The Biology Honors Program

Megan Warburton
SURF Conference 2014
Irina Maglysh and Kayla Hersy
SURF Conference 2014
Taylor Ferrare
SURF Conference 2014


The Honors Program in Biology is a distinction bestowed on outstanding students who have demonstrated marked academic progress and who have completed an in-depth independent research project under the guidance of a biology faculty member.


Do you possess?

  • a strong interest in the natural sciences?
  • a desire to learn modern techniques of biological discovery?
  • strong self-motivation?
  • avid curiosity?

Pursuit of an honorary degree in biology will afford you the opportunity to apply these characteristics as you grow and develop as a young scientist and enter the world of scientific discovery.


While information is provided below, we encourage you to attend the annual Biology Honors Information session offered in September (see the Calendar of events clickable link on the home page)


Fall of Sophomore or Junior year September

Attend the Honors Info Session (see Honors Calendar of events)

Meet with faculty and seek research advisor
October With assistance from faculty research advisor, write your Honors research proposal. (Adobe PDFsee application for details)
1st Monday of November Submit Application and research proposal to Honors Committee
November 15th Submit the application for Independent Study credit and proposal to the current Biology Department Chair
Sophomore - Senior year   Perform reading program and engage in mentored research

Fall of Senior year

(or Junior year if graduating in December)


Attend the Information session for graduating seniors (see Honors Calendar of events)

Meet with research mentor to discuss the completion of the project and dates for submitting drafts of the final paper
Second semester of Senior year February (suggested) Submit early drafts of sections of research paper i.e. literature sited, Introduction or results section)
March (suggested) Submit draft of final paper for review by your research mentor
Monday of the 2nd week of April Submit final draft of Honors Thesis to The Biology Honors Committee



  1. The first step is to find a research mentor. A great way to find out which faculty are engaged in collaborative research with students is to look around the hallways of Fogarty at the student research posters. You can get a general idea of the types of research projects are performed by students in these laboratories. We also recommend that you contact several faculty members and ask to discuss their research and their availability.
  2. Once you have identified a mentor, you should decide on a project together and then you will write a research proposal and submit an application to the Biology Honors Committee. For a detailed description of the requirements for admission into the program and the granting of honors Adobe PDFplease click here.
  3. You will then be required to take at least 4 credits of independent study over the course of a couple semesters (note that 3 credits of research will count towards one of your 300+ level Biology electives for graduation).
  4. During the semester before graduation you will summarize your project and results in a formal written thesis (link here to thesis info) and also present them orally at the Honors Symposium held in late April.

For answers to more common questions see our FAQ page


Sara Moore and Leah Smith

Participating in an independent research project will enable you to receive one-on-one contact with a biology faculty member who will help you develop critical problem solving skills, and who will provide technical expertise, career guidance and long lasting encouragement and support through all of your academic pursuits. You will also receive acknowledgement for your efforts when you are granted graduating honors and if you elect to present your work to biology students and faculty. Finally, the laboratory experience gained while completing your project will give you a glimpse into the world of scientific research, prepare you for graduate or professional school or aid in establishment of your future career goals. While successful completion of the Honors Program in Biology will require a significant amount of commitment and time, the rewards will far outweigh the effort! Click on "The voices of program alumni" to hear what previous participants have to say about their experience.

Information for Senior Biology Honors Students and their Mentors

While details are provided below, we suggest that you please see the Calendar of events link for the date of the informational session we will provide each September.

Writing your Honors Thesis:

While the Biology Honors Committee would like to provide you and your mentor the academic freedom to determine the final form and length of your Honors Thesis, here we provide some general guidelines. It is customary for the Thesis to be written in the style of a scientific manuscript like you might find in the Journal of Young Investigators or other Undergraduate research journal. Therefore, it should include a review of the primary literature (and therefore citations for such literature in the reference section) which provides the reader with the background information for understanding your research question and the rational for your hypothesis. It should provide a methods section with enough detail that another undergraduate could repeat your experiments as written, a results section complete with figures and/ or tables which present all or most of your data (even if non-significant, incomplete or imperfect), and a discussion section which not only outlines your conclusions but also, if possible, presents their significance and/or the new questions that arise and future studies that could be performed.

It should be left to your research mentor to ultimately decide if your Honor Thesis meets their expectations for an Honors Project; therefore, it is highly suggested that your work closely with them during your writing process and submit multiple drafts for their review and approval. The Biology Honors Committee will review the final Thesis and only send comments about formatting, mechanics or other small changes that you might consider before submitting it for binding at the Library. The committee will compete the required signatures for the signature page, return it to your mentor, file copies for department records, inform the records office and the Director of the Honors Program at RIC of your completion of Honors in Biology.  

Once your Thesis is determined to be complete by your research mentor you will:

1. Submit Thesis to the Honors Committee by:
 the 1st Monday (by 9 am) in December for students graduating in December or
 the 2nd MONDAY (by 9 am) in April for students graduation in May

i. An electronic copy by email to:;; and

ii. A hard copy of the Microsoft WordOutside Linksignature page (provided here or download from signed by your mentor (after they have reviewed your final document)

2. If you do not have copies of the title page and signature page for your thesis, download them at

3. After approval of your Honors Thesis by the Biology Department Honors Committee, you will need to submit copies of your Thesis to the library and complete the on-line “Departmental Honors Completion Project Form” at .
For information on submitting your Honors Thesis to the Library and for obtaining personal bound copies, follow the procedures outlined at
4. After these documents have all been approved and submitted you will also need to prepare a poster for the Convocation of Scholars week (date to be announced, usually in late April) and, if you are willing, an oral presentation to be given either at the BIO 241 Research Colloquium in January (first week of classes, speak with your mentor about this) or at the Sigma Xi Symposium in late April (Date TBA).
The evening of the poster presentation is usually followed by a dinner recognizing Honors Students. Contact Dr. Rebecca Sparks ( for further information.
5. Finally, once the Honors Committee has approved your thesis you will be notified by email and the Chair of the Biology Department will inform the Records office, which will stamp your transcript with “Biology Departmental Honors”.

In general, theses should be written in the style of a standard scientific paper or Master’s thesis. Several examples of Biology Honors theses are available at

Please contact a member of the Biology Department Honors Committee if you have any questions.

Dr. Sarah Spinette (
Dr. Deb Britt (
Dr. Geoff Stilwell (

Calendar of Events

September 2nd Free Period

12:30 - 1 p.m. Informational session for Prospective Honors students

1:30 - 2 p.m. Informational Session for Graduating Senior Honors Students

November 1st Monday
  • Due Date: submission of the Adobe PDFApplication to the Biology Honors Program
  • Due date: Student Personal Statement for consideration for the Mary Keefe Scholarship fund

Due date for submission of the Application for Independent study (BIOL 49X) to the Chair of the Biology Department

December 1st Monday

Due Date: submission of Honors Thesis only IF GRADUATING in DECEMBER


Biology Honors Committee Solicits to Faculty for nominations for receipt of the Christina Carlson Fund award, Theodore Lemeshka Memorial Fund award and Earl H. Webster Fellowship

February 1st

Due Date: Nomination letters for Christina Carlson Fund award, Theodore Lemeshka Memorial Fund award

April 2nd Monday

Due Date: submit final Honors research paper to Honors Committee for consideration


College Wide Spring Research and Creative Activity Exposition- students present their research poster

April or May TBA

Cap and Gown: Christina Carlson Fund award, Theodore Lemeshka Memorial Fund award are presented

Summary of the Awards offered to Biology Students

Requirements for consideration Mary Keefe Scholarship Fund Theodore Lemeshka
Memorial Fune
Christina Carlson Fund Earl H. Webster
General Purpose of award Recognize junior biology major & encourage continued excellence Recognize senior biology major for achievements Recognize senior biology major for achievements & outstanding research potential Allow student to pursue study or research in Biology or Med. outside of RIC
GPA requirement RIC CUM: >3.0
BIO courses: >3.5
Physical Science: >3.0
RIC CUM > 3.0
>3.5 for:
CHM 103/104, BIO 331 BIO 335, BIO 348
NONE BIO and Phys Sci CUM >
# of credits completed 48-59 of RIC credit Senior status (>84) Graduating Senior > 20 in Biology or MA candidate with 10 credits
Other criteria Student statement of intent for continued study and career choice in biology NONE Must have performed research in biology Documented commitment to pursue career in Biology or Medicine
Faculty nomination/
evaluation required
Faculty of 1 of the courses listed above must evaluate the leadership potential of students who meet academic criteria
Letter describing credentials
Date nomination/
evaluation of proposal due
Statement due November 1st February 1st February 1st February 1st
Proposal required   NO NO YES 
for advanced course preparation or research
When awarded Holiday party in December Cap and Gown ceremony Cap and Gown ceremony Varies
Amount Varies Varies (generally ~$200) Varies (generally ~$200) Varies

Descriptions of the Award/ Funds:

Adobe PDFMary Keefe Scholarship Fund
Adobe PDFTheodore Lemeshka Memorial Fund
Adobe PDFChristina Carlson Fund          
Adobe PDFEarl H. Webster Fellowship   
DiLibero and Matsumoto Funds



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Page last updated: June 29, 2016