Departmental Honors

The Biology Department offers a Departmental Honors (DH) option, which serves as an Advanced Scholarship Track of the Commonwealth Honors College. Participation in Departmental Honors requires admission to the program.

Applying for Departmental Honors

Biology majors who are currently members of the Commonwealth Honors College can apply for admission to Departmental Honors by contacting the department's honors coordinator, Professor Patricia Wadsworth.

Biology majors who are not yet members of the Commonwealth Honors College can apply for admissions to Departmental Honors via the CHC's online application.

Prior to applying for Departmental Honors, students are strongly encouraged to identify a mechanism by which they can complete the thesis/project portion of the Departmental Honors requirements (see "Departmental Honors Requirements" below).

Advising note: Biology majors who are currently members of Commonwealth Honors College and have sophomore or higher standing are assigned an honors advisor from the Biology faculty. All such students should receive an email with the name and contact information of their Biology honors advisor. If you are a CHC member and did not receive the email, contact Sue Clevenger (suec@bio.umass.edu, 413-545-2287) to find out who your Biology honors advisor is. Please make an appointment with him or her for general questions about Departmental Honors. If you need additional guidance or the signature of the department's honors coordinator (or if you are not yet a CHC member), contact Patricia Wadsworth for assistance.

Departmental Honors Requirements

To complete the Biology DH program, a student must complete

  • Two Honors classes in Biology with a grade of B or better. One course can be at any level; one course must be at the 300 level or higher.
  • Either
    • An Individually Contracted Honors Thesis. To complete this option, students work in a faculty laboratory (in the Biology Department or another life science department) to perform thesis research. Students are responsible for identifying a suitable laboratory for their thesis research. After arranging a lab position and settling on a project, Departmental Honors students register for research and thesis credits (Biology 499Y and Biology 499T, typically taken the fall and spring semesters of the senior year, respectively). The CHC provides forms and instructions for registering. A grade of B or better in both semesters is required.

      Or

    • A faculty-initiated Honors Project Seminar. Currently, Biology offers one such seminar, Biology 499E/F Research Methodology; an additional Honors Project Seminar on Health Care Policy (offered through the department of Public Health) will be available starting Fall 2014. A grade of B or better in both semesters is required.
  • Students who are pursuing the Commonwealth Honors Scholar credential (i.e., CHC's "full curriculum option") must also complete the General Studies component of the honors curriculum.

Note: Students who plan to pursue an Individually Contracted Honors Thesis can take advantage of the Biology Undergraduate Research Apprentice (BURA) program to find a research project, and/or can mount a broader search.

Biology Honors Courses

  • Biology 105H Biology of Social Issues;
  • Biology 190EH Evolution Explained
  • Biology 190H Quantitative Biology of the Cell
  • Biology 197FH/GH Quantitative Systems Biology
  • Biology 383H Gene and Genome Analysis
  • Biology 477H Bioimaging
  • Biology 486H Molecular Biology of Model Systems
  • Biology 487H Tropical Field Biology
  • Biology 499E/F Research Methodology

The CHC has compiled a complete list of honors courses.

Note: The Registrar's Office maintains a page that describes requirements for graduating with Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude).