Departmental Honors

Guidelines for 360/370 Students and Advisors

Aim
General Information
Registration
Committee
Thesis
Abstract
Introduction
Materials and Methods
Results
Discussion
Bibliography
Title Page
Thesis Oral
Scheduling
Presentation
Photography
Money
Suggestions and Recommendations
Advisors Outside of Wellesley

 


Overall Aim of the Thesis Program
The main goal of the thesis program is to develop independent research capabilities and to encourage creativity, independence and initiative on your part. The thesis program culminates in the writing of a research paper and an oral defense of the work. The primary goal is not necessarily for you to obtain positive conclusive results in a given project, but to develop skills that enable you to complete a thorough literature search, design an experiment, analyze results and propose future experiments. In addition, you should work closely with the faculty advisor and members of the thesis committee. 

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General Information
BISC (or BIOC or NEUR, depending on the student's major) 360 is elected for one unit of credit, followed by a unit of 370 contingent upon successful completion of the 360. You are encouraged to begin the research project in the summer preceding the senior year. This might involve a literature search or working with the faculty advisor in the laboratory or field that summer. 
 
Each unit of credit is estimated to require an average of eleven hours of work per week. You should be prepared to spend this amount of time on the 360/370 project. The advisor's expectations for your time commitment to the project should also be consistent with this guideline.
 
250, 250H, 350, 360 and 370 projects do not count toward the major.
 
More information can be found from the Registrar's Office

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Registration Requirements
All junior majors will be invited to consider the Thesis Program. If you are interested, you should talk to faculty members whose research interests you, usually in the fall or winter prior to your senior year. Once a faculty member has agreed to serve as your thesis advisor, you should notify the department in writing. Final acceptance into the thesis program is contingent upon a vote of the department faculty and, typically, a grade point of 3.5 or higher in courses in the major. Students with a GPA of 3.0 - 3.5 may be recommended to the College Committee on Curriculum and Instruction after a positive vote of the Biology faculty. Once approved by the Department, you must register for BISC (or BIOC or NEUR) 360. If a student is accepted into the thesis program with a GPA lower than 3.5, It is recommended that the student elect a reduced course load during the BISC 360/370.
 
In order to continue thesis research for a second semester (BISC 370) the following requirements must be fulfilled:
  1. A complete draft of the thesis Introduction must be turned in by the January option date.
  2. The Thesis Committee (student, advisor, and two other faculty members) must have had at least one formal meeting/discussion.
  3. The student's course grades must be maintained during BISC 360 research. If a student receives grades below the level achieved at the time her thesis project was approved, the Department will review the situation and determine whether the student may continue with the BISC 370. Receiving grades below a B during the first term will generally disqualify a student from the thesis program.

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The Committee
The examination committee is composed of:
  • The student's research advisor
  • Two other faculty members to be agreed upon and invited by the student and the research advisor in the fall. (For Biological Chemistry and Neuroscience majors, members must come from more than one department of the interdepartmental major.)
  • One Wellesley faculty member in a field outside the department, who represents the Curriculum Committee. This person is chosen by the student in the spring and only attends the oral examination.
  • The Department Chairperson or representative (usually only attends the oral examination.)

Each year the Thesis Student's Co-ordinator for the Department will host a meeting for students and advisors in September to review the goals of the BISC 360/370 program and to answer questions. Thesis Students are strongly encouraged to attend these meetings. The current faculty co-ordinator is Professor Yui Suzuki. In addition, the advisor and two faculty members of the committee should meet with the student during the first half of the 360 term. At this time the student should present an outline of the research project or preliminary data from previous work on the project.

Ideally, the committee should meet with the student frequently, and each member should actively participate in the continuing evaluation and development of the project.

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Thesis
The research project will culminate in the writing of a formal thesis and in an oral discussion with an examination committee. You should meet with your advisor frequently to discuss data, and should begin writing rough drafts and submitting them to the advisor as early as possible. A detailed draft of the Introduction should be reviewed with the advisor by the end of the first term, and is required prior to proceeding with the BISC 370. Rough drafts should be read by the advisor several times before the final draft is delivered to the Registrar's Office. The thesis should be well written, neat in appearance and carefully proofread. There is no set length for the thesis. It should be as concise as possible while being a complete report of the research project.

At least four copies of the thesis should be made. Do not permanently bind these copies as revisions are usually necessary.

At the time of the 370 due date, a copy should be delivered to:

  • The Registrar's Office for the Curriculum Committee,
  • Both departmental faculty members of the committee
  • Department Chairperson.

(The student and advisor can usually use one of the rough drafts.)
It is the student's responsibility to deliver these copies to the appropriate office or individual by the designated time. After the oral discussion, revisions and corrections are usually needed. The revised copies should be distributed to the following: Faculty Advisor, Registrar's Office/Curriculum, Biology Department and Student.

There is no set length for the thesis. It should be as concise as possible while being a complete report of the research project.

It is suggested that writing and rewriting of the thesis should be ongoing throughout both semesters of the project. A detailed draft of the Introduction should be reviewed with the advisor by the end of the first term, and is required prior to proceeding with the BISC 370. Rough drafts should be read by the advisor several times before the final draft is delivered to the Dean's Office. The thesis should be well written, neat in appearance and carefully proof-read.

There are no requirements for binding of the thesis, but permanent binding should not be done until after the oral when final revisions are made. The copy to be given to the Biology Department should not be bound since it will be sent outside the College for binding.

The Thesis should be written in journal format consisting of the following:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Bibliography
 

Title Page
The title page should include title, author, faculty advisor's name, department, Wellesley College and date.
It should also include a copyright statement including the student's name, faculty advisor's name and the year.
This material is copyrighted by student and advisor, date.
See for an example of a title page.

Note: If students utilize drawings, etc. from copyrighted books or journals, these copies cannot come under the student's copyright. The source of each such figure must be acknowledged.

After the oral examination, if the thesis committee recommends approval of the thesis for the degree with honors, the following statement should be added to the title page in the final copies of the thesis.

This material is submitted as partial fulfillment of a B.A. degree with honors in major.

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Abstract
The Abstract should be no more than one page, single-spaced type, containing 100 to 200 words.

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Introduction
The introduction should present the major question being addressed, and should include enough background information so that an uninformed reader can appreciate the development of the problem and understand the motivation for the research. The thesis may later be used as a reference for others working in this area, and the Introduction therefore should provide a thorough foundation for the project.

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Materials and Methods
The materials (chemicals, biochemicals, animals, cell types, etc.) used in the research should be included with their sources. Isotopes should include specific activity. Methods should be written clearly so that the reader could repeat the experiment based on the information provided. A more specific step-by-step description can be included in an appendix if necessary.

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Results
The results should be organized for clarity. Data should be displayed in tables, graphs, and photos (e.g. cells, gels, blots, etc). All graph axes must be labeled and each table, graph, and photo must have a legend that contains sufficient information so that the reader does not need to consult the text. Each figure and graph must also be referred to and discussed in the text itself.

Tables and figures should be clearly presented in a form that would be acceptable to a major journal in the field. Raw data and detailed methods should be placed in appendices following the body of the thesis.

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Discussion
This section places the data in the context of the field, and should include a comparison of the author's results with similar data found in the literature. Similarities and differences between published data and thesis results should be discussed. The author should state the conclusions that can be drawn from the results and explain how this information fits into presently held hypotheses. The author should present alternate interpretations and hypotheses when necessary. The Discussion section should also include a statement of possible future directions suggested by this work.

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Literature Cited
Each reference cited in the thesis should include:

  • all authors
  • the year of publication
  • the title of the article
  • the name of the journal

Examples:

Textbooks:
Campos-Ortega JA, Hartenstein V. 1997. The embryonic development of Drosophila melanogaster. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Journal articles:
Cayre M, Malaterre J, Scotto-Lomassese S, Strambi C, Strambi A. 2002. The common properties of neurogenesis in the adult brain: from invertebrates to vertebrates. Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol 132:1-15.

Kemperman G, Gage FH. 1999. New nerve cells for the adult brain. Sci Am 48-53.

RReferences should be either numbered in the sequence in which they appear in the text or in alphabetical order by the first author. Determine which format your advisor prefers.

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Title Page
The title page should include title, author, faculty advisor's name, department, Wellesley College and date.

The title page should include a copyright statement including the student's name, faculty advisor's name and the year.

Note: If students xerox drawings, etc. from copyrighted books or journals, these copies cannot come under the student's copyright. The source of each such figure must be acknowledged.

After the oral examination, if the thesis committee recommends approval of the thesis for the degree with honors, the following statement should be added to the title page in the final copies of the thesis.

This material is submitted as partial fulfillment of a B.A. degree with honors in major.

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Thesis Oral

Scheduling
The thesis discussion will take place during reading period. Dates will be published by the Committee on Curriculum and Instruction.

The advisor is responsible for scheduling the discussion and for making sure that committee members can come at that time. The advisor should consult the master schedule at the Department Office as well as the committee members' individual schedules. After a date and time when all participants are able to attend has been agreed upon, the advisor should send letters of confirmation to each committee member. Individuals other than those on the Committee may attend the oral discussion at the invitation of the advisor. The advisor should consult with the student before issuing such an invitation. Requests to attend the discussion should be addressed to the advisor in advance.

Format of the Oral Exam
The oral discussion will last about one hour. After introductions of the participants, the student should begin with a fifteen-minute introductory statement giving background information, summarizing the project or discussing particularly interesting data or conclusions. The committee members will then address their questions to the student for the remainder of the hour.

Questions should be directed towards clarification of the methodology and data, and evaluation of the data. The intent is for students to share her exciting research discoveries as well as the depth of her understanding of the project and her insights about future directions the project could take. This is your moment to shine!

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Photography
Each student is responsible for printing high quality images for inclusion in the thesis.

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Funding for BISC250/350/360/370
Each student is allowed a stipend to defray expenses of her research. Amount of the funds available varies, but may be estimated at $500 per term. The costs which must be covered by this money include:

  • Laboratory chemicals
  • Photocopying
  • Photography
  • EM/instrumentation charges

The students doing off-campus research may also use these funds to defrays parking and transportation costs. The account number will be issued to your on-campus research advisor at the beginning of the semester.

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Suggestions and Recommendations
Be prepared to work on the 370 project over winter term in January and, if necessary, during Spring Break. If you need on-campus housing, you must arrange this during the fall semester.

Start writing early. The Introduction must be in draft form by the January option date in order to continue research in the second term.

Compile results as you go. Do not collect a notebook full of numbers and wait for the spring thaw to do calculations; compile tables and figures, and begin the evaluation of your data.

Backup your copy of the thesis frequently and keep copies in several places!

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Advisors Outside of Wellesley
Although the department does not encourage off-campus 360/370 work for most students, we do recognize that in some situations such an arrangement may be in the best interest of the student. In such cases, the student must find a faculty member of the Biological Sciences Department who is willing to sponsor the project. This faculty member is considered the primary advisor for the overall 360/370 experience, and therefore should be familiar with the subject area in which the student will be involved. The student must prepare a 1-2 page summary of the proposed project, including information about the lab in which the project will be done (research site and the names of the head-of-lab and the person who will serve as the student's immediate supervisor). The outside advisor may be a faculty member or postdoctoral fellow at another institution. Graduate students may serve only as technical advisors and day-to-day supervisors of a project under the primary supervision of such a faculty member or postdoctoral fellow. Laboratory technicians are not considered appropriate supervisors for the project. It is strongly preferred that the outside advisor be someone with whom the student has already worked (for example in a summer research capacity). In this case a preliminary report should be made available by the student to the department describing the project, and presenting data accumulated to date. The on-campus advisor is responsible for presenting the student's case to the full department, which will then evaluate the student's proposal for an off-campus 360/370 experience.

Once a proposal has been accepted by the department, the following guidelines should be followed to insure that the research work and the thesis are progressing:

1. By the end of September, there should be an oral discussion between the on-campus advisor and the off-campus supervisor concerning the research project so that both parties are informed of the other's expectations regarding the student's level of independence and the laboratory's support of that student. The supervisor also should be informed that the on-campus advisor will direct the writing of the thesis.

2. During the first term, there should be an on-campus meeting of the full thesis committee, including the off-campus supervisor. The student will not be allowed to register for the 370 unless this meeting has taken place.

3. The student must meet with the on-campus advisor on at least a monthly basis throughout the year, to review research results and any changes in experimental plans. The student is encouraged to bring laboratory notebooks/ data and to prepare a short written summary for each of these meetings so that research progress is documented.

4. The on-campus advisor, not the off-campus advisor, will serve as the overseer of the written thesis. Since most theses require several written drafts prior to the final presentation, the on-campus advisor and the student should plan a schedule for submitting sections of the thesis for comments and evaluation by both advisor and supervisor. Input from the off-campus supervisor is encouraged, but the student is ultimately responsible to the on-campus advisor for the written product.

5. As with on-campus theses, a complete draft of the Introduction is required by the end of the first term. A student may not continue with the second semester of research (BISC 370) unless the Introduction has been turned in to the on-campus advisor.

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Contact Us

Contact Us

Department of Biological Sciences
Science Center
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481

Gary C. Harris
Professor and Department Chair
gharris@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3168 (for appointments)

Mary Helen McCollister
Administrative Assistant and Grant Coordinator
mmccolli@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3154

Karin Thomason
Administrative Assistant and Grant Coordinator
kthomason@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3153