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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.  Application forms for the Honors Program are separate from the enrollment forms for BIOG 4990, Independent Research in Biology. 

Students Interested in Honors

Students interested in applying to the Honors Program are strongly encouraged to begin their research project in their junior year. Information on faculty research activities is available on our searchable faculty database or through department directories. Students should meet with their research advisor in 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. See OUB Events for dates.  Details pertaining to information meetings, thesis due dates, seminars, and other requirements can be found on our Biological Sciences Honors Information Sheet (will be updated and posted soon). See also our Bio Honors Thesis Guidelines for Students for expectations for Honors research, details on thesis manuscript preparation, and useful campus resources.

One tremendous resource for undergraduate scientists preparing to do Honors research is the Mann Library Guide on Research in the Biological and Life Sciences: A Guide for Undergraduate Honors Students. You will find tips for science citation management (Mendeley and Endnote) and data management. See also the "Locating Theses" tab to direct you to published undergraduate honors theses on eCommons, the Cornell University Library public database.

The application for the 2019-2020 Honors Program will be available in the spring. If you are interested in participating in the honors program, please stop by or call the OUB in 216 Stimson to make an appointment to discuss.

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 go to 216 Stimson Hall.

Level of Honors

Latin honors, as recorded on the diploma (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude), is assigned differently for students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and students in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). In CALS, the level of Latin honors is determined exclusively by the student’s grade point average (GPA). See this link for more details. If the CALS honors candidate has written an acceptable honors thesis, the further words "with Distinction in Research" are added. In CAS, Latin honors requires a student to write a thesis. Once the thesis is accepted, the level of honors for CAS candidates is also determined by GPA. In CAS, “distinction in all subjects” is awarded to the graduates who achieve a GPA in the upper 30 percent of their class at the end of the seventh semester or next to last semester for transfers.

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

Animal Physiology

Professor Mark Roberson
Department of Biomedical Sciences


Professor Gerald Feigenson
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Professor Irby Lovette
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Genetics and Development

Professor Tudorita Tumbar
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics


Professor Jim Shapleigh
Department of Microbiology

Molecular and Cell Biology

Professor Yuxin Mao
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Neurobiology and Behavior

Professor Christiane Linster
Department of Neurobiology & Behavior

Plant Biology

Professor Wojtek Pawlowski
School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Biology Section


If you have questions about this program, please contact or stop by the Office of Undergraduate Biology, 216 Stimson (607-255-5233).