Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences (BSBS) Honors-in-the Major (HIM) FAQ

Please consult the HIM Handbook from the Burnett Honors College for a comprehensive description of the HIM program.  This FAQ only addresses issues related to the BSBS HIM program.

Note:  BSBS thesis committee requirements differ from the campus-wide HIM program.   BSBS students are required to have at least 3 faculty members on their committee, including one outside member.  See the “Thesis Committee” and “Paperwork” sections below for more details.


What is the BSBS HIM program?

HIM is structured like an MS program: participating students conduct research, summarize their results in a written thesis, and defend their thesis in an oral presentation to their faculty committee and the general public.  Successful completion of the HIM program will be recognized with the award of an Honors medallion upon graduation and Honors distinctions noted on your transcript and diploma.  The Honors College and UCF library will also maintain an accessible electronic copy of your thesis.

Can I begin working on a HIM project before enrolling in HIM?

Yes.  It often takes a substantial amount of time and effort to generate a body of work for the HIM thesis.  You may feel more comfortable committing to the HIM program if you are already proficient with the requisite lab techniques and have already generated data in support of the project.

Do I need to start the HIM program in the fall term?

No.  You can enroll in MCB 4903H Honors Directed Readings, the first HIM course, in fall, spring, or summer C term.

Do I need to complete the HIM coursework in 2 consecutive semesters?

No.  You must complete one semester of MCB 4903H Honors Directed Readings and a second semester of MCB 4970H Honors Thesis, but enrollment in the 2 courses can be discontinuous.

Can I work on my HIM project for more than 2 semesters?

Yes.  If you need additional time to complete your thesis, you can enroll for up to 4 semesters of HIM.  In addition to the required MCB 4903H Honors Directed Readings and MCB 4970H Honors Thesis, you can enroll in a second semester of Honors Directed Readings (MCB 4904H) and/or a second semester of Honors Thesis (MCB 4970H).  The first two required courses are for 3 credit hours each, but Honors Directed Readings II and Honors Thesis II can be taken for 1 or 3 credit hours.  You can also work on your project when you are not enrolled in a HIM class.

What are the goals for each HIM course?

Directed Readings and Honors Thesis are campus-wide designations for the two classes which comprise the HIM program.  Students will be expected to conduct benchwork during both classes for a HIM thesis in the Burnett School.

For MCB 4903H Directed Readings, you will begin working on a research project in your host lab.  You should become familiar with the background information and experimental procedures relevant to your project.  You will also form your thesis committee and provide the committee with a copy of your thesis proposal no later than 3 weeks before the last day of classes.  Additional requirements related to the campus-wide HIM program must be completed as well (HIM Orientation, HIM Thesis Formatting Workshop, submission of the signed Thesis Proposal cover page, and, possibly, registration for the next HIM course).

For MCB 4904H Directed Readings II, you will continue to work on your HIM project.  Directed Readings II simply provides extra time to become familiar with the relevant literature and to generate extra data before enrolling in Honors Thesis.  The thesis proposal may be submitted to your thesis committee during Directed Readings II if you enroll for this class.  If you know it will take at least 3 semesters to complete your HIM project, take Directed Readings II for the second semester.

For MCB 4970H Honors Thesis, you will complete your project, write your thesis, and hold an oral defense of the thesis.  Most students will continue to generate data for their project during the Honors Thesis semester.  The date of the oral defense should be established as soon as possible:  faculty members have very busy schedules, so it may be difficult to pinpoint a time/date when everyone is available for the defense.  You will also need to provide your committee with a copy of your written thesis no later than 2 weeks before the defense date.  The thesis should be complete, but committee members may request changes to the written thesis after the oral defense.  The final written thesis will then be approved by the thesis committee and submitted to the Honors College.

If you are not ready to defend your thesis at the end of the Honors Thesis semester, you can still enroll for Honors Thesis II.  In this semester, you will continue to work on your project and will complete both the written thesis and oral defense in this term.

Can I participate in other UCF research programs while enrolled in HIM?

Yes.  HIM students are encouraged to participate in the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence (http://www.showcase.ucf.edu/) and to publish their findings in the UCF Undergraduate Research Journal (http://www.urj.ucf.edu/).  HIM students can also participate in the Research and Mentoring Program (http://ramp.ucf.edu/), the BSBS Program for Undergraduate Research Excellence (http://med.ucf.edu/biomed/academics/student-research/mm-pure/), and other curricular or extracurricular student programs.

Can the HIM project substitute for a BSBS restricted elective?

Yes.  Completion of the HIM program counts as a restricted elective for Burnett School majors.  However, note that only one “Research-related restricted elective” (i.e., PURE, PILOT, GEAR, or HIM) will be allowed to substitute for a regular restricted elective credit.  Students can enroll in as many of these programs/courses as they wish, but only one will be allowed to substitute for a regular restricted elective credit. The additional research-related credits may count as part of the 120 required for graduation or as upper division 48 hour requirement.


What is the composition of my thesis committee?

Your HIM committee will consist of your thesis chair and at least two additional faculty members.  One of the faculty members must be from a unit outside of your chair’s home Division.  You may ask more than three faculty members to sit on your HIM committee if you think their areas of expertise are a good match for your project.

BSBS is divided into five Divisions:  Molecular Microbiology, Immunity and Pathogenesis, Cancer, Cardiovascular, and Neuroscience.  Your “outside” committee member can be from any BSBS Division other than your chair’s home Division.  The outside member can also be from a unit distinct from the BSBS (e.g., Biology Department, Chemistry Department, Physics Department, College of Nursing, CREOL, NanoScience Technology Center, etc.).

How do I identify a thesis chair?

The faculty mentor who directly supervises your research project will be your thesis chair.

How do I identify the other members of my thesis committee?

Your thesis committee should ideally consist of faculty members with expertise in your area of research.  Consult your faculty mentor for suggested thesis committee members.  From coursework and personal interactions, you may also have an idea of which faculty members would be a good fit for your committee.  However, you should receive the approval of your mentor before asking any faculty member to sit on your committee.

Can my thesis chair be a faculty member who is not part of BSBS?

If your thesis project is related to biomedical science or biotechnology but your faculty mentor is not a member of the Burnett School, you will need to identify a BSBS faculty member to co-chair your HIM committee.  Since your faculty mentor is outside the BSBS, the third member of your HIM committee may either be in or outside BSBS.

Can my thesis chair be a non-tenure track faculty member of the BSBS?

Yes.  Currently, Drs. Borgon and Samsam are authorized to serve as chair of a BSBS HIM project.  Due to the time commitment required for effective mentoring of HIM students, Drs. Borgon and Samsam can only serve as chairs of two concurrent HIM projects.  Other non-tenure track faculty in BSBS may be approved to serve as HIM chair on a case-by-case basis, but request this approval before beginning your project.

Can I complete my thesis without the full 3 member committee, or without an outside committee member?

No.  The BSBS HIM coordinator must approve the final thesis and will not sign off on projects that did not involve a proper committee.


How do I identify a faculty mentor who will sponsor my HIM project?

Most BSBS faculty members sponsor undergraduate research projects, and most will also sponsor a HIM project.  However, participation in the HIM program does not guarantee you a research project.  You will need to identify a faculty mentor on your own.  Due to the extreme demand for undergraduate research projects, locating a faculty mentor may actually be one of the more difficult tasks of the HIM program.

Do I need to design my own HIM project?

No.  You will most likely be assigned a project by your faculty mentor.  The ability to recognize an outstanding question in the field and to design a series of well-controlled experiments to address that question is generally expected for the completion of a Ph.D.  For the HIM thesis, you are expected to work with your faculty mentor to develop and execute a series of experiments that will address an unresolved issue in the field.  Although the HIM is patterned after MS programs, you will not be expected to generate the same quantity of data that would constitute an MS thesis.  You will, however, need to produce a body of work that leads to a well-justified conclusion that provides some advancement in the field.

Can I design my own project?

Yes.  However, BSBS faculty mentors spend considerable energy training HIM students.  In return for the time and resources devoted to their students, a faculty mentor expects some contribution to the main focus of their research program.  Undergraduate researchers who want to study a problem that is not directly related to a faculty member’s research program will therefore find it difficult to locate a mentor.  In general, HIM students who design their own projects have already spent some time in their host lab and have a good working knowledge of what research questions are important to the lab.

Does my thesis project need to involve benchwork related to molecular biology?

Your project must have some connection to biomedical science or biotechnology (the two BSBS degree programs).  However, this does not necessarily require research at the bench.  BSBS HIM students have, for example, worked on topics related to medical anthropology or art therapy in a clinical setting.  These projects generally involve a co-chair from another UCF unit with expertise in the topic.  If you plan to pursue an HIM thesis using something other than molecular biology techniques in the lab of a research-active BSBS faculty member, you should first seek approval from the BSBS HIM coordinator.  The relevance of the proposed HIM topic to biomedical science or biotechnology will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the HIM coordinator for BSBS.  Topics related to conservation biology are better suited for a HIM in the Biology Department.  Projects with no appreciable link to biology will not be accepted.


What is the format for the thesis proposal?

An example of the BSBS thesis format can be found here. More information on Honors College thesis formatting can be found here.

What is expected for the thesis defense, and how is it run?

The HIM program is organized like a MS program, culminating in the oral defense of a written thesis.  At a typical thesis defense, your mentor will briefly introduce you and the general topic you work on.  You will then give a 40-50 minute Powerpoint presentation of your project.  This presentation should contain sufficient background information to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and ensure your audience can understand the value of your work.  This introduction should provide a context for the HIM project and should logically flow to a clear statement of the hypothesis and/or objective of the project.  Uncommon research methods should be described, either in a distinct section after the introduction or as a preface to data presentation involving that specific technique.  Your data should be presented in a logical manner that addresses your overall hypothesis/goal.  You do not need to present your data in chronological order, and you do not need to show every experiment you performed.  Instead, you need to organize the data to tell the story of your project.  For each data slide, you should (i) give a rationale for the experiment; (ii) mention any experimental detail needed to understand the data; (iii) describe the result; and (iv) provide a conclusion.  At the end of the data presentation, you should summarize the overall project and consider future directions for the work.

The thesis defense is open and advertised to the general public, which generally means UCF students and friends/family of the HIM candidate.  Questions from the audience can be fielded during the presentation or at the conclusion of the talk; this is the prerogative of the speaker.  After questions from the general audience have concluded, all non-faculty members will be asked to leave.  Questions from the thesis committee will then occur in a closed door session.  Faculty members who are not part of the thesis committee may ask questions during the public presentation or may stay for the closed door session.  When questions from the thesis committee have concluded, the HIM candidate will be asked to briefly step outside the room.  The thesis committee will then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate and provide recommendations to the thesis chair that will be relayed to the student upon his/her return to the room.  The purpose of this evaluation is to assess the quality of the HIM thesis and to provide constructive criticism for improvement of the HIM candidate’s thesis and communication skills.  At this point, the student may be asked to make further revisions to the thesis before its submission to the Honors College.


Who is the HIM coordinator for the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences?

Ken Teter, Ph.D.

Office:  Biomolecular Research Annex, room 142

Phone:  407-882-2247

Email:  kteter@mail.ucf.edu or Kenneth.Teter@ucf.edu

How do I get the HIM paperwork signed by the BSBS HIM Coordinator?

You can receive this signature through one of four general routes:

(i) stop by Dr. Teter’s office in the Biomolecular Research Annex and obtain the signature in person.

(ii) leave the signed form in Dr. Teter’s mail box behind the secretary’s desk at the front of the Biomolecular Research Annex.  Dr. Teter will then sign it, and you can pick up the signed form from the Annex secretary.

(iii) Email Dr. Teter a scanned copy of the form.  Dr. Teter will sign it, scan it, and return an electronic copy of the form to you by email.

(iv) Use the Hellosign process provided through the Honors College.

You will need to have all committee member signatures completed before obtaining Dr. Teter’s signature.  He will be the last person to sign the forms before they are forwarded to the Honors College.  If you use Hellosign, be sure to order the list of signatures appropriately.

Note:  The HIM coordinator will not provide the final signature for a thesis proposal or thesis defense that does not include a full 3 member committee.

How do I apply for the HIM scholarship?

HIM scholarships are available on a competitive basis each fall and spring semester.  Applications are reviewed and ranked by a panel of three BSBS faculty members.  However, due to the workload involved, you will not receive comments on your application.  Applications are usually due in the middle of the semester; specific deadlines are announced each semester by the Honors College.  Information about HIM scholarships can be found here.