Application & Deadlines for 2023-2024

We’re excited for you to practice communicating your novel research through a written thesis and an oral poster presentation. Below is the schedule for important deadlines associated with Graduation with Distinction for the 2023-2024 academic year. Please check back later for more guidelines to help you meet the expectations of each assignment.

Deadline May 2024 Distinction December 2023 Distinction
Submit application for Graduation with Distinction Mon, Sept 18 Mon, Sept 4
Submit preliminary list of figures/tables & detailed outline to Research Supervisor Mon, Jan 22 Mon, Sept 25
Communicate with Bio Faculty Reader & provide preliminary list of figures/tables & detailed outline Mon, Feb 5 Mon, Oct 9
Submit draft of introduction to Research Supervisor Mon, Feb 12 Fri, Oct 20
Submit draft of introduction to Bio Faculty Reader and DUS Office to Dropbox Mon, Feb 26: Submit to your Reader via email AND upload as a PDF to Dropbox for the DUS office. Please use your first and last name in the file name! Mon, Oct 30: Submit to your Reader via email AND upload as a PDF to Dropbox for the DUS office. Please use your first and last name in the file name!
Submit first draft of whole thesis to Research Supervisor Weds, Mar 20 Weds, Nov 15
Submit first draft of whole thesis to Bio Faculty Reader Mon, April 1 Weds, Nov 29
Submit thesis title & abstract Fri, April 12 Mon, Dec 4
Final thesis due to Reader and Dropbox upload Tues, April 16 by 5:00p.m. submit PDF (please use your first and last name in file name!) AND send a copy to your reader electronically Fri, Dec 8 by 5:00p.m. submit PDF (please use your first and last name in file name!) AND send a copy to your reader electronically
Submit Poster & Presentation (Dropbox link will be provided) Fri, April 19: Present your poster at the GwD Symposium, (Friday, 4/19 at 3:30 in FFSC) & upload poster to dropbox by 11:59pm Fri, Dec 8: Present your poster at the GwD mini-Symposium (12/8 at 4:30pm in the French Atrium) & upload poster to dropbox by 11:59pm

1) Online Application Due: Sept 4 (Fall) and Sept 18 (Spring), 2023

The project abstract must be written by you and clearly articulate your research question and proposed methodologies. Your Research Supervisor will receive an emailed copy of your application with a request for an endorsement, and their email reply will serve as an electronic signature of approval for the application. This research supervisor approval is due by Monday, Sept 27th. The Principal Investigator or faculty member most closely associated with your project should be listed as the research supervisor, not the post-doc or graduate student with whom you might work more closely. Any Duke faculty member in a biological sciences department (including the Duke University Medical Center) may be a Research Supervisor. 

Approval of the application by the Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) indicates that you may proceed with the completion of the written thesis. (The DUS approves these as one batch after all the research supervisor approvals come in for all students.) You will be matched with a Reader from the Biology Faculty (called the Biology Faculty Reader) shortly following the start of Spring Term.

Students accepted as candidates for Distinction will be eligible to register for a special 1.0 cc course, Writing in Biology, in either Fall (BIO 495S) or Spring (Bio 495). 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.

It is your responsibility to meet all requirements and deadlines.

2) Monday, Jan 22, 2024: Submit a preliminary list of figures and tables and detailed outline to your research supervisor

What is expected in the detailed outline?

The outline tells your scientific “story” as it relates to your research question. It incorporates both text and your figures/tables.  Rather than simply a list of figures and tables, include a narrative that describes the specific question(s) being tested and how the data presented in your figures and tables relate to your research question(s). Use these example questions to guide your outline (although it might not work for all types of projects):

  • What is the overall research question being asked in your project?
  • To what specific experimental question is figure 1 related? What conclusion are you making (or might you make if you had data) from this figure?
  • What did you do next and why? 
  • How is figure 1 related to figure 2?
  • Do the data support the hypothesis you were testing in your overall research question and if so, how?

I don’t have all of my data yet. How can I do this part of the thesis so early?

Some students will have collected all of their data by this date and are ready to start compiling the “story” of their research project. Other students will have some or no data at this deadline. If you don’t have all your data, that is okay! You can still complete this part of the process by visualizing the data you have. For example, if your project is going to involve several Western Blots, then you can draw a cartoon of what potential data might look like, including the controls you are using in the experiment. If your project is more numerical based and you don’t have those numbers yet, you can demonstrate how you would present the data in either a table or a graph. 

Why am I being asked for the figures and tables before completing an introduction?

Mapping out your data or visualizing what your data might look like gives you a chance to think more deeply about your research question(s) and gives you and your reader a chance to think about the best way to communicate and opportunities to revise. By putting the figures together, you start to build the scientific story that aligns to your overall research question. Don’t get bogged  down in the details here – we don’t want you to waste time polishing graphics that you may eventually not use. The goal is to get you thinking about how you will show your data.

3) Mon, Feb 5, 2024: Communicate with your faculty reader and provide preliminary list of figures and tables and detailed outline

What is the goal of the meeting with the faculty reader?

We find that students who meet the faculty reader have a better experience with receiving feedback and guidance. Thus, we want you to meet the reader and talk a few minutes about your project. During the meeting, it is also a good idea to talk about how they give feedback and what advice they have for you as a writer.

Does this meeting need to be in-person?

No, you can meet either in-person or on zoom. As soon as the semester starts, try to get a meeting on your reader’s schedule so you can meet the deadlines. Many faculty will need to schedule at least a week or more ahead to have open spots on their calendar. Tip: send them a list of several possible dates and times that work for you to minimize the communications by email.

What if my faculty reader is not available to meet with me in this time frame or hasn’t responded?

Keep a record of your emails that you have tried and keep trying. Meeting with them anytime during the semester will still be valuable in the writing and feedback process.

What other resources are available to help me with my writing?

All candidates for Graduation with Distinction are encouraged to enroll in Bio 495, a writing-intensive course designed to support you through the writing process.  The course is offered every spring and, if there is enough interest, also in the fall.   Even if you are not enrolled in the course, you may schedule one-on-one appointments to work with Dr. Reynolds who can help you with any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing your prose.  You can also use the Writing Studio which is particularly helpful if you are struggling to communicate your message to a non-specialist.

4) Monday, Feb 12, 2024: Submit draft of introduction to your Research Supervisor

Even if you are still collecting and analyzing data, you should prepare an introduction and submit to your research supervisor for feedback. Be sure to include a clear statement of hypothesis, a review of the relevant literature, and an explanation of the rationale for your specific experimental approach. Feedback from your research supervisor should be incorporated into the Introduction before you submit the draft to your reader. 

5) Monday, Feb 26, 2024: Submit draft of introduction to Bio Faculty Reader and DUS Office via Dropbox

Submit your draft of your introduction to your Reader and solicit feedback. You should also upload it to Dropbox for the DUS Office as a PDF. Please put your full name in the file name.  We may have your text evaluated by iThenticate, a tool used by Duke faculty and graduate students to ensure that their writing isn’t too close to the text. We’d send you the iThenticate report if there are any areas of concern.

6) Weds, March 20, 2024: Submit first draft of the entire thesis to your Research Supervisor

The Research Supervisor must review and approve the thesis draft before submission of the first draft to your Biology Faculty Reader. Feedback from the Research Supervisor is crucial, and it is wise to anticipate one or two rounds of revision before the March 20 deadline. 

7) Monday, April 1, 2024: Submit first draft of the entire thesis to your Biology Faculty Reader

 Submit your draft of the entire thesis to your Faculty Reader and make plans with them to discuss the thesis draft and receive feedback.

8) Friday, April 12, 2024: Electronic Submission of Thesis Title & Abstract

Abstracts should be ~ 250 words, single paragraph, no references.  Submit through a webform

9) Tuesday, April 16, 2024 by 5:00pm:  Final thesis PDF copy due to dropbox AND send a copy to your reader

The approval of the Research Supervisor is required for consideration of your final thesis and indicates that the work is complete and is nominated for distinction. The research supervisor’s electronic signature should be on the cover page of the thesis uploaded to Dropbox as a sign of approval. (Your reader’s signature is not needed at the time of submission). The thesis should be submitted in the format described here.

10) Friday, April 19, 2024:  Poster session from 3:30-5pm & upload a copy of your poster to dropbox by 11:59pm

A poster summarizing the results and conclusions of your project should be presented at the poster session and uploaded to Dropbox. More info at "Guidelines for the Preparation of an Honors Poster." Presentation does not guarantee the award of distinction.

Invite your PI, lab mates, and friends/family as the Symposium is open to the public and all are invited to attend. Communicate with your Faculty Reader so you'll know they're attending & connect during the Symposium. Readers consider the presentation/poster in conjunction with your thesis when determining the award of Distinction. If your reader cannot attend, try to arrange a 1:1 showing at a time that works for you both within a few days of the session. Other faculty members may visit your poster as well, especially if your reader is absent.