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Honours in Biology

Honours Program in Biology

The Honours Program in Biology is designed expressly as a preparation for graduate studies and research. It provides students with an enriched training in Biology as well as some research and scientific reading experience in a chosen area. Students may apply to enter the Honours Program in Biology near the end of the U2 year by contacting nancy.nelson [at] (Nancy Nelson) in Room N7/9B in the Stewart Biology Building.

Apply to the Honours Program

Students must inform the Honours Program Advisor about their intent to apply by 01 June.


Acceptance into the Honours program at the end of U2 requires a CGPA of 3.50 and approval of a 9 credit or 12 credit Independent Studies proposal (see the "Honours Courses" section for details). Students also complete a 4 credit Honours Seminar course, BIOL 499.

For an Honours degree, a minimum CGPA of 3.50 at the time of graduation and adherence to the program as outlined below are the additional requirements.

The proposed supervisor must also inform the Honours Coordinator about their willingness to accommodate the student. Professors on sabbatical should not accept students.


Students must complete the Honours Program Application Form with an abstract describing the topic they wish to examine by 01 September. The abstract should be no longer than one page of single- spaced, 12-point text with one-inch margins. It should include: a title, a brief introduction to the research problem, a description of the proposed research project, and a list of cited references. The abstract and application form will be submitted electronically to both the Honours Program Director, Gary Brouhard and the Honours Program Advisor, Nancy Nelson.

Research Proposal

Write up a proposal of your research project with the help of your Research Supervisor. The proposal must be submitted electronically to Honours Program Advisor, Nancy Nelson by 15 October.

Your Research Supervisor and Honours Program Director may select one or two colleagues in the same research area to form your Supervisory Committee. They will review your Research Proposal and make final recommendations.

The proposal, of no more than 5 pages (perhaps 3-5 typewritten pages) should contain the following:

  • Introduction (including key references).
  • Statement of the hypothesis(es) to be tested and/or an explanation of the research objective(s).
  • Materials and methods.
  • Experimental design.
  • Analysis to be carried out.
  • List of cited references.

Transfer to the Honours Program

You will be notified of your acceptance into the Honours Program via e-mail. You must remain registered as a Major in Biology until you are accepted into the Honours program. You may then switch to Honours on MINERVA. Make sure that you switch programs and register for the two courses, BIOL 499 and either BIOL 479 or BIOL 480, before the course add/drop deadline in early September.

The Honours program must be completed in a Fall/Winter academic year. A student may, however, return the following term to complete any missing complementary courses.

Honours Program Requirements

Honours Biology (72 Credits)

Honours Biology - Quantitative Biology (79 Credits)

The Quantitative Biology (QB) Honours option is designed for students with a deep interest in biology who wish to gain a strong grounding in physical sciences and their application to biological questions.

Please view the list of Faculty Members involved in the Quantitative Biology Initiative.

Honours Courses

Honours Independent Studies

You may begin research work during the summer before being officially accepted as an Honours student with permission from the Honours Program Advisor and your Supervisor.

At the end of the Fall term or beginning of the Winter term, you must sit down with your supervisor to review your research accomplishments during the fall semester and what needs to be done in the Winter term, and to discuss any feedback that might help to keep the project on track. The associated “Mid-Year Progress Review” form must be submitted to the Honours Program Coordinator and Advisor by January 15. Download the Mid-Year Progress Review Form.

Your research should be finished within a year. Feel free to consult your Supervisory Committee for guidance; they are there to help you. See also Guidelines for Independent Studies, or visit the Independent Research Projects page.

Your Honours Independent Studies Research Project must be written up in the form of a thesis. The thesis should be 20 double-spaced typewritten pages or more. Consult your supervisor for the exact style to follow. Your Honours Thesis must be submitted electronically to the coordinator, your supervisor and all members of your supervisory committee by the last day of classes of the Winter term. Once submitted, no changes or additions can be made.

BIOL 479D1 Honours Research Project 1 4.5 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

BIOL 479D2 Honours Research Project 1 4.5 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


BIOL 480D1 Honours Research Project 2 6 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

BIOL 480D2 Honours Research Project 2 6 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Honours Seminars in Biology

Attendance at 6 seminars selected from the research seminar series organized by the Biology Department Seminar Committee; 3 will be with the Cell and Molecular Biology series and 3 from the Organismal series. Students will meet with the visiting speakers after the seminars and participate in a round table discussion about their research. You must submit electronic reports on all of the 6 seminars to Dr. Gary Brouhard (Bellini 267). The final grade will be based on the best 5 reports.

You will be required to make an oral presentation of your Honours thesis to peers and Academic staff of the department at the Honours Symposium held in March or April (1 credit).

BIOL 499D1 Honours Seminar in Biology 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

BIOL 499D2 Honours Seminar in Biology 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Research Interests

You may choose to focus your research in one or more of the following areas:

Consult each link for a list of professors involved in each area, along with a brief summary of their research.

For a list of professors involved in the Quantitative Biology Initiative, please visit the Integrated Quantitative Biology Initiative website.

McGill Undergraduate Research Journal

The McGill Undergraduate Research Journal (MSURJ) exists to encourage, publish, and promote undergraduate science research at McGill University. Submissions are welcomed from any student or collaborative team, including honours thesis work, independent studies, research assistanceships, summer research positions, and on-going projects.

Undergraduates in any department, school, or program in the Faculty of Science are encouraged to consider submitting their own, original research as an article for mSURJ. Students can state that they have been published in a peer-review journal. Additionally, undergraduates are welcome to apply as a member of our editorial board.

MSURJ is a broad scientific journal, and each issue is the product of a careful peer-review process. Our guidelines describe the entire journal framework, and provide authors, editors, and the public with all relevant information to get involved.

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