Honors Program in Biological Sciences

The Honors Program in Biological Sciences is designed to offer advanced training in laboratory and field research through the performance of an original research project under the direct guidance of a member of the Cornell faculty. Honors candidates learn first hand how to be professional scientists including first authoring a thesis manuscript. The application for the Honors Program must be submitted to the Honors Program Committee at the end of the student’s junior year.  The deadline for this year is May 15, 2015. Application forms for the Honors Program are separate from the enrollment forms for BIOG 4990, Independent Research in Biology. For more information, please view the annual timeline for the 2016 Honors program.

Program Requirements

To qualify for the Honors Program, students must have:

  • Completed at least 30 credits at Cornell or be Junior standing for transfers.
  • An overall Cornell cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0.
  • At least a 3.0 Cornell cumulative grade-point average in all biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses. Grades earned in courses in other departments that are used to fulfill major requirements are included in this computation.
  • A Cornell faculty member who agrees to supervise the student's research program in a field of biological science.
  • Accepted students will be notified and assigned to an Honors Research group based on the content of their work.

The requirements of the Honors Program include: 

  • Participation in Honors group meetings, one in late fall and one in spring.
  • Submission of an acceptable honors thesis in April of the senior year.
  • Public presentation of your research in the last semester.
  • Completion of your major.
  • Maintenance of the 3.0 Cornell cumulative grade point average overall and in all biology, chemistry, physics and math courses through graduation.

BIOG 4990

Honors candidates usually enroll for credit in BIOG 4990 under the direction of the faculty member acting as an Honors supervisor, although it is not a requirement of the Honors program. Students choosing to earn credit for honors research must register in BIOG 4990 using the enrollment process for that course (separate from the Honors Program application process). Students with questions about BIOG 4990 should visit the OUB, 216 Stimson Hall.

Level of Honors

Recommendation to the faculty that a candidate graduate with honors is the responsibility of the Honors Faculty Committee:

Animal Physiology

Professor Ellis Loew (erl1),
Department of Biomedical Sciences


Professor Jerry Feigenson (gwf3)
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Professor Irby Lovette (ijl2),
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Genetics and Development

Professor Michael Goldberg (mlg11),
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics


Professor Eugene Madsen (elm3),
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular and Cell Biology

Professor Yuxin Mao (ym253),
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Neurobiology and Behavior

Professor Christiane Linster (cl243),
Department of Neurobiology & Behavior

Plant Biology

Professor Thomas Owens (tgo1),
School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Biology Section

The most important factors considered in evaluating the thesis are the quality of the scientific work and thesis preparation. The student's final GPA plays some role in determining the level of honors awarded. Over half of the theses in Biological Sciences are awarded Honors (cum laude) with a small percentage receiving High Honors (magna cum laude) and Highest Honors (summa cum laude). Students in the College of Arts and Sciences will be awarded Latin Honors for their thesis work. Recognition of GPA in the College of Arts and Sciences is distinct from the thesis. Graduates in Arts and Sciences can earn Distinction in All Subjects on the diploma if the overall GPA is in the top 30% of the graduating class. Students in CALS will receive Distinction in Research for the thesis and receive Latin Honors based solely on GPA. 

Students Interested in Honors

Students interested in applying to the Honors Program are strongly encouraged to begin their research project in their junior year. Applications for the program are due at the end of the spring semester. Students should meet with their research advisor in the spring semester of their junior year to discuss becoming an Honors candidate.  Interested students are welcome to attend an Honors Information meeting held twice during the spring semester. Details pertaining to information meetings, thesis due dates, seminars, and other requirements can be found here or may be obtained from the Office of Undergraduate Biology, 216 Stimson Hall. Information on faculty research activities is available on our searchable faculty database or through department directories.


If you have questions about this program, please contact Colleen Kearns, Associate Director of Undergraduate Research in Biological Sciences and Coordinator of the Honors Program, or Pamela Torelli, Administrative Assistant to the Biology Honors Program, by stopping by the Office of Undergraduate Research, 216 Stimson or calling 607-255-5233.