Honors Program in Biology
The Biology department offers an honors program for students who wish to gain hands-on experience in research and who have the time, commitment, and desire to complete an independent project. Students who successfully complete the program will graduate with Honors in Biology.
Junior or senior students are eligible to participate if they have completed 72 hours of course work, including 12 hours in the major, and have at least a 3.0 grade point average overall and in the major. Enterprising students often start working in a lab in their freshman or sophomore year, but work on a formal Honors project usually does not begin until the junior or senior year.
Students generally complete their research projects under the direction of Biology faculty either in Lewis Science Center or at other suitable research sites. Students may also complete their Honors research under the direction of biologists outside the biology department (e.g. faculty at U. Arkansas Medical School); however, these students must be sponsored by a member of the UCA Biology faculty.
1. Students considering an Honors Project in Biology should discuss their interests and career goals with their academic advisor (or biology professors). The advisor will suggest one or more faculty in the Biology department who would be suitable mentors in the area of interest. Students can also identify possible mentors by consulting the web pages of the CNSM student research program. The student should then make an appointment with prospective mentors to discuss possible projects. The student does not need to wait for a formal invitation from a faculty member. Faculty generally are thrilled to work with promising students on research projects. However, sponsoring research is exceptionally time consuming for faculty (and students!); faculty that are already over-committed may decline to sponsor an additional project or may only sponsor research projects in particular areas of interest.
2. The student and faculty mentor will together develop a plan for initiating a project. Often the faculty mentor will suggest possible projects or promising areas of investigation. The student will often read relevant articles together with the faculty mentor and will prepare a brief research proposal to submit to an advisory committee selected by the student and the faculty mentor. The advisory committee will consist of 2 or 3 faculty in Biology or other suitable fields that have expertise useful for the project and agree to serve (upon invitation by the student). The advisory committee with the faculty mentor as Chair will review the proposal and provide suggestions. The student may then submit grant proposals to obtain funding for the project and/or salary for the student. Funds are available from UCA and external sources (e.g. SURF, Sigma Xi, Arkansas Native Plant Society, etc.). Students may sign up for Undergraduate Research credit for reviewing literature and preparing grant applications.
3. The research project may be completed during the academic year and/or summer. Honors students are required to sign up for a minimum of three hours of undergraduate research. The three hours will not count towards the 20 hours of Biology electives required for graduation.
4. Upon completing the research project, the student will prepare a final written report to submit to the faculty advisor for suggestions and then to the entire advisory committee. The reports are typically modeled after research articles with introduction, methods, results and discussion sections. The student will also give an oral presentation on the project to the advisory committee; Biology faculty and students will be invited to attend the presentation.
5. The advisory committee will review the final oral and written reports and, if appropriate, recommend graduation with Honors. The student must have at least a 3.25 grade point average in Biology courses to graduate with Honors.
Honors College vs. Honors in Biology: What is the difference?
Students who graduate with Honors in Biology receive the same recognition as students who graduate with Honors through the Honors College. In fact, many students in the Honors College complete their required Honors thesis by working with Biology faculty. The theses are identical except that Honors College theses may require a more cross-disciplinary orientation or may require a non-technical component written for a lay audience. Honors College students should discuss possible projects with both their Honors College and Biology advisors.
Benefits for the student:
The Honors program allows students to develop their own project and to become intimately involved in the process of science. Completing a thesis is demanding, but the experience can be extremely rewarding. Students gain experience planning and developing a project; they develop technical skills in the lab or field, learn how to read scientific literature and often how to write grant proposals, and they gain invaluable experience communicating their results with oral and written reports. Students who complete theses are more competitive at gaining admission to quality graduate and professional programs and are better prepared to succeed in these programs. Employers are also generally impressed by students who have the initiative to complete independent research. Finally, some students have the satisfaction of publishing their results and thus contributing to the scientific enterprise by enhancing our knowledge of the world around us.
Contact Dr. Ben Cash (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions about UCA Honors Program in Biology.