Honors in Research

CALS students can earn an Honors Degree by participating in the university’s great research tradition. The Honors in Research track requires students to complete two research projects, an introductory project and a senior thesis project. Students work under the guidance of a faculty mentor for both projects.

In the course of this program, it is expected that the student will: (i) learn the background and methods of the discipline; (ii) identify an interesting and tractable problem or question for study; (iii) learn to draft a proposal defending the relevance and appropriateness of specific research efforts; (iv) demonstrate appropriate skills in working on that problem in a manner appropriate to a professional in the discipline; (v) analyze and interpret the results of their efforts; and (vi) present these results as a thesis and in an approved public forum.

To earn Honors in Research, students must first be admitted to the college’s Honors Program. Students must then make satisfactory progress toward the program requirements listed below and maintain a 3.25 GPA. Failure to maintain this progress will result in removal of the student from the Honors Program.

Program requirements:

  • Identify a research mentor
  • Complete introductory (one-semester) research project and presentation
  • Complete three seminar courses (one credit each) – Inter-Ag 288, 388, and 488
  • Enroll in Senior Honors Thesis credits (681 and 682 or 699 in the mentor’s department) for two semesters at a minimum of two credits each semester
  • Complete a Senior Honors Thesis research project and presentation
  • Submit the Senior Honors Thesis and related documentation

Progress is monitored by CALS Academic Affairs. Each May, Honors students submit a letter to the Honors Dean in the Office of Academic Affairs that describes their accomplishments during the academic year. The letter should be signed by the student’s faculty mentor. The Honors Dean should receive this letter by May 1.

The letters should follow the prompts on the First, Second, and Third Year Requirements forms:

Generally, students should achieve the milestones by following the timeline below.

Freshman Year
Students in the Honors Program will identify a faculty mentor by the spring of the freshman year. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the CALS Health and Research Society (CHARS), a student organization that promotes and supports undergraduate engagement in research. CHARS supports students in learning how to identify a research mentor. Students can also receive support from CALS Academic Affairs and their academic advisor(s). Initially the commitment by both mentor and student is to work together in a manner appropriate to the discipline. This might involve assigned reading, beginning laboratory or fieldwork, or a mixture thereof. Certainly it should involve frequent interactions with the mentor and/or with other members of the research group.

Some student-mentor relationships will continue until graduation, but if a student’s interests change, he or she should consult with an academic advisor or the Honors Dean about finding another research mentor.

Students are also required to take the CALS Honors Seminar (CALS-Interdisciplinary 288, 1 cr) in the spring. The goal of this course is to provide an environment external to the student’s research experience that will help him or her grow as a scientist. (Students who entered the Honors Program prior to fall 2017 will be offered the opportunity to substitute related activities in lieu of completing this course.)

 

Junior Year
The primary goal during the junior year is to identify a specific problem or interest and write a proposal for research that will address the problem or interest area. The proposal will form the basis of the student’s Senior Honors Thesis work. This might be a continuation and refinement of the work the student had already been doing but does not need to be. The project must be defined through consultation with the mentor.

Students must submit a five-page research proposal, countersigned by their mentors, to the Honors Dean in 116 Agricultural Hall. The proposal must contain the following information: a brief summary of past research accomplishments, a short background to the focus of the Senior Honors Thesis, and an outline of the proposed research. This document must be received by May 1 of the student’s junior year (or December 1 for students graduating in the following fall). The Honors Dean and/or Committee will either accept the proposal or identify concerns that must be addressed by a specified date, if the student is to receive a degree with honors.

Students are also required to take the CALS Honors Seminar (CALS-Interdisciplinary 488, 1 cr) in the spring. The goal of this course is to provide an environment external to the student’s research experience that will help him or her grow as a scientist. (Students who entered the Honors Program prior to fall 2017 will be offered the opportunity to substitute related activities in lieu of completing this course.)

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Sophomore Year
The goal during this period is to begin to understand the background for a particular issue or question and to simultaneously begin to develop the tools to study this issue. In experimental sciences, this would involve reading the scientific literature and developing laboratory skills. In the social sciences, it would involve reading the scholarly literature and beginning the types of data acquisition and analysis or other personal involvement appropriate to the discipline. Near the end of the year, the student should present his or her results to an appropriate body through one of a variety of mechanisms such as a poster session at a local meeting or symposium, or an oral presentation to the mentor’s research group. The mentoring arrangement can be documented by credits in a 299-like course, though this is not a requirement.

Students are encouraged to submit their written work for publication in the UW-Madison Journal of Undergraduate Science and Technology after consultation with their mentor.

Students are also required to take the CALS Honors Seminar (CALS-Interdisciplinary 388, 1 cr) in the spring. The goal of this course is to provide an environment external to the student’s research experience that will help him or her grow as a scientist. (Students who entered the Honors Program prior to fall 2017 will be offered the opportunity to substitute related activities in lieu of completing this course.)

 

Senior Year
The student will continue his or her research, produce a thesis, and present the results of his or her work in a public forum, such as the CALS Undergraduate Research Symposium, the University Undergraduate Symposium, a conference, or a professional meeting in their discipline.

All CALS Honors students will also enroll in two semesters of Senior Honors Thesis (681-682) or equivalent for 2-4 cr. each semester in the department of their faculty mentor.

Electronic submission of the student’s thesis to CALS Academic Affairs, countersigned by the mentor, will serve as final documentation of the student’s work. The thesis should document the following: (i) The demonstration of a problem or question, with sufficient background about that problem to inform the reader; (ii) Evidence of demonstrated skill in research methods; (iii) The critical analysis of the proper interpretation of results or experiences; (iv) A summary of the impact and results of the research on the original question or issue that was analyzed; (v) Works cited.

The following documents must accompany the thesis:

If a student opts to make his or her thesis available to the public, Steenbock Library will upload the thesis to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Honors and Undergraduate Research Program section of Minds@UW. This is an excellent way for students to showcase their work to employers, graduate schools, family, and friends, and to provide examples of Honors theses to future Honors students.

Students are encouraged to submit their written work for publication in the UW-Madison Journal of Undergraduate Science and Technology after consultation with their mentor.

Upon successful completion of program requirements, students are awarded the Bachelor of Science degree with Honors.

For more information, contact CALS Academic Affairs at 608.262.3003.