Neuroscience Honors


Honors Neuroscience Research

Qualified students (usually seniors) majoring in neuroscience have the opportunity to carry out thesis research that provides individualized advanced instruction and research experience in neuroscience that has the potential to culminate in the awarding of Honors in the neuroscience major.  Students must enroll in two terms of PSYC 91 while carrying out their thesis work.

To begin thesis work and to enroll in PSYC 91:

1)      Students must have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.30 in the major and 3.00 overall and have successfully completed PSYC 6, and PSYC 10 or BIOL 29.  Major GPA is calculated by averaging PSYC 6 and all the currently-completed courses, above the prerequisite level, that are a part of the major, except PSYC 90 and 91.

2)      Students must identify a two-person thesis committee (one of which is the research advisor) that will evaluate the thesis.  The thesis committee must include a regular faculty member of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS).  The other individual must have an active academic appointment at Dartmouth.  The thesis committee must be approved by the Chair of the Neuroscience Steering Committee.  For 2023-2024, the Chair of the Neuroscience Steering Committee is Professor Matt van der Meer.

3)      Enrollment must take place by the end of the second week of the fall term of their senior year.  A completed ​​​​​​​Permission Checklist for Enrolling in Neuroscience Thesis Research (PSYC 91)​​​​​​​​​​​​​ should be submitted to the PBS Department office.  The Neuroscience Steering Committee will evaluate and approve the application.  Instructor Permission to enroll in PSYC 91 will then be granted.

To be awarded Honors at graduation the student must fulfill the following requirements:

1)      Satisfactorily fulfill all course requirements of the major.

2)      By the last day of the fifth week of the Winter term preceding the completion of the thesis, the student must submit a prospectus of the thesis work to the Chair of the Neuroscience Steering Committee.  The prospectus should include a brief description of the rationale for the research, methods being used, analyses to be employed, and implications of the expected results.

3)      An acceptable thesis must be written based upon at least two terms of laboratory or field research that is carried out under the auspices of PSYC 91 and is under the supervision of a PBS department faculty member.  The thesis will entail an independent and individual project.  Furthermore, the thesis must be read by, orally defended to, and approved by the thesis committee.  The defense must be attended by at least one member of the Neuroscience Steering Committee.  The thesis committee will make a recommendation to the Neuroscience Steering Committee regarding the potential awarding of honors.

4)      Students will present their research to department faculty and interested others during the latter part of the Spring term of their senior year.

Please note that grades for PSYC 91 are assigned by the primary advisor.  It is common for faculty advisors to find it difficult to evaluate the thesis work until it is complete, and thus it is typical to assign a grade of ON (On-going) for the initial term of PSYC 91.  The "ON" grades must be changed to regular letter grades by the end of the Spring term, when the thesis is completed. 

Finding funds and finding research advisors

The Office of Undergraduate Research provides information about how to find a research advisor and how to apply for funds to support your research.  Note that there are specific application deadlines for each term.

Honors Program Components

Quick Summary

Written Thesis

  • Due: Friday, May 24, 2024, by 3:00pm
  • Format: Cover Page with signatures (signatures can be electronic), Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, References
  • One signed PDF must be submitted to the PBS Admin Office via email. PDFs should already be signed by your advisor and second reader when they are turned in.
  • Be aware that you may need to make corrections to your thesis after your oral defense, allow yourself enough time to do so.

Oral Defense

  • You will give a 15-20 minute overview of your research and then answer questions from committee members.  In total the defense usually lasts one and a half hours.
  • In attendance will be your thesis committee, comprised of your Primary Advisor, Secondary Reader, and a Neuroscience Committee Member. Other students are not permitted to attend.
  • You should submit your final drafted thesis to your committee at least one week prior to your oral defense.
  • Your oral defense must occur before the Poster Session.  It is advisable to bring a draft of your poster to your defense for feedback from your committee.
  • Once you have a date and time set with your committee, contact Michelle Powers to reserve a room.

Poster Session

  • Typically held on an afternoon during the week before the last week of classes of the spring term. Tentative date for 2024 - Thursday, May 23 4:30 - 5:30 p.m.
  • You will stand by your poster and should be able to summarize your project in 3-5 minutes.
  • Friends and family are welcome to attend.

Evaluation and Awards

  • The Thesis Committee will read and evaluate the thesis and oral presentation, and recommend in writing meritorious students to the Undergraduate Committee for consideration for the various departmental prizes, which are voted on by faculty who attend the Honors presentations and/or the year-end faculty meeting. All students who successfully complete the Neuroscience Honors program requirements (e.g. written thesis, oral defense, poster presentation) will be awarded Honors in Neuroscience. Beginning in spring 2024 PBS does not award High Honors.