Senior Capstone Requirement

 Honors Thesis

 Thesis Credit


Senior Thesis (Biology 457, 458)

Doing a thesis in Biology is optional for students majoring in Biology. Theses are almost always experimental and may occupy one or two semesters. Preparation for the thesis may begin in the junior year with an Independent Study (360 or s50). While every senior is encouraged to do a thesis project, opportunities in certain fields may be limited by equipment or faculty load. Whenever possible, students should try to integrate interests with one of the Seminar and Research courses (470's) and use the thesis as a means of continuing this work. When the student's interest does not coincide with a Seminar and Research course, a one or two semester thesis can be used to pursue this interest. If this is the case, consult with the faculty member whose interests are closest to yours and determine if he or she is willing and able to advise your project. You must submit a one page proposal in early January of your junior year (see Capstone Requirement) for approval by your thesis advisor and by the Department. Formal, referenced, thesis proposals are generally due early in the semester in which you begin thesis enrollment; the specific due date is set in consultation with your advisor. Some advisors may require a proposal to be submitted the prior semester. By College policy, thesis work must be done in residence (the Biology department includes field locations of Faculty members). Students may do research projects at other locations, but if they wish to incorporate it in a thesis, they MUST make prior arrangements with a Bates faculty member to oversee this work (as described below in Credit Policies.)

Thesis research can be laboratory, field or library research done in one or two semesters. A thesis
includes original research; a thesis is not a term paper. The thesis topic must be approved by a
Biology faculty advisor. Such discussions should be started no later than the semester prior to
when you hope to begin the thesis work. The Department requires a written proposal, and the
advisor may suggest a second faculty reader of the proposal and the final thesis. Theses may be
done with members of other departments serving as the major advisor, with Biology Department

Honors Thesis

The college's Honors program is described in the Catalog. Prospective Honors students should also read the Honors Program Guidelines. The achievement of honors improves the student's chances for election to honorary societies such as Phi Beta Kappa or Sigma Xi and for admission to strong graduate research programs. In Biology, any major may apply to do an Honors thesis. To apply to the Honors program, a student must submit a written proposal to the Biology faculty by the 10th day of classes in the first semester of the thesis work in the senior year. Students whose proposals are accepted then can begin an in- depth research project in conjunction with the individual faculty advisor. Proposals for collaborative work may be considered by the department. The final Honors thesis proposal (submitted early in the second semester) must be approved by the Biology Department and is then submitted to the College as well, early in the second semester. The submission dates vary from year to year; information is available from Secretarial Services in Lane Hall. Four copies of the Honors thesis must be submitted to the College Honors Committee by the deadlines set by the Honors Committee (see calendar).

The actual research can begin during the junior year as an Independent study, or during the summer in between the junior and senior years. Due to the early deadline for submission of Honors theses (in March), this early start is crucial. Honors thesis work must extend over a minimum of two semesters (the student registers for Bio 457-458 or for one semester of research and seminar and one of thesis).

An Honors thesis must be defended in an oral defense normally scheduled at the end of the second semester.The oral examination covers the thesis and topics related to the thesis (including biology in general). For the oral defense,an Honors panel is assigned for each student and consists of: one faculty member from Biology, one Bates Faculty member outside Biology and one outside Examiner from off campus (who has not had input into the project) with expertise in the research field. Your Faculty advisor will also be present to ask questions, but cannot vote on the outcome. The Honors panel determines the level earned: No Honors or Honors. A portion of the level earned is based on the written work (60%) and a portion on the defense. The results appear on your transcript as, for example, Honors in Biology. This designation is for the major only and is distinct from College Honors (for example, cum laude).

The College allows one semester Honors theses. It is anticipated that a one semester Honors thesis in Biology would be a rare event, and would likely require the inclusion of extensive work in the preceding summer or academic year. Intention to do a one-semester Honors thesis must be filed with the college by the last week in September (date varies); the four copies of the completed thesis are due at the end of November (date varies).

Guidelines for Thesis Credit

1. The College policy is that thesis research be done while in residence (at Bates); we interpret this to include an off-campus field research location of a Bates faculty member.

2. Permission to extend an off-campus research experience into a one- or two-semester thesis may be granted if:

  • Arrangements are made in advance of the summer experience including arrangements of who will be the on-campus advisor; a written proposal is expected;
  • The student has significant input into the design of the project done off- campus and demonstrates independence in carrying out the work (with a letter to both effects from the off-campus advisor);
  • Review occurs in the Fall as to how/if the work should continue as a thesis. This review may include a group of Biology faculty or just a single faculty member;
  • Further work will be done at Bates in which the student has significant intellectual input and independent effort, AND
  • Any financial remuneration during the summer is in the form of a research stipend, but not an hourly wage or salary;
  • The off-campus advisor is willing to continue to support the project financially if needed.
  • 3. Further work on campus may be in the form of laboratory, field, analytical, or library work.


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