Honors Program

The Honors program in Biology is research-based and requires students to complete a substantial piece of original biological work which they describe in a formal Thesis and present at the departmental Achauer Honors Research Symposium and through the Biology Virtual Showcase website.

The program offers a unique opportunity for independent research, creativity and achievement. The Department of Biology is very proud of the achievements of our undergraduate researchers and of the fact that so many of our students take advantage of this opportunity (typically between 50-60% of our students write Honors Theses each year!). Honors research also offers a chance to interact more closely with faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and fellow undergraduates.

In addition to the information available on this page, the new Honors Handbook is an excellent resource. Whether you're a freshman just starting to think about participating in research, a senior gearing up to write your thesis, a PI mentoring a Biology Honors student, or second reader on an honors thesis, this guide is for you!

Jump to:
How to Apply
The Thesis
Honors Symposium
Poster and Oral Presentation
Firestone Awards


Honors Program Requirements

Five components are required to graduate with Honors in Biology:

Major GPA of 3.0 or higher

You must have a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 within the major by the time you graduate. This includes every course on your degree progress checklist (including foundational breadth). The only courses excluded from your GPA are research courses (BIO 199/X or BIOHOPK 199H). 

10 Units of Research

10 units of BIO 199 or 199X or BIOHOPK 199H from yours Honors lab. If this poses a challenge, we will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis for students who have completed comparable experience through federal work study, paid research experience, etc.

Honors Proposal

An approved Honors proposal, submitted two quarters prior to the quarter you plan to confer your degree. If you plan to graduate in Spring, your honors proposal should be submitted in Autumn.


A PDF of your Honors Thesis, which should be read and approved by at least two Academic Council members (the Research Sponsor/PI and a designated Second Reader, at least one of whom must be from the Department of Biology).

Presentation of Your Work

Presentation of your research (oral presentation or poster) at the Achauer Honors Research Symposium and on our Biology Virtual Showcase website.

How to Apply

The Honors Application

To apply for Honors, students must submit the following materials:

Honors Proposal Form

Honors Proposal Form with signatures from: 

  • Research Sponsor/PI
  • Second Reader. If your PI is not a Biology faculty member, your second reader must be.
  • Third Reader, if applicable. This is required if your PI is not a member of the Academic Council.
  • Biology Department Faculty Advisor. Your Faculty Advisor may also serve as your Second Reader, but must sign twice - once as Second Reader and again as Faculty Advisor.
GPA Calculation Sheet

Use this GPA calculator to determine your Biology major GPA, and include a print out with your Honors proposal. You must have a GPA of at least 3.0 within your major courses, including foundational breadth (Chemistry, etc.) but excluding research units.

Written Proposal

Include your 5-6 page proposal using the format indicated on the Honors Proposal Form (fillable). Proposals longer than 10 pages will not be accepted.

Next: Join the Honors Canvas Site

If you will be applying to the Honors program in the 2022-2023 academic year, please fill out this form, so that we can add you to the Honors Canvas site. We use this site for communication as well as for the submission of your Honors application.

If you have any questions, please email the Director of the Honors Program, Dr. Jamie Imam (jamiec [at] stanford.edu (subject: Question%20about%20Biology%20Honors) (jamiec@)).  

In order to meet the honors proposal deadline, students should submit these documents to faculty at least one week ahead of the deadline to allow enough time for review and revision!

Proposal Deadlines


Honors proposals are due no later than two quarters prior to graduating, as follows:

  • Spring 2023 graduates: Thursday, October 6, 2022, 3:00pm 
  • Autumn 2023 graduates: Thursday, January 19, 2023, 3:00pm 
  • Winter 2024 graduates: Thursday, April 13, 2023, 3:00pm 

It is your responsibility to obtain the necessary signatures on the proposal form. Many faculty travel extensively, so make sure your Research Sponsor, Readers, and Faculty Advisor will be on-campus to read your proposal and sign your form well ahead of the deadline.

Tip: We recommend submitting your materials to your readers at least one week (though more notice is better!) ahead of these deadlines to give them adequate time for review.

The Thesis

Honors Thesis

The Honors Thesis should take the standard form of a research report, with the intended audience being a Biology faculty member or student who is not necessarily in your specific field. It must be at least 12 pages, not including data appendices and reference lists, but most theses are more than 20 pages. Use either 1.5 or double spacing and a 12-point font. Your Research Sponsor should be able to provide specific guidance regarding the content and organization of your Thesis. Be sure to get your Sponsor's advice on early drafts. It is also advisable to keep in contact with your Second Reader, so they can see a draft in sufficient time to provide constructive feedback as well.

Please use this Word document as the template for your thesis. All items highlighted in yellow are meant to guide you through the format, and should be deleted for your final thesis!

Thesis Writing Support!

Bio199W is a course offered by the Biology department in the Winter quarter designed specifically to support you in writing your thesis. This course is not a requirement for completing Honors, but it is strongly recommended for Honors students, and fulfills WIM!

Thesis Submission

The final step is to submit your thesis online using Stanford's Digital Repository.  Your thesis should be in PDF format with the file titled "LastName_FirstName_BioThesis.pdf." The PDF should include a copy of your signed signature page (the Student Services Office can send you a scanned copy if needed). Detailed instructions for submitting your thesis are in the document linked below:

Instructions for Submitting Your Thesis to SDR

Your thesis must be uploaded by the thesis submission deadlines! Students submitting late proposals will automatically be excluded from winning the Firestone Medal or giving an oral presentation at the Honors Symposium.

Thesis Deadlines

Thesis Submission Deadlines

Thesis deadlines are quarter-specific. Following are the deadlines for thesis submission for students graduating during the 2022-2023 academic year:

  • Autumn 2022 graduates: Monday, November 14, 2022, 3:00pm
  • Spring 2023 graduates: Thursday, May 4, 2023, 3:00pm

The following items must be submitted along with the thesis:

  1. Printed signature page with verified electronic signatures from your readers. If original ink signatures cannot be obtained, scanned copies of the form can be accepted but your reader(s) must also email student services indicating final approval of your thesis.
  2. Thesis Release Form signed by you and your research sponsor.

Research Presentation at the Honors Symposium

The Achauer Honors Symposium

Honors students graduating in Spring Quarter are required to participate in the Biology Achauer Honors Research Symposium held Friday, May 19, 2023. This year's symposium will be held from 10:00 am-1:00 pm, and students will be given schedule details by the start of the Spring quarter. 

All Honors graduates are expected to attend all of the oral presentations during the Achauer Honors Symposium, so as soon as you have finalized your Spring Quarter study list, make alternative plans for any class that meets Friday afternoons!

Poster Presentation

With the exception of students selected to give an oral presentation at the Honors Symposium, all honors students must create a scientific poster and short recorded presentation. For information on how to construct a poster, see the Poster Guidelines, visit VPUE's website for additional information about poster design and presentation, or check out examples of strong posters from recent years (webauth required). Poster files should be submitted on Canvas prior to the symposium. 

Note: students must still submit their posters for printing separately (if the symposium is in-person) - the department does NOT handle this.

Oral Presentations

Most students will present their work via poster. In lieu of creating a poster, approximately 4-5 Spring graduates will be selected to give oral presentations at the symposium. If you are interested in giving a presentation, submit an application by April 27, 2023 (Thur, 3:00pm).

Autumn, Winter, and Summer Graduates

All students are required to present their work, regardless of which quarter they graduate. Students graduating in Autumn, Winter, and Summer must create a poster and follow the poster presentation requirements above even though they will not be present at the Achauer Honors Symposium. 


Firestone Medal

Thesis readers may nominate their Honors student(s) for the Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, using the Honors Thesis as the basis for the award. Students cannot apply for this distinction.

In order for students to be considered for the award, the reader needs to submit a nomination to Student Services by Thursday, April 20, 2023. Information about the nomination process will be sent directly to readers.

The Biology Department's nomination deadline is ahead of the University award deadline, to ensure adequate time for review before we have to submit award winner information to VPUE.