Departmental Honors in Biology is awarded to students who have successfully completed a significant record of primary scholarship in Biology. The honors thesis is a written product based on research conducted in the field and/or laboratory by the student, usually under the mentorship of a Macalester faculty member. The formative work can be accomplished during the academic year and/or during the summer. Successful completion of an honors project fulfills the senior capstone requirement.
Students pursuing Departmental Honors must make a significant and sustained commitment of time and energy throughout their senior year, and typically embark on their project no later than the summer between their junior and senior years. During this interval the student will develop significant research questions and testable hypotheses, review previous literature, conduct the research and data collection, analyze the data, write the thesis, prepare and present an hour-long public seminar on the thesis topic, and defend the thesis to their honors committee. Those interested in pursuing departmental honors should contact a biology faculty member and/or the department chair during junior year (no later than the summer between junior and senior years).
Who should pursue an honors thesis? There are no GPA requirements to pursue Honors in Biology. Students should bear in mind the substantial workload involved in completing an Honors project, and work with their academic and honors advisors to ensure they can stay on track to satisfy graduation and program requirements. Students should consider pursuing departmental honors only if they have a very strong interest in their research topic and are willing to organize their senior year around the demands of the honors work. Honors thesis research is most beneficial to students who hope to attend a research-based graduate program.
Additional details on the Honors Thesis Timeline, specific eligibility criteria, and departmental procedures are described here.