Thesis and Honors
The Senior Thesis
In January of the Junior year, students discuss their goals and potential projects with faculty members. Students request thesis advisors (The Thesis Advisor Request form is found here: Thesis Request Form) and the department meets to assign students to advisors by mid-February.
Although most students are expected to complete a laboratory thesis, the written thesis may be either a laboratory thesis or a library thesis. Chemistry majors doing a laboratory thesis may register for CHEM 457, 458, or both, while students doing a library project may register for CHEM 457 or 458. Biochemistry majors doing a laboratory thesis may register for BIOC 457, 458, or both, while students doing a library project may register for BIOC 457 or 458. Students pursuing honors register for both 457 and 458. The senior research and seminar courses include participation in the department’s seminar program. Each major is required to deliver two presentations during the senior year.
Receipt of Honors in Chemistry or Biochemistry is a special distinction reserved for those students who have excelled in their academic accomplishments throughout their time at Bates and have completed a thesis project with certain distinguishing characteristics and features. The distinction of Honors requires that the student and the thesis meet all of the criteria specified below. An outstanding performance in several of the expectations for Honors may offset a less than exemplary performance in another area. A significant deficiency in any one expectation is sufficient grounds to deny Honors. The thesis advisor has the authority to withdraw the student from the Honors program at any time prior to the submission deadline for the written thesis. The oral examination panel members, who may consult with the advisor, have final authority for judging whether the student has satisfactorily met the criteria for receipt of Honors.
The thesis must explore a novel question or topic.
The thesis should be based upon at least one hypothesis and describe a project that, if brought to completion, would be suitable for publication in the peer-reviewed literature, either as a stand-alone item or as part of a larger project. The department recognizes that two semesters of work is seldom sufficient to complete a project to the point of a peer-reviewed publication, but the project should be on a trajectory for such an outcome.
In the written thesis and oral defense, the student must be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the project. One or more chapters of the thesis must develop the necessary, background, theory and/or methodology through a thorough discussion and citation of relevant, published literature.
The student must demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, independence and continuous engagement in the project over the entire two semesters.
The student must demonstrate that considerable progress has been made in the actual execution of the project. Depending on the nature of the project, this may involve substantial collection and analysis of data or synthesis of desired chemical compounds. The student must have advanced the project to the stage where defensible conclusions can be drawn.
The thesis must be well written and accessible to expert and non-expert audiences. A high quality written thesis is well organized, concise, grammatically and mechanistically correct, coherent and logical in its arguments and development of ideas. The written thesis must cite appropriate sources that inform the project. Data must be clearly presented. Language must be precise, sophisticated and incorporate terminology appropriate for the topic of the thesis.
In the oral exam, the student must be able to answer questions posed by the examination committee and engage with members of the committee in a scholarly discussion of all facets of the project.
Honor’s Nomination Process
Primary steps in the Honors nomination process
- Discuss the possibility of doing Honors with possible advisors and indicate your interest on the thesis advisor selection form in the winter semester of the junior year.
- Give an oral presentation on your project as part of the department’s seminar series late in the fall semester of the senior year.
Winter semester of the junior year
Students should discuss the possibility of conducting Honors with potential advisors during the thesis selection process that occurs in January of the junior year. Indicate your possible interest in an Honors thesis on the thesis selection form. When assigning your advisor, the department will indicate whether you have met the basic requirements (usually a GPA over 3.5 and excellence in academic accomplishments in previous work at Bates) to be considered for the Honors program.
Summer between junior and senior year
Students intending to pursue Honors are expected to further develop their thesis topic prior to the start of the fall term of the senior year. You should consult with your thesis advisor during this time period.
Fall semester of the senior year
Students intending to pursue Honors will give an oral presentation to the department late in the fall semester of the senior year. This is given in the regular department seminar series and is open to the public. The seminar should provide the department with an organized overview of the project, a description of progress made to date, and future plans including a timetable for completion of the project. The student must exhibit poise and confidence during the seminar. The student must be able to answer questions posed by members of the department and engage with members of the department in a scholarly discussion of the project.
The department will judge the quality of the presentation, the quality of the project to date, and determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress toward completion of an Honors thesis. The department, in consultation with the advisor, will make a decision whether to formally nominate the student for Honors.
Winter semester of the senior year
Honors nominations are due to the college at the end of the first week of the winter semester.
If, at any time prior to the submission of the written thesis, the thesis advisor feels that the student is not meeting the expectations of the chemistry department for a satisfactory Honors thesis, she or he has the authority to withdraw the student from the Honors program.
A student formally nominated for Honors can withdraw from the program at any time prior to the thesis submission deadline or oral exam date.