Biology majors who achieve excellence in both their studies and a research-based thesis may apply for Graduation with Distinction in Biology.
Students may apply if they have a grade point average of 3.0 or above in Biology courses and courses approved as electives for the major, NOT including Independent Studies, at the time of application. The award of Distinction requires the maintenance of this grade point average through graduation.
Graduation with Distinction also requires the completion of an original research project, usually carried out as an independent study in biology (e.g. BIOLOGY 293/493), or in an appropriate biological science department at Duke University, or as an interdisciplinary study that includes biology as a focus. However, the Distinction project may be completed without a formal enrollment in independent study. The research project must have a primary disciplinary focus and research question in the biological sciences, even in the case of interdisciplinary research. Projects that are related to Biology, but not primarily focused in the discipline, may be eligible as the basis of a thesis written for Graduation with Distinction Outside the Major.
Eligibility for candidacy is determined on the basis of an application that includes a student-written abstract of the project proposal. Distinction will be awarded by a faculty committee based on an oral poster presentation and the written thesis. The thesis and poster should present a significant achievement in research and demonstrate a clear mastery of the research field. Approximately the top 10% will be awarded high distinction, based on both an exceptional ability to conduct scientific research and a compelling and exceptionally well-written thesis. The award of high distinction is based on recommendations from the thesis committee to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Students accepted as candidates for Distinction will be eligible to register for a special 1.0 cc course, Writing in Biology, BIO 495, in the spring. This course will be an intensive training in the principles of scientific writing, with a focus on the preparation of the honors thesis. This class is recommended, but not required and carries a W designation.