The Undergraduate Honors Program in Biology is intended to recognize those students who have demonstrated excellence in the conduct of a research project in the biological sciences, the preparation of a written thesis, and the defense of the thesis. Independent research for Undergraduate Honors must be conducted under the auspices of the Department of Biology in collaboration with a Biology Department faculty member or other approved investigator.

Application for Honors in Biology

Academic Requirements

To receive a bachelor’s degree “with Honors in Biology” (formally noted on the transcript), the student must meet the following criteria

1. Maintain a 3.4 overall grade point average, within a 3.6 in BIOL courses
2. Carry out 6 credit hours of independent research (taken as BIOL courses) at Case Western Reserve University.
3. Write a senior honors thesis with the approval of the faculty supervisor
4. Submit the thesis for review by an ad hoc honors committee
5. Successfully defend the thesis at an oral examination

Research Project

Students shall conduct their research project in accordance with the guidelines established for Undergraduate Research in the Department of Biology. Prior to each semester’s research project, a summary statement of the proposed research must be submitted to the Chair’s Office on the approved form. This form must be signed by the research sponsor (and the Biology Department sponsor, if the research is being conducted outside of the Department of Biology) and by the Chair of the Department. All students should discuss the progress of their research at regular intervals with their research sponsor and biology sponsor.

Application for Undergraduate Honors

Students planning to graduate with Honors in Biology should indicate their intention by completing the “Application for Undergraduate Honors” form obtained in the Biology Department Office and submitting it to the Biology Department Undergraduate Services Coordinator. Working in conjunction with the biology sponsor and research sponsor, the student should submit a suggested thesis committee for approval by the Undergraduate Affairs Committee, establish the date for the defense of the honors thesis, and carry out all other matters related to the defense of the thesis. The application form must be submitted to the the Biology Department Undergraduate Services Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the examination date. The examination must take place no later than the last day of final examinations of the student’s graduation semester.

Thesis Committee

The thesis committee shall consist of the Research Sponsor, the Biology Department Sponsor (if applicable), the student’s Biology Department Academic Advisor, and at least one other faculty member whose research interests fall within the scope of the thesis project. There shall be no fewer than three individuals on the committee, two of whom must have their primary appointment in the Department of Biology.


The thesis shall consist of a comprehensive report on the research project conducted by the student. The format for the thesis should be discussed with the Research and Biology Department Sponsor. In general, “journal format” is the desired method of presentation, containing sections on background, experimental methods, results, discussion, and conclusions. A brief abstract should precede the body of the thesis.

It is the student’s responsibility to provide each member of the thesis committee with a draft  copy of the thesis at least one week prior to the scheduled oral defense.

Oral Defense

The oral defense of the thesis shall consist of an examination by the thesis committee of the student’s knowledge of his or her general research area as well as of the techniques used and results obtained in the research. The Biology Department Sponsor shall serve as the Chairperson for the committee at the oral defense. During the first fifteen minutes of the defense, the student shall summarize the background, methods, and results of the research, and discuss the biological implications of the work. Following this, the members of the thesis committee shall examine the student on the research project. The chairperson of the thesis committee shall inform the biology department chair, in writing, of the results of the oral defense. A unanimous vote by the committee is required in order to forward a recommendation for graduation with honors. If the committee’s vote is less than unanimous, the chair of the department shall determine whether the student is eligible for re-examination of whether the student’s application for Honors in Biology should be withdrawn. Students who successfully defend their thesis must deposit a final copy of the thesis in the Biology Department Office prior to graduation.