Senior Honors Thesis Research

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.

*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 the semester.

Thesis Requirements (details for each below):

  1. Writing the thesis
  2. Giving a formal thesis presentation
  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 initial submission: 12 PM on Friday, April 20th 2018

Note: If your PDF file is very large, send it via the Amherst College FileSender Tool.


 2. Thesis Presentation

Link: Presentation schedule and titles

DATES for presentations: Sunday April 22nd and Tuesday April 24th, 2018

TIMES: Honors Presentation Schedule

In addition to your written thesis, you will give a thesis presentation (sometimes called an "oral defense") to Neuroscience faculty and students. Presentations are 15 minutes long with an additional 5 minutes for questions. Most presentations use PowerPoint, but this is not required. 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 prepare it.

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 want to take two credits in fall and one in spring.

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

  • *The spring also has a NEUR-499 (with no D) course. 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.


4. Thesis Evaluation

Your grade for the three thesis courses (Neuroscience 498 & 498D) 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 level 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. That is, we do not presume that a student whose grades are consistent with summa honors should necessarily be recommended for that level of honors.