted and approved by the Curriculum Committee, then Honors will be awarded.

If the Scholar thesis is experimental/observational/modeling, then it would be expected to report significant progress toward the goals and provide a critical analysis of this work, just like a Research Honors thesis.  Even a highly experimental thesis is driven by a problem that needs to emerge from a scholarly review of the literature.  As such, the thesis document would include one or more chapters that examine the primary papers that provide the intellectual foundation and context for the work. 

Of course, the depth and breadth of synthesis and analysis expected from a student who is pursuing a purely analytic topic would be considerably greater, insofar as all their efforts during the year would be focused on data and literature analysis rather than generating new knowledge.

Guidelines and Schedule: Class of 2020

Updated March 12, 2019 (Version 7.0)

Honors in Biological Sciences can be earned via one of two tracks. The first, Scholar Honors, recognizes exceptional academic performance in the major demonstrated by outstanding success in the classroom (minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.75 or above) along with accomplishments in research leading to submission and acceptance of a scholarly thesis. The second, Research Honors, demands a solid record in the classroom (minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.3 or above) but has a greater emphasis on accomplishments in original research, typically in a laboratory setting, leading to submission and acceptance of an in-depth research thesis.

Both tracks require formal declaration of intent to seek Honors in spring quarter of the third year of study. An Honors degree is only available to students who will graduate as fourth-year students in the spring quarter. Students planning to graduate prior to completing at least four full academic years are not eligible. Students who have taken a leave of absence, spent time at another institution, or transferred from another institution may apply for Honors as long as they have been in residence for their full third year as a student in the College.

The Biology Honors program is overseen by the Honors Faculty comprising a Director (S. Kron) and Curriculum Committee (I. Rebay, G. Thinakaran, J. Greenberg, R. Keenan, L. Mets, S. Sisodia, A. Sperling, B. Kee, D. Nicolae, M. Swartz, W.-J. Tang, P. Sereno, and J. Malamy (ex officio), with additional faculty to be added).

Acceptance into the Research Honors program includes a guarantee of stipend and fee support for research during the summer prior to graduation. Half of the support will be provided by the BSCD with matching funds provided or arranged by the research Mentor, unless other funding is obtained. No similar BSCD support will be provided for Scholars Honors candidates who opt to pursue research over the summer, but they are welcome to obtain funding from other sources including their Mentor.

The details of each Honors program are provided below. 

Scholar application format:

For candidates seeking Scholar Honors for graduation in Spring 2020:

  • No later than noon on Friday, April 5, 2019, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of the University of Chicago. They will be sent a request by the Director via Kila Roberts for a letter of support and commitment.
  • No later than noon on Friday, April 5, 2019, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members. They will be contacted by the Director via Kila Roberts to submit a letter of recommendation.
  • No later than noon on Monday, April 29, 2019, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referenced. Figure legends and table entries should be Arial 9. No text in figures or diagrams should be smaller than Arial 9.

Application Documents:

Cover letter

  • A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, the thesis project, selection and qualifications of the mentor, overall intellectual goals and any plans for post-graduate education.

Supporting documentation

  • A biographical sketch in the format of the Biosketch Template.
  • A scan of your U of C transcript (official transcript not needed)
  • A plan for all Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation. 

Proposal

  • A project description in the format of the Research Proposal Template

or

  • Abstract of no more than 1/2 page describing overall project goals and rationale and detailed project description in an appropriate format to the field, covering the scientific problem and its significance, aims and methods of study, anticipated results, pitfalls and alternatives, and broader impacts, consisting of no more than 3 pages, inclusive of figures and tables, with numbered citations.
  • Bibliography of up to thirty references in PNAS format, with PubMed links to each paper.

Addendum (optional)

  • Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages, including abstracts, manuscripts, etc.

Scholar candidate selection:

While a minimum GPA of 3.75 is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree. Selection of candidates for Scholar in Biology Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based upon, A) the academic record, and particularly the selection of Biology courses completed and grades received (which must be B+ or better), and relevant honors and fellowships; B) evidence of active participation, leadership, advocacy, research or other extracurricular activities demonstrating a commitment to scholarship in biology; C) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letter(s) of recommendation; and D) commitment and appropriateness of the mentor, relevance of the topic to contemporary biology, and rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan. Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by May 13, 2019.

Candidates may contact the Director via Kila Roberts regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date. Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

Scholar Honors curriculum:

Failure to complete the requirements outlined below on time will result in loss of candidacy for Honors.           

There are no requirements for specific courses or to be in residence during any quarter. Any changes in the proposed Biology coursework plan must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed. The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully.            

Note that Scholar Honors candidates are encouraged to participate in the Research Honors curriculum (see below) but must make a commitment to participate in the full three quarter course sequence to obtain credit or grades. Thus, Scholar candidates must register for the Summer quarter and cannot join the Research Honors courses only in Fall and/or Winter. Auditing the Research Honors courses can be arranged with permission of the Director.

Spring quarter 2019:

  • Informal program welcome meeting May 20th.
  • Attend Rowley Honors Symposium May 24th.  Poster presentation available.

Summer quarter 2019:

  • By end of tenth week: A thesis committee proposed by the candidate must be approved by the Honors Director. The committee must consist of three members of the Honors Faculty as listed above. The Director will chair all Scholar Honors thesis committees. The Mentor is not a member of the thesis committee.

Autumn quarter 2019:

  • By end of first week: A detailed thesis précis and outline, endorsed by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.
  • By end of third week: A first thesis committee meeting must be held attended by the candidate and mentor at which the candidate will present their thesis proposal. For Scholars candidates who plan to be abroad during Fall quarter, the thesis committee meeting must be completed prior to departure and the précis and outline must be submitted at least a week before the meeting.
  • By end of fifth week: The thesis plan must be approved by the thesis committee.

Winter quarter 2020:

  • By end of eighth week: A second thesis committee meeting must be held attended by the candidate and mentor.  For Scholars candidates who plan to be abroad during Winter quarter, the meeting must be held in person, prior to departure.

Spring quarter 2020:

  • By end of second week: A complete thesis draft, approved by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.
  • By end of sixth week: A final thesis must be accepted by the Mentor and thesis committee.
  • Participation in the Rowley Honors Symposium by presenting a poster is required. Oral presentation optional.
  • By beginning of finals week: An official transcript must be provided showing satisfactory performance (B+ or better) in all Biology coursework and final overall GPA of 3.75 or higher.
  • Research application format:

    For candidates seeking Research Honors for graduation in Spring, 2020:

    • No later than noon on Friday, April 5, 2019, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of the University of Chicago. They will be sent a request by the Director via Kila Roberts for a letter of support and commitment.
    • No later than noon on Friday, April 5, 2019, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members. They will be contacted by the Director via Kila Roberts to submit a letter of recommendation.
    • No later than noon on Monday, April 29, 2019, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

    Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referred to. Figure legends and table entries will be Arial 9. No text in figures or diagrams will be smaller than Arial 9.

    Application Documents:

    Cover letter

    • A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, prior or ongoing research, the research project, selection of the mentor, and any plans for post-graduate research or other training and education.

    Supporting documentation

    • A biographical sketch in the format of the Biosketch Template.
    • A scan of your U of C transcript (official transcript not needed)
    • A plan for Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation.

    Proposal

    • A research proposal in the format of the Research Proposal Template.

    Addendum (optional)

    • Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages, including abstracts, manuscripts, etc.

    Research candidate selection:

    While a minimum GPA of 3.3 is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree. Selection of candidates for Biology Research Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based on, A) evidence of commitment to and substantive experience in biological research; B) rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan; C) Biology courses completed and grades received (which must be B or better); and D) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letters of support and recommendation. Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by May 13, 2019.

    Candidates may contact the Director via Kila Roberts regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date. Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

    Research Honors curriculum:

    The Biology Research Honors program will require continuous participation from the end of the Spring quarter of the Third year through Spring quarter of the Fourth year. This precludes any extended absence from campus during any academic quarter, including Summer. Distractions such as TAships or other jobs, except for work study positions, that do not advance the research project are strongly discouraged. Any changes in science coursework must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed. The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully.

    All accepted Research Honors candidates will be awarded a $5000 summer research fellowship consisting of $4000 stipend and $1000 for fees, program and research costs. 

    Funding for the fellowship will typically be $2500 from the Honors program matched by $2500 from the Mentor or their Department. 

    To save their Mentor from having to contribute the $2500, students are encouraged to seek alternative summer funding from the BSCD by applying to one of the programs listed here https://bscd.uchicago.edu/page/bscd-summer-research-programs.

    Students who are able to obtain a summer fellowship funded by a source other than the BSCD (e.g. NSF REUs, Beckman Scholars, programs listed here http://ccrf.uchicago.edu/) will qualify for additional funding from the Honors program to pay fees, program and research costs and/or raise their stipend up to a maximum of $5000, as permitted.

    Spring quarter 2019:

    • Informal program welcome meeting May 20th.
    • Attend Rowley Honors Symposium May 24th.  Poster presentation available.

    Summer quarter 2019:

    • Registration for BIOS00295 Honors course, graded with no credit conferred.  No other coursework is permitted.
    • Ten weeks of full-time research on campus. No other paid work is permitted.
    • Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.
    • Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Background" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

    Autumn quarter 2019:

    • Registration for BIOS00296 Honors course, graded with 100 units credit. Registration will only be offered after acceptance of the "Background" chapter draft for Summer quarter.
    • Poster presentation at retreat at beginning of quarter.
    • Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.
    • Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Methods" thesis chapter and an outline of the "Results" chapter due at end of quarter.

    Winter quarter 2020:

    • Registration for BIOS00296 Honors course, graded with 100 units credit. Registration will only be offered after acceptance of the "Methods" chapter draft and "Results" chapter outline for Fall quarter.
    • Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.
    • Form thesis committee of three faculty with at least one Honors Faculty to serve as committee chair. Committee must be approved by Director. The mentor is not a member of the thesis committee.
    • Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Results" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

    Spring quarter 2020:

    • Full thesis draft endorsed by Mentor presented to thesis committee by end of third week.
    • Thesis must be defended in front of the thesis committee by end of seventh week.
    • Accepted thesis signed by Mentor and thesis committee due by end of eighth week.
    • Final transcript showing satisfactory performance in all Biology coursework.
    • Participation in the Rowley Honors Symposium by presenting a poster. Oral presentation optional.
  • What's the deal with the Honors program?

    The best source of information on how this all works is the current and recent Honors students. Kila Roberts has a list of current students that she can share. 

    Once you learn about the Honors programs, you may discover that both Research and Scholar Honors fit you or maybe neither. Bottom line, the Honors program is not worth the trouble if you consider it something to put on your resume. The goal of the Honors program is to increase the rigor of your scientific education and provide a stronger foundation for future research. 

    Will all students who submit a complete Scholar or Research Honors Proposals be accepted?

    Only those students who appear on track to achieve the level of accomplishment that would be expected of a Biology Honors graduate will be accepted. The selection criteria will be applied in a balanced manner, with the consideration that students may display strength in one area sufficient to offset a weakness in another. On the other hand, students who submit a complete proposal but show no evidence of excellence, commitment or unusual promise in any aspect of their record as Biology majors will likely not be invited to complete an Honors thesis. While high grades, honors, activities, accomplishments and an exciting thesis proposal are all important, the Curriculum Committee will consider the level of enthusiasm and support from the faculty writers critical for all applicants, insofar as Honors reflects a recognition by our faculty of their best students. 

    How strict are the GPA and Biology grade limits for consideration for Scholar or Research Honors? 

    The ≥ 3.75 GPA, B+ or better in Biology grade criteria for Scholars will be enforced except in rare cases.           

    Students with a GPA close to 3.3 or who may have received one Biology grade below a B may still be considered for Research Honors. Again, excellence in the classroom and commitment to research are each important, but enthusiastic endorsement from faculty who have taught or mentored a student is more significant. Strong support from your Mentor can more than make up for a lapse in one course or another.           

    Any student who wants to be considered despite their GPA or grades is encouraged to send an email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu and formally request permission to apply. The letter should briefly describe the problem and any offsetting considerations such as a particularly strong research background. Students who provide a strong argument are likely to be invited to apply, but without any promise of acceptance.  In their application, the cover letter should provide a compelling statement regarding the qualifications offsetting the academic performance, and describe any factors that mitigate the grade issues. The candidate should also make sure that their Mentor and the faculty member(s) providing a recommendation are aware of their grades and courses in some detail as well as any explanation for the prior difficulties.  The invitation for a letter of support will almost certainly ask the Mentor to address this weakness and the faculty writing recommendations will be free to comment as well.

    What do you mean by a "full faculty member" for the Mentor and/or Recommenders?

    Briefly, a Mentor should have an appointment as a faculty member of the University of Chicago with an appointment in a Department or Committee of the Biological Sciences Division/Pritzker School of Medicine that offers them the opportunity to serve as a thesis advisor for a graduate student PhD dissertation project. Typically, these faculty supervise graduate and post-doctoral trainees, write grants to support their research, have an office and other space on campus where they conduct research, and so on.           

    Some potential Mentors may have their main office off-campus, as at Argonne or the Field Museum, but are still engaged with the Hyde Park University campus. Other potential Mentors may plan to be away from campus for long periods during the four quarters of Honors research. In each such case, a clear plan needs to be presented to ensure that the Mentor and candidate will be able to work together effectively.

    The University of Chicago has several faculty tracks, leading to confusion. In general, faculty with appointments in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) track would all be considered as appropriate as Mentors whether they are Assistant Professors, Associate Professors or full Professors. Faculty including Assistant Professors, Associate Professors and full Professors on the School of Medicine (SOM) track are generally appropriate. However, SOM faculty who are still Instructors or have only a clinical affiliation are not appropriate. Similarly, faculty who are called Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor or Research Professor may not be appropriate, although there are many exceptions.           

    As a general guideline, all Recommenders should be faculty who could serve as an Honors Mentor. Ideally, they are sufficiently familiar with College students via their teaching and/or mentoring activities to offer an informed opinion of your suitability for Honors in Biology. A useful recommendation might come from a faculty member who collaborates with your Mentor, but not from someone who is directly supervised by them. Your second recommendation might come from someone who would not be a mentor but who you have worked with at another institution, like from a summer research internship.

    Lecturers and SeniorLecturers in the BSCD, listed at https://bscd.uchicago.edu/content/staff, are not appropriate as Mentors or Recommenders. 

    Any questions about whether a potential Mentor or Recommender is qualified can be directed to the Director via Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

    Can Scholars Honors join the Research Honors Research in Progress classes and get credit?

    Yes, Scholars candidates are completely welcome and encouraged to register for the RIP class sequence as long as they participate fully. This means they must register for the Summer quarter course. They can also audit, meaning attend and participate in, the RIP class without registering if they don't need the course credit, with approval of the Director.

    Are there any constraints on Scholar Honors candidates once the proposal is accepted?  Is it just make the deadlines and maintain the GPA and Biology grades until graduation?

    While Scholar Honors involves few requirements, it will be expected that work will start on the thesis in the Spring this year and then continue through the year, in regular consultation with the Mentor. Time away such as study off-campus is no excuse to suspend work on the thesis. The two thesis committee meetings must be completed on time and progress deemed acceptable by the committee and other deadlines must be met.

    Any change in the thesis topic and/or Mentor would have to be approved by the Honors Curriculum Committee and likely no later than the end of Summer quarter.

    The full year of research provides time to make significant progress on the topic. As such, students may fail to receive Honors because the thesis falls below the level of accomplishment expected. If the progress reported to the thesis committee is unsatisfactory or the thesis draft is not judged as substantive, intellectually rigorous, insightful, and representative of what should be possible with a full year of sustained effort on the proposed topic, Honors may not be awarded. 

    Thus, any issues that have begun to affect progress, like problems with experiments, lack of access to resources, an uninvolved mentor, etc., should be discussed with the Honors Director early on, so that a reasonable response can be agreed upon, whether revising the goals or even a complete change in project.

    To what extent are Scholar Honors theses expected to contain results from original research conducted by the candidate?

    We do not intend to require Scholar Honors students to all pursue conventional original research projects that require collecting new data via bench or field experiments, direct observations or measurements, computational modeling, etc. but to allow wide latitude to consider alternative thesis concepts. So, while a Scholar thesis can certainly be based on independent experimentation, observation and/or modeling, the Scholar track can accommodate other options as well such as pursuing a critical analysis of existing data or a large literature. 

    Scholars might opt to pursue a critical analysis of existing primary data and the related body of literature. One might imagine theses that constitute a critique of a healthcare policy such as methadone maintenance, a meta-analysis of recent clinical trials of anti-depressants, or an argument against punctuated equilibria based on a fossil collection or genomic data. The topic must touch on a current issue in Biology, including medicine and other applied fields, be described in a compelling thesis proposal and be supported by a willing and appropriate Mentor. If the thesis precis and abstract and then the final document are accepted and approved by the Curriculum Committee, then Honors will be awarded.

    If the Scholar thesis is experimental/observational/modeling, then it would be expected to report significant progress toward the goals and provide a critical analysis of this work, just like a Research Honors thesis. Even a highly experimental thesis is driven by a problem that needs to emerge from a scholarly review of the literature. As such, the thesis document would include one or more chapters that examine the primary papers that provide the intellectual foundation and context for the work. 

    Of course, the depth and breadth of synthesis and analysis expected from a student who is pursuing a purely analytic topic would be considerably greater, insofar as all their efforts during the year would be focused on data and literature analysis rather than generating new knowledge.

Guidelines and Schedule: Class of 2019

Updated June 12, 2018 (Version 6.1)

Honors in Biological Sciences can be earned via one of two tracks. The first, Scholar Honors, recognizes exceptional academic performance in the major demonstrated by outstanding success in the classroom (minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.75 or above) along with accomplishments in research leading to submission and acceptance of a scholarly thesis. The second, Research Honors, demands a solid record in the classroom (minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.3 or above) but has a greater emphasis on accomplishments in original research, typically in a laboratory setting, leading to submission and acceptance of an in-depth research thesis.

Both tracks require formal declaration of intent to seek Honors in spring quarter of the third year of study. An Honors degree is only available to students who will graduate as fourth-year students in the spring quarter. Students planning to graduate prior to completing at least four full academic years are not eligible. Students who have taken a leave of absence, spent time at another institution, or transferred from another institution may apply for Honors as long as they have been in residence for their full third year as a student in the College.

The Biology Honors program is overseen by the Honors Faculty comprising a Director (S. Kron) and Curriculum Committee (I. Rebay, G. Thinakaran, J. Greenberg, R. Keenan, L. Mets, S. Sisodia, A. Sperling, B. Kee, D. Nicolae, M. Swartz, W.-J. Tang, P. Sereno, and J. Malamy (ex officio), with additional faculty to be added).

Acceptance into the Research Honors program includes a guarantee of stipend and fee support for research during the summer prior to graduation. Half of the support will be provided by the BSCD with matching funds provided or arranged by the research Mentor. No similar BSCD support will be provided for Scholars Honors candidates who opt to pursue research over the summer, but they are welcome to obtain funding from other sources including their Mentor.

The details of each Honors program are provided below. 

Scholar application format:

For candidates seeking Scholar Honors for graduation in Spring 2019:

  • No later than noon on Friday, March 30, 2018, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of the University of Chicago. They will be sent a request by the Director via Kila Roberts for a letter of support and commitment.
  • No later than noon on Friday, March 30, 2018, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members. They will be contacted by the Director via Kila Roberts to submit a letter of recommendation.
  • No later than noon on Monday, April 23, 2018, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referenced. Figure legends and table entries should be Arial 9.  No text in figures or diagrams should be smaller than Arial 9.

Application documents:

Cover letter

  • A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, the thesis project, selection and qualifications of the mentor, overall intellectual goals and any plans for post-graduate education.

Supporting documentation

  • A biographical sketch in the format of the Biosketch Template.
  • A scan of your U of C transcript (official transcript not needed)
  • A plan for all Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation. 

Proposal

  • A project description in the format of the Research Proposal Template

or

  • Abstract of no more than 1/2 page describing overall project goals and rationale and detailed project description in an appropriate format to the field, covering the scientific problem and its significance, aims and methods of study, anticipated results, pitfalls and alternatives, and broader impacts, consisting of no more than 3 pages, inclusive of figures and tables, with numbered citations.
  • Bibliography of up to thirty references in PNAS format, with PubMed links to each paper.

Addendum (optional)

  • Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages, including abstracts, manuscripts, etc.

Scholar candidate selection:

While a minimum GPA of 3.75 is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree. Selection of candidates for Scholar in Biology Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based upon, A) the academic record, and particularly the selection of Biology courses completed and grades received (which must be B+ or better), and relevant honors and fellowships; B) evidence of active participation, leadership, advocacy, research or other extracurricular activities demonstrating a commitment to scholarship in biology; C) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letter(s) of recommendation; and D) commitment and appropriateness of the mentor, relevance of the topic to contemporary biology, and rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan. Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by May 14, 2018.

Candidates may contact the Director via Kila Roberts regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date. Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

Scholar Honors curriculum:

Failure to complete the requirements outlined below on time will result in loss of candidacy for Honors.

There are no requirements for specific courses or to be in residence during any quarter.  Any changes in the proposed Biology coursework plan must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed.  The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully.

Note that Scholar Honors candidates are encouraged to participate in the Research Honors curriculum (see below) but must make a committment to participate in the full three quarter course sequence to obtain credit or grades.  Thus, Scholar candidates must register for the Summer quarter and cannot join the Research Honors courses only in Fall and/or Winter.  Auditing the Research Honors courses can be arranged with permission of the Director.

Spring quarter 2018:

  • Informal program welcome meeting May 21st.
  • Attend Rowley Honors Symposium May 25th.  Poster presentation available.

Summer quarter 2018:

  • By end of tenth week: A thesis committee proposed by the candidate must be approved by the Honors Director. The committee must consist of three members of the Honors Faculty as listed above. The Director will chair all Scholar Honors thesis committees. The Mentor is not a member of the thesis committee.

Autumn quarter 2018:

  • By end of first week: A detailed thesis précis and outline, endorsed by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.
  • By end of third week: A first thesis committee meeting must be held attended by the candidate and mentor at which the candidate will present their thesis proposal. For Scholars candidates who plan to be abroad during autumn quarter, the thesis committee meeting must be completed prior to departure and the précis and outline must be submitted at least a week before the meeting.
  • By end of fifth week: The thesis plan must be approved by the thesis committee.

Winter quarter 2019:

  • By end of eighth week: A second thesis committee meeting must be held attended by the candidate and mentor. For Scholars candidates who plan to be abroad during Winter quarter, the meeting must be held in person, prior to departure.

Spring quarter 2019:

  • By end of second week: A complete thesis draft, approved by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.
  • By end of sixth week: A final thesis must be accepted by the Mentor and thesis committee.
  • Participation in the Rowley Honors Symposium by presenting a poster is required. Oral presentation optional.
  • By beginning of finals week: An official transcript must be provided showing satisfactory performance (B+ or better) in all Biology coursework and final overall GPA of 3.75 or higher.

Research application format:

For candidates seeking Research Honors for graduation in Spring 2019:

  • No later than noon on Friday, March 30, 2018, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of the University of Chicago. They will be sent a request by the Director via Kila Roberts for a letter of support and commitment.
  • No later than noon on Friday, March 30, 2018, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members. They will be contacted by the Director via Kila Roberts to submit a letter of recommendation.
  • No later than noon on Monday, April 23, 2018, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referred to. Figure legends and table entries will be Arial 9.  No text in figures or diagrams will be smaller than Arial 9.

Application Documents:

Cover letter

  • A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, prior or ongoing research, the research project, selection of the mentor, and any plans for post-graduate research or other training and education.

Supporting documentation

  • A biographical sketch in the format of the Biosketch Template.
  • A scan of your U of C transcript (official transcript not needed)
  • A plan for Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation.

Proposal

  • A research proposal in the format of the Research Proposal Template.

Addendum (optional)

  • Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages, including abstracts, manuscripts, etc.

Research candidate selection:

While a minimum GPA of 3.3 is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree. Selection of candidates for Biology Research Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based on, A) evidence of commitment to and substantive experience in biological research; B) rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan; C) Biology courses completed and grades received (which must be B or better); and D) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letters of support and recommendation. Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by May 14, 2018.

Candidates may contact the Director via Kila Roberts regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date. Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

Research Honors curriculum:

The Biology Research Honors program will require continuous participation from the end of the Spring quarter of the third year through Spring quarter of the fourth year. This precludes any extended absence from campus during any academic quarter, including Summer.  Any changes in science coursework must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed. The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully.

All accepted Research Honors candidates will be awarded a $5000 summer research fellowship consisting of $4000 stipend and $1000 for fees, program and research costs. Funding for the fellowship will typically be $2500 from the Honors program matched by $2500 from the Mentor or their Department. Students who are able to obtain a summer fellowship from other sources will qualify for additional funding from the Honors program to pay fees, program and research costs and/or raise their stipend up to a maximum of $5000, as permitted.

Spring quarter 2018:

  • Informal program welcome meeting May 21st.
  • Attend Rowley Honors Symposium May 25th. Poster presentation available.

Summer quarter 2018:

  • Registration for BIOS00295 Honors course, graded with no credit conferred. No other coursework is permitted.
  • Ten weeks of full-time research on campus. No other paid work is permitted.
  • Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.
  • Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Background" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

Autumn Quarter 2018:

  • Registration for BIOS00296 Honors course, graded with 100 units credit. Registration will only be offered after acceptance of the "Background" chapter draft for Summer quarter.
  • Poster presentation at retreat at beginning of quarter.
  • Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.
  • Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Methods" thesis chapter and an outline of the "Results" chapter due at end of quarter.

Winter quarter 2019:

  • Registration for BIOS00296 Honors course, graded with 100 units credit. Registration will only be offered after acceptance of the "Methods" chapter draft and "Results" chapter outline for Fall quarter.
  • Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.
  • Form thesis committee of three faculty with at least one Honors Faculty to serve as committee chair. Committee must be approved by Director. The mentor is not a member of the thesis committee.
  • Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Results" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

Spring quarter 2019:

  • Full thesis draft endorsed by Mentor presented to thesis committee by end of third week.
  • Thesis must be defended in front of the thesis committee by end of seventh week.
  • Accepted thesis signed by Mentor and thesis committee due by end of eighth week.
  • Final transcript showing satisfactory performance in all Biology coursework.
  • Participation in the Rowley Honors Symposium by presenting a poster. Oral presentation optional.

Will all students who submit a complete Scholar or Research Honors Proposals be accepted?

Only those students who appear on track to achieve the level of accomplishment that would be expected of a Biology Honors graduate will be accepted. The selection criteria will be applied in a balanced manner, with the consideration that students may display strength in one area sufficient to offset a weakness in another. On the other hand, students who submit a complete proposal but show no evidence of excellence, commitment or unusual promise in any aspect of their record as Biology majors will likely not be invited to complete an Honors thesis. While high grades, honors, activities, accomplishments and an exciting thesis proposal are all important, the Curriculum Committee will consider significant enthusiasm and support from the faculty writers critical for all applicants, insofar as Honors reflects a recognition by our faculty of their best students. 

How strict are the GPA and Biology grade limits for consideration for Scholar or Research Honors? 

The ≥ 3.75 GPA, B+ or better in Biology grade criteria for Scholars will be enforced except in rare cases. 

Students with a GPA close to 3.3 or who may have received one Biology grade below a B may still be considered for Research Honors. 

Any student who wants to be considered despite their GPA or grades is encouraged to send an email to Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu and formally request permission to apply. The letter should briefly describe the problem and any offsetting considerations such as a particularly strong research background. Students who provide a strong argument are likely to be invited to apply, but without any promise of acceptance. In their application, the cover letter should provide a compelling statement regarding the qualifications offsetting the academic performance, and describe any factors that mitigate the grade issues. The candidate should also make sure that their Mentor and the faculty member(s) providing a recommendation are aware of their grades and courses in some detail as well as any explanation for the prior difficulties. The invitation for a letter of support will almost certainly ask the Mentor to address this weakness and the faculty writing recommendations will be free to comment as well.

What do you mean by a "full faculty member" for the Mentor and/or Recommenders?

Briefly, a Mentor should have an appointment as a faculty member of the University of Chicago with an appointment in a Department or Committee of the Biological Sciences Division/Pritzker School of Medicine that offers them the opportunity to serve as a thesis advisor for a graduate student PhD dissertation project. Typically, these faculty supervise graduate and post-doctoral trainees, write grants to support their research, have an office and other space on campus where they conduct research, and so on. 

Some Mentors may have their office off campus, as at Argonne or the Field Museum, but active researchers who are enthusiastic members of the University community. Other potential Mentors may plan to be away from campus for long periods during the four quarters of Honors research. In each such case, a clear plan needs to be presented to ensure that the Mentor and candidate will be able to work together effectively.

The University of Chicago has several faculty tracks, leading to confusion.  In general, faculty with appointments in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) track would all be considered as appropriate as Mentors whether they are Assistant Professors, Associate Professors or full Professors. Faculty including Assistant Professors, Associate Professors and full Professors on the School of Medicine (SOM) track are generally appropriate. However, SOM faculty who are still Instructors or have only a clinical affiliation are not appropriate. Similarly, faculty who are called Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor or Research Professor may not be appropriate, although there are many exceptions. 

As a general guideline, all Recommenders should be faculty who could serve as an Honors Mentor. Ideally, they are sufficiently familiar with College students via their teaching and/or mentoring activities to offer an informed opinion of your suitability for Honors in Biology. A useful recommendation might come from a faculty member who collaborates with your Mentor, but not from someone who is directly supervised by them. Your second recommendation might come from someone who would not be a mentor but who you have worked with at another institution, like from a summer research internship.

Lecturers whose appointment is with the BSCD, listed here https://bscd.uchicago.edu/content/staff , are not appropriate as Mentors or Recommenders.  Any questions about whether a potential Mentor or Recommender is qualified can be directed to the Director via Kila Roberts at kila@uchicago.edu.

Can Scholars Honors join the Research Honors Research in Progress classes and get credit?

Yes, Scholars candidates are completely welcome and encouraged to register for the RIP class as long as they participate fully. This means they must register for the Summer quarter course. They can also audit, meaning attend and participate in, the RIP class without registering if they don't need the course credit, with approval of the Director.

Are there any constraints on Scholar Honors candidates once the proposal is accepted?  Is it just make the deadlines and maintain the GPA and Biology grades until graduation?

While Scholar Honors involves few requirements, it will be expected that work will start on the thesis in the Spring this year and then continue through the year, in regular consultation with the Mentor. Time away such as study off-campus is no excuse to suspend work on the thesis. The two thesis committee meetings must be completed on time and progress deemed acceptable by the committee and other deadlines must be met.

Any change in the thesis topic and/or Mentor would have to be approved by the Honors Curriculum Committee and likely no later than the end of Summer quarter.

The full year of research provides time to make significant progress on the topic. As such, students may fail to receive Honors because the thesis falls below the level of accomplishment expected. If the progress reported to the thesis committee is unsatisfactory or the thesis draft is not judged as substantive, intellectually rigorous, insightful, and representative of what should be possible with a full year of sustained effort on the proposed topic, Honors may not be awarded. 

Thus, any issues that have begun to affect progress, like problems with experiments, lack of access to resources, an uninvolved mentor, etc., should be discussed with the Honors Director early on, so that a reasonable response can be agreed upon, whether revising the goals or even a complete change in project.

To what extent are Scholar Honors theses expected to contain results from original research conducted by the candidate?

We do not intend to require Scholar Honors students to all pursue conventional original research projects that require collecting new data via bench or field experiments, direct observations or measurements, computational modeling, etc. but to allow wide latitude to consider alternative thesis concepts. So, while a Scholar thesis can certainly be based on independent experimentation, observation and/or modeling, the Scholar track can accommodate other options as well such as pursuing a critical analysis of existing data or a large literature. 

Scholars might opt to pursue a critical analysis of existing primary data and the related body of literature. One might imagine theses that constitute a critique of a healthcare policy such as methadone maintenance, a meta-analysis of recent clinical trials of anti-depressants, or an argument against punctuated equilibria based on a fossil collection or genomic data. The topic must touch on a current issue in Biology, including medicine and other applied fields, be described in a compelling thesis proposal and be supported by a willing and appropriate Mentor. If the thesis precis and abstract and then the final document are accepted and approved by the Curriculum Committee, then Honors will be awarded.

If the Scholar thesis is experimental/observational/modeling, then it would be expected to report significant progress toward the goals and provide a critical analysis of this work, just like a Research Honors thesis. Even a highly experimental thesis is driven by a problem that needs to emerge from a scholarly review of the literature. As such, the thesis document would include one or more chapters that examine the primary papers that provide the intellectual foundation and context for the work. 

Of course, the depth and breadth of synthesis and analysis expected from a student who is pursuing a purely analytic topic would be considerably greater, insofar as all their efforts during the year would be focused on data and literature analysis rather than generating new knowledge.