Frequently Asked Questions for Honors
The Faculty of the College awards honors at graduation to a small fraction of seniors who excel in their major. In the Biological Sciences Department, honors will be recommended for CC & GS graduating seniors who:
- Achieve a GPA of greater than 3.6 for their first seven semesters of courses taken toward their major. (See below for requirements for transfer students).
- Remain in good standing in the College or GS.
- Carry out supervised but independent laboratory research before graduation. The research must be done at Columbia or must be supervised by a Columbia faculty member, and it must culminate in the writing of a research paper (published or not). Research required for honors must be completed before graduation; one semester of the research must be completed by the end of the seventh semester. The intensive research requirement can be met by any one of the following:
- Two semesters of Biology 3500
- One semester of SURF
- A project lab (that culminates in a paper).
How to Apply
To apply for honors at graduation, students should fill out this form by the day before Spring Break of the student’s eighth and final semester. The following information will be requested on the form.
- 3 GPAs: Courses should be listed and GPAs should be calculated using the GPA Calculator. If a course was taken Pass/Fail, do not enter a letter grade or number of credits for that course.
- Version 1: Include all required courses for your major. However, if you took more science electives than required for the major you may choose which ones to include in this GPA calculation. Note: This GPA must be 3.6 or higher
- Version 2: Include all science classes not included in the first GPA calculation.
- Version 3: Include all science classes (includes all classes in version 1 & 2)
- Their official transcript
- A copy of the final paper prepared for their Independent Research course or the equivalent.
- A one-page double-spaced summary of the results from the student’s independent research project. This should be written so that another CU student that took introductory biology at CU would understand the research question and the findings (it should be clear what findings, if any, were obtained by the student).
- A recommendation for honors from their research supervisor. This should be written by the research sponsor for the student’s independent research course or the equivalent.
If there are any questions, contact Ellie Siddens at [email protected], or the director of undergraduate studies, Dr. Alice Heicklen, [email protected]. Questions or issues with submitting information should be directed to Ellie Siddens ([email protected]).
Note: Not all seniors who qualify for honors necessarily receive them because only a fixed percentage of students in each department may receive honors. Preference will be given to students that have done more than the minimal major requirements.
Transfer students: You must achieve a GPA of greater than 3.6 for all courses taken at Columbia toward your major. You do not need to take seven semesters of courses at Columbia but you should have completed at least four classes in biology at Columbia before applying for honors. The deadline for submission of these materials will be spring break of the academic year you are graduating.
*Concerning Major GPA Versions, here is what is expected from each major:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I list courses that were taken Pass/Fail?
Answer: Please list courses on the GPA calculator, but do not include the letter grade or number of credits. These classes do not count toward your major GPA.
2. How do I fill out the different versions of the GPA calculator?
There are detailed instructions on which courses to include in each GPA version above, organized by major. Please follow these instructions. If you still aren't sure about where a course belongs, please email Ellie at [email protected].
3. I completed research outside of Columbia and/or have another research paper to submit. Can I submit my more recent research paper?
You must submit your final paper from 3500/SURF/Project lab as your paper for the honors application. If you'd like to submit another paper and/or letter of recommendation as a supplement to your application, you can do so by emailing it to Ellie ([email protected]) after submitting your application. Ellie will add it to your application.
4. I am a joint major with another department (Biophysics, Biochemistry, or Neuroscience and Behavior). Can I apply for honors in both departments?
You can apply to more than one program, but you'll only receive honors in one program. Please make sure you follow the specific guidelines for Honors in Psychology, Chemistry, or Physics.
5. I am graduating early or late. When should I apply for honors?
Please still apply for honors before Spring break in your senior year. If you are graduating the fall before spring break, you may submit your application early, but honors will not be given until closer to the spring semester graduation ceremony. If you are graduating late and/or taking a summer course or two, please apply a little early before spring break of your senior year.
6. I worked more closely with a Postdoc or Grad student in the lab. Can they write my letter?
No. The letter must be written by the PI you worked with for that class. Your PI can include exerpts from the postdoc/grad student mentor in the official letter of recommendation, if they wish.
7. I have transfer credits from another school. Do I include these in my major GPA?
No. Only count courses taken at CU when calculating your major GPA. You will need to submit a transcript from your previous institution to Ellie along with your CU transcript. The extra transcript can be emailed to Ellie at [email protected].
8. How should I write the one-page summary of my paper?
The one page summary should explain the student's project to a biologist not in the students specific field. Another UG who has taken introductory biology I /II should be able to understand the project by reading the summary without having to look anything up & understand from the summary why the student's work is important, i.e. big picture as opposed to details.
Bridges and Sturtevant Prize:
This prize results from an anonymous donation in 2011 establishing an endowment for the prize. Bridges and Sturtevant were certainly amazing Columbia undergrads who were true pioneers of modern genetics. Alfred Sturtevant is recounted to have taken time off from studying for classes one weekend to work on understanding some crosses. The result was his figuring out that genes were arranged in a row on a chromosome.
The prize description reads: "Columbia shall .... award an annual prize to be known as the Bridges and Sturtevant Prize in Biological Sciences in honor of Calvin Bridgesand Alfred Sturtevant. Their pioneering studies as Columbia College undergraduates - using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in Thomas Hunt Morgan's laboratory - laid the basis for our understanding of genes and the way they behave. Each year the prize will be awarded to one or more graduating seniors whose experimental or computational research is deemed to have been both highly original and fruitful by a committee of faculty to be selected by the Chair of Biological Sciences."
Faculty members in the Dept. of Biological Sciences can nominate student(s) for the prize. A committee of faculty members decide who will receive the award.
It is awarded yearly, just before graduation.
Awarded to a graduating senior whose research has been deemed highly original and fruitful.
Each student is awarded $1000.