Research, Thesis, and Honors
Undergraduates interested in research should contact potential faculty advisors for opportunities. Students may earn up to four credits for research that can be counted toward electives in the major. Credit may be earned by registering for any of the following: Research (ERTH 401), Field Studies (ERTH 406), Laboratory Projects (ERTH 408), and submitting a final written report to the faculty advisor describing the results of the research. Successful completion of the research for elective credit is indicated by a passing grade in one or more the courses listed above. Students who complete an honors thesis may not apply this option toward elective credits.
Students may choose to undertake a senior thesis research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The scope, content, and style of the thesis is determined in consultation with the advisor and typically resembles an extra-long term paper containing original data and scientific conclusions. This is similar, but less formal than the “Honors Thesis” described below and does not require a minimum GPA or a formal thesis committee. Students may register for ERTH 401 Research units and must register for at least one credit of ERTH 403 Thesis; up to four 401 and 403 credits may be counted toward electives in the major. Successful completion of the thesis is indicated by a passing grade in ERTH 403. A .pdf of the final and approved honors thesis may be submitted to the Earth Science department’s undergraduate coordinator for archiving.
Honors in Earth Sciences
Students may graduate with Honors in Earth Sciences by completing an honors project in accordance with the following guidelines:
- Maintain at least a 3.50 grade point average (GPA) in Earth Sciences courses or a 3.00 GPA or better in all science courses required for the major.
- Submit and orally present an acceptable honors thesis written under the supervision of a department faculty member and evaluated by a committee consisting of three faculty members including the supervisor (or two faculty and one graduate student). The thesis should be presented no later than three weeks before final examinations during the term the student plans to graduate.
Honors students may register for ERTH 401 Research and must register for at least one credit of ERTH 403 Thesis during the term in which the thesis is submitted and presented; up to six credits of ERTH 401 and 403 may be applied toward electives in the major. Successful completion of the Honors Thesis is indicated by a passing grade in ERTH 403 in the term when the thesis is presented to the committee.
After discussing potential projects with faculty, honors students should establish their project topic, supervisor, and committee well in advance (at least 12 months) of their proposed graduation date (e.g., spring term of junior year assuming graduation/thesis presentation will occur spring term of senior year). The topic and committee member names should be communicated to the department head advisor at the time the project is established as an honors project. The scope, content, and style of the thesis is determined in consultation with the advisor and committee, and typically resembles an extended term paper containing original data and scientific conclusions. A .pdf of the final and approved honors thesis must be submitted to the Earth Science department’s undergraduate coordinator for archiving.
Formatting for the honors thesis should (as much as is practical) follow the same guidelines required of graduate students’ theses. Please see the Graduate School’s webpage and look for their Style Guide for information on formatting. Prefatory pages, beyond the title page, abstract, and table of contents, are optional. Advisors have the final word on formatting decisions.
Samples of undergraduate theses are available upon request in the Earth Sciences office.