Senior Honors Thesis

Neuroscience majors have the opportunity to do a senior honors research project in a lab at Amherst College, or occasionally at another one of the Five Colleges. The student research project is usually in an area of ongoing research for the faculty member. Details about the honors thesis process are shared with juniors in the Spring semester of their junior year (see below).

*Honors Thesis titles from recent years are listed on the Student Research page*


All Neuroscience majors are eligible to apply for the honors program. Although efforts are made to accommodate as many students as possible, majors are not guaranteed the opportunity to undertake a thesis.  When considering applicants, the program considers a number of factors, including the student’s ability to meet deadlines and work independently and their academic record. Students who are interested in pursuing a thesis should start the process by consulting with their Major advisor early in their junior year and students that will study abroad during their junior year are encouraged to be proactive.

The Neuroscience Chair will send an email during the spring semester of Junior year, well before preregistration, about expressing their preferences for honors laboratory placement. Generally, students will meet with prospective mentors and submit their choices to the chair by a particular date with lab placement announced toward the end of the semester.

Thesis Requirements (details for each below):

  1. Writing the thesis
  2. Formal oral thesis presentations
  3. Completing 3 "courses" worth of thesis lab research in your senior year.
  4. Thesis evaluation

 1. Thesis Writing

Link: Instructions and guidelines

DUE DATE for thesis submission will be emailed to thesis students in early spring (or fall for "E" students).

-->Send a PDF copy to each of your thesis readers (the Chair will email you the list of readers)

Note: If your PDF file is very large, send it to your Profs via a Dropbox link.

 2. Thesis Presentations

1. Fall Presentations

In the fall semester, Neuroscience thesis students will present on their thesis projects to the Neuroscience faculty and students. Presentations are typically 10 minutes long. Please consult with your advisor for the format and goal of this presentation. 

2. Spring Defenses

Link: Honors Presentation Instructions

The DATE & SCHEDULE for presentations will be emailed to thesis students in the semester and shared with the Neuro community prior to the event.

In addition to your written thesis, you will give a thesis presentation (sometimes called an "oral defense") to the Neuroscience faculty and students. Presentations are typically 10-12 minutes long with an additional 2-3 minutes for questions. Most presentations use PowerPoint or Google Slides. There is an understandable feeling of being finished when your thesis has been turned in, but be sure to plan time to consult with your advisor about your thesis presentation and to spend adequate time preparing and practicing.

3. Thesis Courses

Your senior year will include registering for 3 neuroscience "thesis courses": NEUR-498 (1- course credit, typically taken in the fall) and NEUR-499D (2-course credits, typically taken in the spring). However, the time commitment involved is far more than that required for 3 laboratory courses.

NEUR-498 - Fall 1-credit course

  • *The fall also has a NEUR-498D course. This is the “D” double-credit option, enroll in this if you are an “E” graduating in the Fall or if you want to take two credits in fall and one in spring (you must discuss this option with your thesis advisor first).

NEUR-499D - Spring 2-credit (D = “double") course

  • *The spring also has a NEUR-499 (with no D) course and this is the single-credit option, enroll in this if you took or will take the 2-credit "D" course the previous or following fall (498D).

4. Thesis Evaluation

Your grade for the three thesis courses (Neuroscience 498 & 499D) and your Latin honors recommendation for graduation are based on your thesis work, as well as your written thesis document and your oral thesis presentation.

Some students work hard during the year but don't set aside enough time to do a good job in preparing the thesis document.  What is available to the faculty is the thesis itself, but not necessarily all the late nights in the lab. If what you submit on the due date is not in final form—i.e., if it requires significant revision—your grade and determination of Latin honors will be affected, no matter how much work you've done during the year. Generally, you should only make minor typographical corrections after the initial submission of the thesis.

The summa cum laude honors category is used very sparingly in Neuroscience. When it is used, it is based on the thesis work, with no consideration of the student's grades or whether they meet the breadth requirement.