Department Honors program


The purpose of departmental honors in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is to recognize outstanding students and encourage them to pursue an undergraduate program that will challenge their abilities, expose them to research problems, and prepare them to excel in graduate studies or other rewarding professional careers. In addition to meeting the minimum graduation requirements, students receiving honors will explore their interests and capabilities in advanced courses and in a sustained independent research project. This will enable students to better assess their interests and abilities regarding career choices and to develop skills beyond the typical curriculum.


Gaining honors in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry shall consist of satisfying all of the criteria, as determined by the department faculty, in the areas below.

Character and Integrity

Candidates must have demonstrated honesty and integrity in their academic work and interpersonal relationships.

Grade-point Average

Academic excellence is expected in the various areas of chemistry.  Therefore the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry requires that students have achieved a GPA of at least 3.50 overall and 3.60 in the major, after the fall semester of the senior year.  A student who does not meet these GPA requirements may for extraordinary circumstances and/or service to the department apply to be considered as a candidate for departmental honors.  The faculty of the department will review all applications.   All students applying for departmental honors must take the Research Methods course.

Research Project

The awarding of departmental honors requires a sustained effort in research.   Students may pursue this with a combination of junior research (CHEM322), summer research, and major honors research (CHEM497/CHEM498) for a total of 4-6 credits.  According to university policy, at a minimum, four credits should be in CHEM497 and CHEM 498.  Likewise, according to university policy, a grade of an A is required in these courses for departmental honors. 

Application Process

In order to prepare for research, students must apply to be considered for departmental honors by the Friday before spring break, of the junior year.  This application should include a cover letter and research proposal.  The cover letter should indicate the rationale and purposes for pursuing departmental honors, noting specifically how it relates to one’s career goals.  The research proposal itself should mirror what is required in Research Methods.  At times a student may have taken Research Methods for one project, and then decide to pursue departmental honors with another.  This is acceptable.  The department will notify each applicant of the status of their application by May 1. 


At least once during the research project, the student must present both a poster and a talk at a research symposium sponsored by the Senior Research course, or by the School of Science, Engineering and Health.  An additional presentation (poster or talk) is required at an off-campus venue to be determined in consultation with the supervising faculty member.

The Honors Thesis*

The successful completion of the honors degree program will be based, in part, upon the positive evaluation of a written honors thesis from the two assigned faculty readers.  The guideline for a positive evaluation is research of sufficient quality and quantity so that it could be used in peer-reviewed publishable work. This means that simply submitting an honors thesis is no guarantee that honors will be awarded.  However, the student should expect periodic feedback from the research advisor about the appropriateness and quality of the honors research.

Students should aim to finish all experimental work by spring break of their senior year to allow adequate time for the preparation of the thesis.   The student must submit an initial draft of the thesis to the advisor and the second assigned faculty reader at least one week prior to the date of the defense.  The final version of the thesis is due by 5:00 pm on the last day of classes.   Copies of the honors thesis are kept by the research advisor, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and should be submitted to the library.

The Honors Defense

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry requires that students successfully defend the honors thesis in an oral presentation to the whole department.  The successful completion of departmental honors will be based, in part, upon the majority of the department returning a positive evaluation of the oral thesis defense.   The honors defense should be 40-45 minutes long followed by approximately 30 minutes of questions.  At its apex, this presentation should communicate the material at the level of a first or second year graduate student, and be of sufficient quality of rigor as to be presented at an off campus venue.  The student should expect questions from faculty that would require a thorough understanding of the project.  The defense will be scheduled during the spring semester of the student’s senior year, typically at the end of March or during the first weeks of April. 

*Thesis Guidelines

  1. The document must be double-spaced using 12-point Times New Roman or Cambria font with pages numbered and 1-inch margins. 
  2. Citations must be formatted using the ACS style. The reference list should be provided at the end of the document and not as footnotes.  The research mentor should be consulted for expectations in this area.
  3. Schemes, figures, equations, etc. should be numbered and must be embedded into the document. All such diagrams should be high quality and commensurate with requirements for submission to an ACS journal.  These should not be cut and pasted from other published journal articles.  The research mentor should be consulted for expectations in this area.
  4. The first page of the document should contain the thesis title, name of research advisor, student name, and dates that the research was performed. An introduction that places the research in appropriate context (including relevant background material and citations) should follow the title page.  The bulk of the thesis should contain an experimental section, and a results and discussion section to present the research accomplished. The document should finish with a conclusion, acknowledgements, and the list of citations.
  5. There is no minimum/maximum page length for the thesis; however, it is anticipated that the typical document will consist of approximately 25 pages.