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Department of Biology

Information for Biology Students in the Schreyer Honors College

schreyer honors medal

The honors program in Biology stems from The Schreyer Honors College. Entry into the Schreyer Honors College requires submission of a thesis paper.

The thesis will be read by both a thesis mentor and an honors adviser.  The student is responsible for contacting their honors adviser at the beginning of the

graduation semester to arrange when the scholar will submit the thesis for review. This should be done at least TWO WEEKS before the thesis due date.

Please be aware that no exceptions will be made! Additional information can be found by visiting the Schreyer Honors College website.

Departmental Requirements

Interested in taking honors credits?

Please remember, the Schreyer Honors College website will have the most updated information about this subject.

To view descriptions of these courses, click here to visit the PSU Bulletin Biology Page.

·BIOL 110H

·BIOL 220M

·BIOL 230M

·BIOL 240M

The honors option permits a Schreyer Scholar enrolled in a regular University course to make it an honors course and to receive honors credit. The student and the instructor, in advance or early in the semester in which the course is offered, arrange for a portion of the work of the course to be done as a project of honors caliber or plan significant alternative work for the honors student. In an honors option, the honors work should not be an add-on, but should be done within the course syllabus, or as an alternative to what is required of regular students. It should go more deeply into methodology, structure, and theory, attack more sophisticated questions, and satisfy more rigorous standards. Carried out successfully, it should be more rewarding. Recommended primarily for work in one's major, an honors option is an excellent way to contact an instructor in your department whose work particularly interests you. Many thesis projects begin with an exciting honors option experience. Please note that honors options are usually not appropriate in skills courses such as ESACT and ROTC courses.


Process to honor option a course:

•    Contact the course instructor to discuss the possibility of turning the course into an honors option and to plan a project for the honors option. Know honors options must be supervised by members of the regular faculty (i.e., ot a graduate student, part-time faculty, or member of the University staff who is not on the faculty). To help you design a plan for your honors option, an Honors Option resource File is available for your review in the Scholars Office. This document contains project descriptions and evaluations from students who have previously completed honors options and may be inspirational to you.

•    Obtain an honors option form and clearly outline the work that you are proposing to do. Sign it and obtain the signatures of the honors option supervisor as well as your honors adviser.

•    Submit the completed form to the Schreyer Honors College NO LATER THAN THE THIRD WEEK of the semester in which the course is taken.

•    Register for the course without the H designation. The Schreyer Honors College will add the H credit for all courses for which honors options forms have been filed.

Note: To receive honors option credit, students may not receive monetary compensation for the work to be done. Moreover, a course may not revert to non-honors status without the permission of the honors option supervisor. The Schreyer Honors College must receive written notification of such a change NO LATER THAN THE END OF THE SIXTH WEEK of the semester. After the sixth week, dropping the honors commitment without dropping the course involves University Faculty Senate action.


Several faculty members of the Department of Biology serve as Honors advisers. You will be appointed to one of these faculty members after acceptance to the Schreyer Honors Program.

Freshman and Sophomore Years

  • Take a total of 21 honors credits over freshman and sophomore years. The split may be 12 credits in freshman year and 9 credits in sophomore year.

Freshman Year

  • Enroll into ENGL/CAS 137H in the fall and ENGL/CAS138T in the spring.
  • Take an additional 3 to 6 honors credits. An academic year starts in the fall and continues through the summer session.  This requirement can be fulfilled by taking Biol 110H in the fall semester and either Biol 220M or Biol 240M in the spring semester.
  • Begin looking for a research laboratory to do your honors thesis.

Sophomore Year

  • Take at least 3 to 4 honors courses for a total of 9 to 12 honors credits during the academic year. (An academic year starts in the fall and continues through the summer session.) Honors credits may be accumulated by enrolling into regular Honors courses, taking a 400-level course as a sophomore, turning a course into an honors option, or conducting honors independent study or research.  The student can meet the honors requirement by taking Biol 230M in the fall semester and either Biol 220M or Biol 240M in the spring semester – whichever course was not taken in the freshman year.
  • Start thinking about a topic for your honors thesis and find yourself a thesis supervisor. Please be aware that only full-time, tenure track faculty can function as thesis supervisors.
  • In your 4th semester at the latest, start working on your thesis project.
  • Junior Year
  • During your junior and senior years combined take a total of 14 honors credits. Up to 6 honors credits may be earned for thesis preparation.
  • File your Senior Honors Thesis Proposal Report in the Schreyer Honors College by May 1 (check this date with Schreyer, subject to change)!
  • Conduct your thesis research.
  • The Department strongly encourages students to present a poster with the data of your thesis research at the Annual Undergraduate Research Exhibition.  This is an excellent opportunity to get feedback about your research.
  • Senior Year
  • During your junior and senior years combined, take a total of 14 honors credits. Up to 6 honors credits may be earned for thesis preparation.
  • The deadlines for submission of the honors thesis can be found on the Schreyer Honors College Web page

Biology Honors Thesis Information

The Honors thesis is an important aspect of your Honors work in Biology. Normally, this will involve presenting original research results that you have performed over the previous semesters. Click here to download a copy of the thesis template.

Keep in mind these are guidelines only. If another format is more appropriate, this will be considered upon consultation with your honors thesis supervisor and the honors academic adviser. The length of each section is dependent upon many variables, but in all cases the work is to reflect the highest quality of scholarship.

The honors thesis will be prepared by the student and the honors thesis supervisor.  Once completed, the thesis will be read by the honors academic adviser.  The honors thesis supervisor and academic adviser are specified at the end of junior year in the Thesis Proposal Report.

A thesis format review is due in the Schreyer Honors College two months before the end of the graduation semester.  The final draft of the thesis should be prepared with the honors thesis mentor.  The thesis draft should be submitted to the honors academic adviser at least two weeks before the submission deadline.  The student should contact his or her honors academic adviser at the beginning of the graduation semester to determine the best timeline for review of the thesis.  It is not uncommon for faculty to travel off campus at critical times during this process, so the student must plan accordingly.  It is inappropriate for a student to provide the thesis to the honors academic adviser the night before the thesis is due in the Schreyer office and expect the faculty member to drop everything to read the thesis.  The honors academic adviser is within his or her right not to accept the thesis at this point.  The completed thesis, with the research adviser's signature, is due in the Schreyer Honors College a month before the end of the graduation semester.  Please, plan accordingly. You will be contacted early the following week by the second faculty reader who may request changes. After the final thesis is approved, and signed, you may submit the hard copy to the Honors College.

Task Timeline

Contact thesis mentor and academic adviser about the timeline for thesis review

Beginning of graduation semester

Thesis format review by Schreyer office

2 months before the end of semester
Finish thesis draft this should be in near final format and submit to honors academic adviser 2 weeks before the thesis is due
Revise thesis Once you have received comments back from your honors academic adviser
Submit thesis and signature page 1 month before the end of the semester


  • Introduction

    The introduction should discuss the research problem in sufficient breadth to be understandable by any biologist. It should also contain the most current references that are available. Textbook information is considered common knowledge and therefore only current review articles and primary research articles should be cited. The introduction should contain a clear statement (preferably a hypothesis) that describes the goal of the research.

  • Materials and Methods

    This section should include sufficient information so a biologist trained in that area could repeat the work. However, it must be understandable by any biologists and all technical terms should be defined.

  • Results

    The data that are directly relevant to the thesis should be presented using journal standards. Strive for concise prose. It is not necessary to present multiple graphs on separate pages, or to present multiple plots on separate graphs. Raw DNA sequence data without analysis is inappropriate. Digital photographs should be printed on high quality paper and all micrographs should contain scale bars. All figures should contain a separate description legend. The text, describing the data, should be limited to the presented information. It is not acceptable to mention results without showing the data (i.e., you may not cite a statement with "data not shown"). It is permitted to present negative data.

  • Discussion

    The Discussion should review the significance of the data in a clear, concise, and scholarly manner. You should interpret your findings directly to what is already known and published in the field. If your results provide new insight in an area, clearly and explicitly discuss the importance of your results. If your results confirm what is already known, then state this and supply a current citation. Students are encouraged to conclude with a statement of hypotheses that they feel could be tested as a result of their work. It is acceptable to combine the results and discussion section.

  • References

    Cited literature should be the most current that is relevant to the work and be supplied in a format used by a journal of the student's choice. Do not mix format styles. Use standard journal abbreviations (the reference desk of the Life Science library can help you with this).The easiest citation format is the (Author, Date) format.

  • Never start a sentence with a number unless it is explicitly spelled out
  • Spell out numbers less than 10, even within the middle of a sentence. Remember to include units when talking about your data
  • Large tables, nucleotide sequence data, or other large sets of information are often placed in an appendix so that the main body of test flows better on the page. An appendix is an appropriate place to put additional information not directly related to the thesis, but would be helpful to other researches in the laboratory
  • When using figures, make sure to have a caption that provides a short description (a title sentence, followed by several descriptive sentences). Remember to label axes.
  • Tables should have a caption above the table and all column labels should be self-explanatory