Honors in Integrative Biology

What is the Honors Program?

The Honors Program in Integrative Biology provides an exciting opportunity to gain valuable professional experience by working closely with a faculty sponsor to conduct a biology-related independent research project. It is also a great way to receive recognition for your outstanding academic achievements.

If you are a sophomore or junior, interested in pursuing honors your senior year, now is a good time to look for a lab position. You can get some tips on how to find a lab on our research page, or by talking to a staff or peer advisor.

What are the Requirements of the Honors Program?

  • Maintain a 3.3 GPA overall AND in the IB major. Students without a 3.3 major GPA may still be eligible if it is mathematically possible to graduate with a 3.3 major GPA after the conclusion of H196B. Use our GPA calculator to determine your grade eligibility. Please consult with a staff advisor to discuss your course plan and major GPA if interested in honors.
  • Take two semesters of honors courses: H196A and H196B (3 units each, letter-graded). L&S allows honors students to enroll in fewer than 13 units during honors semesters. See below for application and registration information.
  • Design and carry out a biology-related independent research project in consultation with a principal investigator (a.k.a. PI: the person in whose lab students are performing research).
    • Refer to this sample proposal from Prof. Eileen Lacey for an example of a typical honors project.
    • Honors students are allowed to conduct research in either on-campus or off-campus labs. On-campus labs do NOT necessarily have to be in IB.
    • Students who are working in non-IB labs are required to have an IB faculty sponsor serve as a co-advisor. The sponsor can be a faculty advisor or another IB faculty member familiar with your work.
    • The IB department does not cover any research costs related to undergraduate independent study, including honors projects.
  • Submit an honors thesis after completing two honors courses.
    • The thesis should summarize the experimental progress and results from the student's honors work.
    • Students must submit their thesis to their PI, IB faculty sponsor (if applicable), and the advising office.
    • Sample theses are available for viewing in the advising office.
    • Guidelines for composing a thesis are available to current honors students through bCourses.
  • All honors students enrolled in honors in their spring semester are required to present a poster describing their findings at Cal Day (a public event held each April).
    • The cost for printing posters is covered by the department.
    • Guidelines for creating a poster are available to current honors students through bCourses.

**An honors student's PI and faculty sponsor will correspond with one another to assign a letter grade for each honors course, research project, thesis and poster. Students are required to submit their project and thesis to both their PI and faculty sponsor. The department does not set grading rubrics for honors projects.

Program Restrictions 

  • It is not permissible to use the same research for IB H196 to count for IB Honors and other academic credit in the same term.
  • Participants may not retroactively earn IB Honors credit for research projects that were completed before enrolling in H196A. 
  • Participants in IB H196 are not permitted to receive employment compensation for research while in the honors program but students may speak to an advisor to determine if alternative arrangements can be made. Research grants and fellowship programs (e.g., Haas Scholars) are permissible. 
  • Participants may use 3 units of either H196A or H196B to count towards IB upper division elective requirements. This option is not available if IB 191 has already been selected to count for IB upper division elective requirements. 

What is the Application Process?

  • An online application is available on our forms page.
  • Most students conduct their honors projects over the course of their senior year, taking H196A in fall and H196B in spring. Other options (e.g. summer and fall) are possible, if arranged in advance.
  • All applications, fall or spring, are due by the end of the third week of instruction. The course must then be added by the campus' add/drop deadline

How Do I Get More Guidance and Information?

COVID-19 Adjustments to IB Honors

Spring 2020 Adjustments

  • The 2020 Cal Day poster was replaced by a recorded presentation.
  • The major GPA requirement was reduced to 3.25 for Spring 2020 graduates only.

2020-2021 Adjustments

Honors in 2020-2021 is still be a two semester commitment to hypothesis-driven research. Students working with IB faculty must consult with their labs to ensure they are either approved to conduct in-person research or have developed a remote research plan. Labs have unique constraints and some may not be able to accommodate undergraduate researchers during the public health crisis. IB faculty can still serve as sponsors for research conducted outside the department, including labs on other campuses.

Honors projects must be hypothesis-driven and must include quantitative evaluation of the biological hypothesis in question. For 2020-2021, the following research activities are allowed as part of the honors program:

  1. Generation and analysis of empirical data following the standard model for Honors projects. Refer to this sample proposal from Prof. Eileen Lacey for an example of a typical honors project.
  2. Analysis of an existing data set, either one generated previously by the student or provided by other members of the faculty mentor’s lab.
  3. Review of published literature that includes a quantitative analysis of the associated metadata. A simple literature review is not sufficient; review of published papers must provide quantitative evaluation of a specific hypothesis. Refer to this sample proposal from Prof. Eileen Lacey for an example of a metadata-based honors project. Students electing this option will be required to attend a regular fall “journal club” meeting hosted by Zac Chestnut.
  4. If students are unable to elect options 1 or 2 and are unable to attend the journal club required by option 3, they should contact Zac Chestnut to discuss their research background and possible options.

Because the honors program is a two semester commitment, Spring 2021 student research activities will rely on campus instructional and research decisions. Students should consider what in-person activities in spring might supplement the proposed adjustments listed above.

The major GPA and overall GPA requirements are still in effect for 2020-2021 and beyond. Honors students are allowed to elect P/NP grading in IB H196A and IB H196B during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, but they must earn P grades in those courses and maintain the 3.3 major and overall GPAs to graduate with honors in IB.

Fall 2021

All normal IB honors requirements are in effect as of Fall 2021. Research projects must generate and analyze novel data. Students must meet the standard eligibility guidelines: declared in IB, biological hypothesis, 3.3 major GPA, 3.3 UC GPA.