Biological Sciences Honours

You are passionate about the biological sciences and want to delve more deeply into your area of interest than you can with the major.

This rigorous program is intended for students with a high level of academic achievement and potential. In your final year, under the supervision of a faculty member, you conduct a research project that results in an Honours thesis and the formal presentation of your research findings. In this competitive-entry program, you explore your interests at a deeper level.

Program of study

The Honours program in biological sciences is available to selected students in the Bachelor of Science. Courses in the discipline are only one component of the requirements you need to graduate. Consult the Academic Calendar for the year you are accepted into the Honours program for a complete list of requirements.

Courses & Requirements
Check the academic calendar to find the courses you need to take and the requirements you must fulfill to complete your program.
Academic Calendar

Admission to the Honours program


You must meet specific criteria for acceptance into the Honours program in biological sciences. Before you apply, you must have:

  • Completed a minimum of 45 credits
  • Completed CHEM 101, CHEM 102, STATS 151, BIOL 207 and BIOL 208
  • Completed at least 24 credits in the past 12 months
  • Achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.0 (all courses) and a minimum GPA of 3.3 in biology courses
  • Declared biological sciences as your major

Not all students who meet the minimum criteria will be accepted into the program. Because the Honours program is an intensive course of study, involving a significant amount of one-on-one interaction with a faculty supervisor and access to departmental resources, only a limited number of students are accepted into the program. Acceptance is based on academic performance, GPA, course experience and the availability of a suitable supervisor. Decisions made by the Department of Biological Sciences regarding acceptance to this program are not subject to appeal.

Admission process

The Honours Advisor can answer your questions and provide specific advice about course planning, application requirements, expectations, possible potential supervisors and information about the program and our faculty.

Aside from the formal requirements for acceptance into the Honours discipline, you need to find a faculty supervisor from within the Department of Biological Sciences. Meeting with various faculty members helps you to get an idea of the types of research they are involved in and whom you might be interested in working with. Email the Honours Advisor to request a faculty research guide that contains highlights of faculty research.

In advance of the application deadline, you should investigate the research and scholarly interests of various faculty members. You should then contact several faculty members to discuss the possibility of working together on an Honours project. You are much more likely to be selected for the program if you begin discussing potential projects with at least one faculty member prior to applying to the program. Even if faculty members state that they are willing to consider your application, they might not commit to supervising particular students until after all applications have been reviewed by all participating faculty.

Apply to the Honours program in biological sciences by emailing the Honours Advisor after March 1. The deadline to apply is mid-April each year, and the specific date will be on the application form. The application includes your contact information, a checklist of preferred research areas, and a one-page statement of interest that outlines why you want to be an Honours student. Submit your application by email to the Honours Advisor.

Faculty members meet in May to discuss Honours applicants and review your application. You will be notified whether you are accepted into the program or not. Supervisor assignments will be communicated at the same time.

You will be contacted in mid-June with a decision regarding your application.

Your progress will be evaluated at the end of third year. At this time, if you are underperforming, you may be asked to leave the Honours program.

Program criteria

Students accepted into an Honours program must complete 24 credits in each of the 12 consecutive months they are in the program. Exceptions to this rule may occur with the approval of the Honours discipline advisor.

You must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 and a GPA of 3.3 on biology courses. These averages refer to the average across all courses that apply to your degree, not minimum levels in each course.

Should you fail to meet these GPA requirements, you will be notified by the program and the Office of the University Registrar will be advised to change your program status to Bachelor of Science, biological sciences major.

You must have an Honours Supervisor to complete the Honours program. There are several reasons why you might be left without a supervisor:

  1. The supervisor may be ill or otherwise unable to continue supervision.
  2. The supervisor may decide to cease supervision of a student who does not perform up to their standards, or who is a poor match (in terms of, for example, research interests or working styles).
  3. You may decide to cease working with a supervisor who is not providing appropriate supervision or is a poor match. In each of these situations, the supervisory relationship will be terminated. The student then has two options:
    1. Find another willing supervisor.
    2. Leave the Honours program and complete the regular major.

Please note that neither the Department of Biological Sciences nor the Honours Advisor is responsible for finding a supervisor for you. The Honours Advisor should be consulted, and will assist you in this situation, but cannot guarantee that you will be assigned a new supervisor.

Once enrolled in the Honours program, you will follow the program of study for a major in biological sciences, in the molecular/cellular stream or the ecology/diversity stream. All Honours students (in both streams) must complete the following courses:

  • CHEM 261
  • BICM 200
  • BIOL 321
  • BIOL 337
  • BIOL 399
  • BIOL 499A/499B

Program of study requirements and regulations are determined by the year you are accepted to an Honours program. You are required to consult with an academic advisor to help with course planning.

Honours advising

Consult the Honours Advisor for more information on the selection process and what to expect in the Honours program.

Kathy Davies, Honours Advisor