Departmental Honors in Biology

Departmental Honors is a distinction awarded to students whose research skills, project design and execution, and oral and written presentation of their research are exceptionally strong. Research projects appropriate for departmental honors may be completed by: 1) conducting research at an institution other than C of I using funding and equipment provided by a source other than the C of I Biology Department, 2) conducting research within the C of I Biology Department using biology department equipment, but funding from a source other than the C of I Biology Department, or 3) conducting research at C of I using funding and equipment provided by the C of I Biology Department.

1. Honors Eligibility Requirements

Students are eligible to apply for honors work after completing 60 units and attaining a grade-point average of 3.5 in Biology Department courses and in the total undergraduate record. In accepting students into the Departmental Honors in Biology program, the Biology Department will give consideration to the student’s academic record, to the student’s demonstrated potential to benefit from honors study, to the tractability of the proposed project, and finally to the budget required to complete the project if the student is seeking funding from the CofI Biology Department. Honors projects consist of laboratory, field, museum, and/or herbarium research. While students are encouraged to work on projects already conceived as “workable/tractable” by their C of I mentors, individuals are expected to contribute significantly and creatively to the details of experimental design, development of protocols, and project execution. Whenever possible, students should select their own topics and design their own protocol, but research projects may be constrained by the available equipment and the interests of their mentors.

2. Honors Application Process

Regardless of where and how the research project is conducted, ALL students interested in conducting Honors research must:

  1. discuss their research interests with a member of the C of I Biology Department, who will serve as the C of I advisor/mentor for the research project and as the student’s advocate in presenting the application to the Department,
  2. submit an application form to the CofI Biology Department
  3. work with their C of I faculty mentor and (if applicable) a mentor from an external institution to develop a formal research proposal that may be submitted to an organization that makes grants for undergraduate research (e.g., Sigma Xi).

These activities should be initiated during spring of the student’s junior year.

After the steps described above are completed, approval for the student to proceed with Departmental honors research will be based on the quality of the research proposal and funding availability. For students working at an institution other than C of I and/or with funding and equipment from a source external to the C of I Biology Department, acceptance depends on the quality of the proposed research. Students conducting their research on the CofI campus using Departmental equipment should plan to submit their research proposal to an external granting organization.

Funding of the grant proposal by the external source will result in automatic acceptance of the student into the honors program. The Biology Department will consider project proposals that are not funded by an external source for in-house funding if the project budget is under $1,000. Only a limited number of projects will receive in-house funding, dependent on the Biology Department’s annual budget. Any equipment and supplies purchased during the course of honors research will become Biology Department property.

All students accepted into the Departmental honors program must give a formal oral proposal presentation to the Department during the fall of their senior year.

3. Completing an Honors Research Project

Honors work will consist of six units, to be completed over a two to three semester period. Research may commence in the spring of the junior year, but no later than the first week of the fall semester of the senior year. When honors work is begun in the spring of the junior year, the summer following the junior year may be devoted to reviewing the literature and collecting field or laboratory data. Students conducting their research at an institution other than C of I will have a C of I Biology Department mentor in addition to their supervisor at the off-campus facility. These students should expect to work at the off-campus location during the summer between the junior and senior years but must maintain regular contact with their on-campus mentor during this time.

The honors project will culminate in a full research paper, the Honors Thesis, written according to Departmental guidelines for research papers, and a polished Power Point/video presentation. The completed paper will be submitted to the CofI faculty mentor for comments and suggestions no later than the end of the third week of the spring semester; the final draft of the paper will be submitted to the faculty mentor and to one additional member of the Biology Department faculty (the “reader”) during week 7 (following spring break). The oral presentation will occur during week 9, at an evening meeting to which family and friends, as well as all members of the Biology Department, are invited. Each presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer defense of the research. In addition, students will be required to present their projects to a scientific audience such as the Idaho Academy of Science, which generally meets in April.

If the student’s proposed plan cannot be completed according to the above schedule, the student may file a written request with the mentor and reader for an extension no later than the first week of spring semester of the senior year. If the extension is approved, specific new deadlines will be set, but graduation may be delayed. If the extension is not granted, the student may elect either to abandon the honors project or to continue the work as Bio 496, Biology Research; in this case, the student will not graduate with Department honors.

Following the evening research presentation, Biology Department faculty members in attendance will evaluate and grade the presentation. These presentation grades will be given to the student’s mentor and reader, who will then determine 1) whether the honors project is deserving of honors credit, and 2) the student’s final grade. Honors will be awarded to students whose project and presentation meet the criteria outlined above. If a project is not deserving of honors designation, the student’s research will appear on the transcript as Biology Research, Bio 496.

4. Honors Thesis Application Time Table

A. At The College of Idaho

Time Table for Research at The College of Idaho Action

Action Completed by

1. Initiate contact with faculty member

February 1 of Junior Year

2. Proposal Due (submitted to Sigma Xi)

March 15 of Junior Year

3. Notification of Acceptance into Honors Program

Early April (dependent on Sigma Xi notification)

4. Fall Oral Proposal Presentation

3rd week of Fall Term Senior Year

 

B. Research at Other Institutions

Students conducting research at an institution other than CofI using funding and equipment provided by a source other than the CofI Biology Department may use this alternate deadline schedule if they do not know the specifics of the projects they’ll be working on during the summer months. This alternate deadline schedule also applies to students who decided to initiate a Departmental honors application later in their program. However, these projects will have lower funding priority if funding from the CofI Biology Department is required.

Time Table for Research at Other Institutions

Action Completed By

1. Initiate contact with faculty member

May 1 of Junior Year

2. Proposal Due

1st week of Fall Term Senior Year

3. Notification of Acceptance into Honors Program

2nd week of Fall Term Senior Year

4. Fall Oral Proposal Presentation

3rd week of Fall Term Senior Year

Dr. Sara Heggland is the Biology Department faculty representative in charge of Departmental Honors. Completion of Departmental Honors application materials for all students should be coordinated with both Dr. Heggland and Juanita Sosa Manzo at x5331.