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 of the Five Colleges. The student research project is usually in an area of ongoing research for the faculty member, who will normally suggest possible projects. Students will be contacted in the spring of their junior year, well before preregistration, about expressing their preferences for honors laboratory placement.

Honors placement is sometimes not possible due to limited availability of faculty mentors. Also, in the event that all interested, potential thesis students cannot be accommodated, selection will be made based on performance in Neuroscience courses.

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

Thesis Requirements

The Neuroscience honors thesis includes:

  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

Instructions and guidelines


All thesis writers should read this excellent article on science writing:

2. Thesis Presentation

Presentation schedule and titles


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 neuro theis courses (NEUR-498 & NEUR-499). However, the time commitment involved is far more than that required for 3 laboratory courses.

4. Thesis Evaluation

Your grade for the thesis courses (Neuroscience 498/499) 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.