Departmental Honors Requirements

Scott Garman and Elizabeth Vierling, BMB's Honors Program Directors:

Office: 1230 LGRT                                   Office: N329 LSL
Phone: (413) 577-4488                           Phone: (413) 577-2890
Advisor for Last Names L-Z                   Advisor for Last Names A-K

BMB Departmental Honors

Departmental Honors (DH) is an Advanced Scholarship track of the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC). Successful completion of the DH course requirements with minimum grades of B (or as specified below) and the submission of a properly formatted Honors Thesis or Project manuscript (minimum grade of B for Seminar manuscripts) will result in the award of "Departmental Honors" on the student's academic transcript. For information about DH, speak with your Honors Program Director (HPD) and see the Admission Process below. Learn more information about the full CHC Curriculum.

General Admission Criteria

Minimally, to be eligible to apply for DH, students must have

  • An overall GPA of 3.400 or higher earned after one or more fulltime semester(s) of UMass Amherst coursework
  • The ability to complete the DH sub-plan requirements
  • The ability to complete the CHC minimum residency requirement, i.e., 45-graded (not pass/fail) credits earned at UMass Amherst (not transferred)

Admissions Process

UMass Amherst students who are not already members of the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) must apply to Departmental Honors (DH), an Advanced Scholarship CHC sub-plan, via the CHC online application.

Students who are already members of CHC meet with the department’s Honors Program Director (HPD) regarding their interest in joining Departmental Honors (DH). The HPD will determine a student's eligibility and preparedness for DH. Admission to DH will be at the discretion of the HPD based on the criteria as established by the department and CHC (see Admission Criteria above).

The HPD will notify the CHC office of newly accepted DH students so appropriate steps can be taken to designate the sub-plan on SPIRE.

Requirements for BMB Departmental Honors (DH):

  1. BMB Honors students should apply for acceptance into BMB Departmental Honors (DH) AFTER they have begun to do independent research in labs approved by the BMB HPD.
  2. BMB Honors students are permitted to do independent thesis research in labs outside of the BMB Department, including research labs in the Five-Colleges that are members of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, as approved by the BMB HPD.
  3. One (1) Biochem “H” course at any level (Biochem 291H or an alternative “H” science course as approved by the BMB HPD)
  4. One (1) Biochem “H” course above the 300 level (Biochem 396H, 496H, Bio 383H) (or an alternative “H” science course as approved by the BMB HPD)
  5. One (1) “H” Writing Course Either Biochem 430H OR NatSci289H (iCons) or an alternative “H” Writing course as approved by the BMB HPD.
  6. Honors Thesis: Departmental Honors (DH)

Independent Study and Honors Colloquia:

Undertaking an Independent Study Honors (ISH) has specific requirements that distinguish it from a regular Independent Study. Please consult with an advisor and learn more about ISH courses on the CHC website. All details for independent study and honors colloquia must be worked out the semester before.

  • April for the Fall semester
  • November for the Spring semester

Student deadlines for submission on PATHS are:

  • August 15 for Fall
  • December 9 for Spring

These deadlines must written in the timeline for your 499Y proposal.

Honors Thesis Guidelines:

A guide to preparing and defending your BMB Honors Thesis can be found here.

The BMB Department requires that majors wishing to complete Departmental Honors MUST be engaged in original research that involves data acquisition and/or analysis. The project must be BMB-related, specifically: must involve elucidation of molecular or cellular mechanisms of life processes. Theses comprising solely literature review are not suitable for BMB Departmental honors. Students wishing to complete a thesis based on scientific literature review can complete an honors program through the "Multi-disciplinary" option. Students can contact BMB Advisor Virginia McLaurin to ensure that they are assigned to the appropriate honors track.

BMB Honors students conducting DH research must have an Honors Thesis Committee with two members. The Chair of the Thesis Committee is the Principal Investigator (PI) of the student’s research lab. BMB Honors students who are conducting DH research outside of the BMB Department must also have a BMB faculty person as the second member of their Honors Thesis Committee.

More info on the BMB Honors Thesis timeline can be found here.

Academic Standards:

Your BMB Honors Thesis is a scientific document produced as a result of your academic skills, and the guidance of your faculty.  Remember that your work also reflects directly on the reputation of the BMB Department, faculty, and other students who are BMB Majors. Even the early drafts of your BMB Honors Thesis document should reflect your high personal and professional standards.

Forms and thesis documents containing typographical errors, spelling mistakes, poor grammar or unclear writing will be returned to the student and the student’s Honors Committee Chair (PI) for revision.

Exceptions to Honors Requirements:

Exceptions to the BMB Honors requirements require approval by both the BMB Honors Program Director (HPD) and a Commonwealth Honors College advisor; requests must be submitted in writing via the CHC Petition for Exception form.


Check-out these BMB Departmental Honors FAQs!