Guidelines for Graduation with Honors in Biology

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) recognizes students with high achievement in coursework and independent research by awarding Departmental Honors. Students earning a B.A. degree in Biology, Biochemistry, EEOB (Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology), Microbiology, MCDB (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology), or Human Biology or a B.S. degree in Biochemistry, EEOB, Microbiology, or MCDB are eligible for Departmental Honors. Please note that these guidelines do not apply to Honors in Human Biology with concentrations in Anthropology, Applied Behavioral Science, Psychology, and Speech-Language-Hearing. This document describes the procedures, advice, and requirements for attaining Honors in Biology. First, candidates should submit a completed Departmental Honors Intent form—with approval by the faculty mentor—to Justin Blumenstiel (jblumens@ku.eduno later than January 30 of their final (Senior) semester. Second, at the same time, the candidates should complete the online Departmental Honors Form at the College

BIOL 499 has been moved to the Fall Semester. If you still have yet to enroll in BIOL 499 and intend to graduate with Honors in Biology in Spring 2024, please enroll instead in two credits of BIOL 423/424 in the Spring of 2024. Questions can be addressed to Dr. Blumenstiel (

Requirements for Graduation with Honors in Biology

  1. Complete all coursework for the appropriate BA or BS Biology degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in the major (based on courses taken at KU and transferred from other schools).
  2. Complete BIOL 499 (Introduction to Honors Research, 2 credits) with a grade of “B” or better. Completion of BIOL 499 during the sophomore or junior year is strongly recommended. Currently, BIOL 499 is only offered during the Fall semesters.
  3. Complete BIOL 699 (Divisional Honors Research Colloquium, 1 credit) with a grade of “B” or better. BIOL 699 should be taken just before graduation. Currently, BIOL 699 is only offered during the Spring semester

Note: Completion of both BIOL 499 & BIOL 699 exempts an Honors candidate from the BIOL 599 requirement in all Biology degrees.

  1. Complete an independent research project in collaboration with a KU research mentor in Biology. Projects are individually tailored and may involve laboratory, field, computational and/or literature studies.  Projects suitable for an Honors in Biology require a significant effort, so candidates are strongly encouraged to begin projects by the first semester of their junior year or earlier. Honors candidates may or may not enroll in BIOL 424 (Independent Study) while carrying out research. The number of credits and semesters in which to enroll is determined by consultation with the faculty mentor.

The Honors research mentor/advisor must be a KU faculty member who is tenured or tenure-track. The research may be supervised directly by another scientist; however, a KU faculty member must be the official mentor of record. Research mentors may be selected by (1) contacting an individual professor whose class stimulated your interest, (2) contacting faculty members whose BIOL 499 presentations interested you, (3) examining research descriptions posted on faculty websites, or (4) consulting the Director of the Biology Honors Committee. Most biology faculty members are in either the Department of Molecular Biosciences or the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology .

  1. Write an Honors Thesis that includes the rationale and objective(s) for the project, results, and interpretation of the results including a synthesis section, placing the new findings in a broader context. The thesis is written in a format suitable for publication in an appropriate scientific journal and is sole-authored by the candidate with editing assistance from the mentor. The thesis shall contain a Title/Author page, an Abstract, an Introduction, the Materials and Methods used, the Results, a Discussion, Acknowledgements and a Literature Cited section. Theses must be submitted to the Honors Committee (pdf or paper) at least two weeks before the Honors Symposium, which is typically held on the day following the Spring semester Stop Day. Thesis submissions must be accompanied by a letter from the faculty mentor that evaluates the research and thesis, and confirms that it represents independent work carried out by the candidate.

The precise format of the Thesis should reflect (1) the above general information, (2) input from the advisor, and (3) the following specific guidelines: text font size of 11 or 12, one-inch margins on all sides of each page, double-spaced text. Please note that the combined text of the main sections of the thesis (Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion) will typically comprise at least 15 pages, excluding Acknowledgements, Figures, Tables and Literature Cited.  Of course, these estimates/guidelines may vary substantially, depending on the nature of the research.

For more information about the structure of the thesis, please see these Honors Thesis Guidelines. Thesis is due April 26th and is submitted in PDF format to Dr. Justin Blumenstiel (

  1. Candidates present a 12-minute oral presentation of their research (an additional 3 minutes will follow for questions) at the Undergraduate Biology Honors Symposium, at which faculty, colleagues, and family members are encouraged to attend. Following the Symposium, the Honors Committee determines if the candidate meets the criteria to receive Departmental Honors upon graduation. Students earning Biology Honors receive a certificate at the Undergraduate Biology Graduation Recognition Ceremony. Currently, the Honors Symposium is held at the end of the Spring semester. Honors candidates planning to graduate at the end of a Fall Semester must contact the Honors Committee Chair two semesters before graduation.

The Undergraduate Biology Honors Symposium will be held on May 4th, the Saturday after Stop Day.


Students and mentors will be notified by e-mail of the outcome of the Biology Honors Committee’s decision by the Chair of the Committee within a few days of the Honors Symposium. If appropriate, a follow-up meeting with the Biology Honors Committee Chair will also be offered to provide critical feedback on the Thesis from the Honors Committee members.

If you have any questions about graduation with Departmental Honors, contact the Biology Honors Committee Chairperson:

Dr. Justin Blumenstiel, 7026 Haworth Hall,