Honors Advising

Please contact Bethia King, Ph.D. if you:

  • Are a current student with a biosciGPA of 3.0 or better.
  • Have an interest in getting research experience in a professor's laboratory for credit.

Honors Frequently Asked Questions

What is a "biosciGPA"

Your GPA in BIOS courses plus courses required for the BIOS major (CHEM 210, 211, 212, 213, 330 or 336, 331 or 337; MATH 229, 230 or MATH 211, STAT301; PHYS 210 and 211 or 253 and 273)

Why is there a GPA requirement for doing research credits? Professors feel that students with lower GPAs should concentrate on raising them.

Why should I consider doing research as an undergraduate?
  • Being involved in actual research is the best way to learn the process of science.
  • It helps you evaluate whether a career involving research is right for you.
  • You may have a chance to interact with graduate students, which can help you decide if attending graduate school would be right for you.
  • By working more closely with a professor than is usually possible in a classroom setting, you have someone who can write a meaningful letter of recommendation for you for graduate school, professional school, scholarships, internships and jobs.
How big of a time commitment is it?

Roughly three hours per week of work for each hour of credit.

When can I start?

Most students start their junior year because by then they have a solid background through coursework.

Which professors (faculty) can I work with?

There is no list of professors with openings. Instead you pick someone from this List of Bios faculty , which includes a description of their research and contact information. You ask them if they have a project and space in their lab for you. Professors aren't required to let undergraduates participate in their research; they do it because they enjoy working with students.

Training a student can be a big commitment of the professor's time and sometimes research money, so professors are interested in working with students. who are motivated, perseverant, and hard workers. Occasionally, the professor with whom a bios major does research credits is from another department, e.g., psychology, biochemistry, anthropology; but that professor has some research that is biological, and the professor agrees to your doing biology research credits with them.

How do I pick a professor to work with?

The research does not have to be in the exact field that you plan a career in. The general process of doing science is what matters. For example, the first undergraduate research that I did was on leaf decomposition, but now I work on behavior of insects. I chose the professor because he had a good reputation for research and working with students. I learned general principles of experimental design, analyses, interpretation, literature search and scientific writing.

If one professor tells you that they do not have space in their lab, ask another until you find someone.

How do I contact a professor?

Email the professor:

  • Say that you are interested in working in their lab for undergraduate research credits
  • Ask if they might have room in their lab that semester
  • Ask for an appointment to meet with them, and attach an unofficial copy of your college transcripts.

When you meet in person, you will want to ask things like:

  • What sort of research would you have me working on?
  • Will I have set hours?
  • How will I be evaluated?

If you haven't met them before, try to get a sense of whether their personality will work well with yours. (You can also get some sense of this if you've had them as a professor and from talking to other students.)

If your working with them suits both you and the professor, have the professor sign a course permit. Decide with the professor whether to take one, two or three credits (depends on your needs and what projects the professor has for you).

Where do I get the necessary course permit?

You can obtain a course permit from the biology main office in Montgomery Hall, room 349.

What if I want to do more than one semester of research or to do departmental honors?

The maximum credits toward the bio major for BIOS 370, 490, 499, 495 combined is 12.(370 and 499 no longer exist but still count).

What are the requirements for graduating with departmental honors in BIOS?
  1. Gain admittance to departmental honors, which requires a biosciGPA of at least 3.5 and permission of the honors advisor (i.e., email or bring an unofficial copy of your transcript to Bethia King at bking@niu.edu along with the name of the faculty member under whom you will be engaging in research).
  2. Complete at least 7 credits (usually two semesters) of research credits BIOS 370, 495, or 499)
  3. Maintain a cumulative biosciGPA of at least 3.5 from your second semester of research through graduation.
  4. Present and explain the results of the honors project at either the departmental or university undergraduate research symposium.
  5. At the end of your last semester, turn in a senior thesis on your research, which will be written in consultation with your research advisor (the faculty member you did research with). A copy approval by your research advisor must be emailed to the honors advisor, Bethia King, MO446bking@niu.edu, at which point Dr. King will ask Registration and Records to add “graduated with Departmental Honors” to your official transcript. Approval can be indicated by your research advisor emailing their approval to bking@niu.edu or your forwarding an email in which your research advisor indicates approval.
Departmental Honors is separate from University Honors.

Doing lower level (your first two years) in university honors allows you to sign up earlier for classes, thus increasing the odds of getting into classes that fill quickly. Whereas departmental honors focus more strictly on research experience in science, upper-level university honors are more about traditional courses, less tied to your major, and emphasizes civic engagement, although it can also include a smaller research experience.

Can I use my departmental honors research for University Honors requirements?

The senior research project that you do for departmental honors may double as a university honors capstone project.

Are there undergraduate research opportunities that provide stipends?

NIU has some programs through the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. Note: NIU tends to include these sorts of opportunities under "engaged learning" and "experiential learning".

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Photo of Bethia King

Bethia King
Biological Sciences
MO 446 (office)
MO 404 (lab)