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BISP 196: Senior Honors Thesis Program

Special Studies research projects have returned to in-person instruction. However, if it is determined by the Division of Biological Sciences or campus that instruction must be fully remote, then all research projects are expected to be done remotely as well.

BISP 196 offers students majoring in the Biological Sciences, the opportunity to participate in independent/individual research for academic credit with, and under the direction of, a UC San Diego faculty member. Projects are expected to involve primary, experimental/analytical approaches that augment training in basic biology and that echo the curricular focus of the Division of Biological Sciences. Thus, projects should involve analysis of biological processes or systems at a molecular, biochemical, cellular, organismal, or ecosystem level.

Students who successfully complete all the requirements for the program will have “Distinction” recorded on their transcript. Completion of this program is the only way to earn distinction through the Division of Biological Sciences.


  • Undergraduate student declared in a major housed within the Division of Biological Sciences.
  • Achieve, prior to the start of the program, a minimum 3.6 biology major and overall UC GPA.
  • Identification of an eligible faculty sponsor/instructor of record who has an active appointment with UC San Diego in an approved teaching title and who is willing to serve in that capacity for the duration of the program. There are no specifically designated faculty sponsors/instructors that research must be conducted with for the Senior Honors Thesis Program. The instructor of record is required to adhere to the Faculty Guidelines for Undergraduate Mentoring.
  • Complete application, including student and faculty sponsor/instructor portions, must be submitted by the stated deadline. Application and subsequent enrollment are subject to approval of the Division of Biological Sciences.
  • Completion of mandatory safety training and any other training related to the research you are conducting, as determined by your faculty sponsor/instructor of record, is required.

Course Information/Major Applicability

  • Earn upper-division credit.
  • One quarter of BISP 196 may apply to biology major requirements as an elective or a biology laboratory (select majors). Please send a message to Biology via the Virtual Advising Center to determine if BISP 196 can apply toward your biology laboratory requirement.
  • Any additional quarters of special studies courses (196, 197, 198, 199) will result in upper-division university credit.
  • A quarter of BISP 196 that is applied to biology undergraduate major requirements cannot be applied toward MS program requirements in the BS/MS program.
  • Academic credit can be earned a maximum of 3 times.
  • Four (4) unit course graded on pass/no pass basis.

Program Requirements

  • Completion of three consecutive quarters of BISP 196 during final full year at UC San Diego (research must be conducted during Fall, Winter, and Spring).
    • Each quarter of BISP 196 grants 4 quarter units of academic credit. Four quarter units of academic credit equates to 120 hours of research over the course of the quarter (minimum 12 hours of research per week).
  • Submit the BISP 196 Contract (see Admitted BISP 196 Students section under "How to Apply").
  • Attend the Fall quarter student orientation.
  • Attend the Winter quarter meeting presented by the Honors Thesis Faculty Chair to review the process of thesis writing and development of a scientific poster.
  • Submit an abstract to the Saltman Quarterly Journal.
  • Participate in the Research Showcase.
  • Complete a written thesis (there is no set guideline on the number of pages that are required however, theses generally range from 15-40 pages).
  • Students must meet with their faculty sponsor/instructor of record regularly to discuss their research and the writing of their thesis.
  • Achieve a minimum major GPA of 3.25 at time of graduation.


Deadlines are strictly enforced and no late applications will be accepted.

Deadlines to Submit Applications

For participation in: Application Closes/Deadline
Fall 2022 Friday, September 2, 2022 @ 4 p.m.
Winter 2023 (continuing students only) Friday, December 2, 2022 @ 4 p.m.
Spring 2023 (continuing students only) Friday, March 17, 2023 @ 4 p.m.

Other Important Deadlines

Requirements Deadline
BISP 196 Contract Due Friday of Week 2 in Fall quarter
Saltman Quarterly Abstract Submission Late Winter quarter
Research Showcase Registration April-May
Research Showcase Tuesday of Week 10 in Spring quarter
Research Thesis Due Friday of Week 10 in Spring quarter
  • Applicants should review all criteria (including instructor eligibility) for enrollment in the applicable Special Studies course and ensure that the submitted application represents a complete and accurate submission.
  • Applications will be reviewed in relation to the catalog course description for the Special Studies course for which the application was submitted. If the application is denied, the student has the opportunity to re-submit, only if the application for the requested term is still open. Re-submission after the posted deadline will not be permitted, thus early submission is encouraged.
  • It is the applicants' responsibility to ensure that the proposed instructor of record submits their portion of the application before the posted deadline. Both the student and instructor portion of the application must be submitted by the posted deadline for the application to be considered.
  • Extensions or exceptions to the application deadlines will not be granted under any circumstances, including unavailability of the proposed instructor at the time the application is due. Applicants are encouraged to plan accordingly.

How to Apply

Interested students must begin the Honors Thesis Program in fall quarter. If the applicant is accepted, a web-based application in both winter and spring quarters will need to be submitted in order to continue in the program.

Quarterly Application (an application is required for each quarter of participation)

  • Complete the student portion of the required web-based application.
    • Request Type is "Special Studies"
    • Submission of the student portion of the online application will generate an email to the applicant and the proposed instructor of record.
    • Proposed instructor of record will complete his/her portion of the application and submit it for Divisional review.
    • Students may track the status of their application by visiting their application portal.
    • In general, the application is open the first day of the quarter preceding the quarter in which the credit will be completed.
  • Both the student and instructor portion of the application must be submitted by the posted deadline. Late applications will not be accepted; early submission is encouraged.
Download the Research for Academic Credit Application Sample Questions PDF

Admitted BISP 196 Students

  • Fall Quarter
    • If the Fall Quarter application has been approved, the student and faculty sponsor/instructor of record will need to complete and sign the BISP 196 Contract. Once the contract is signed by the student and the PI, the PI will need to submit the contract to Biology Student and Instructional Services electronically via email ( no later than Friday of Week 2 at 4 p.m.
  • Winter & Spring Quarters - Research Update
    • In addition to the web-based application, upload a 1-2 page research update by the specified application deadline with the following information:
      • Student name and PID
      • Title of research project
      • Name of faculty sponsor/instructor of record and department
      • Summary of project, including goals of project and proposed experiments to accomplish those goals
      • Progress update: What has been attempted and what has been found or learned? What results do you have so far?

How to Enroll

The applicant will be notified of the outcome of the application review via their email address. Notification time varies and is dependent upon the instructor's response time and Divisional review period.

If the application is approved, the student will be automatically enrolled by Weeks 1-2 of the respective quarter or participation.

Enrollment Verification

Once an independent study application and research plan are submitted, they will not be returned to the student or forwarded to any other individual, organization or institution. If a lab requires the student provide enrollment verification, the following options are available:

  • If a lab requires the student provide proof of application approval, the student may print a copy of their approved application by logging on to EASy.
  • If a lab requires the student to provide proof of enrollment, the following options are available:
    • Official - Request Enrollment Verification from the Registrar's Office.
    • Unofficial - Provide a print-out via TritonLink Courses & Waitlists screen, which lists the course, instructor, section ID, grading option, etc.


At the conclusion of the term, the instructor of record is responsible for assigning a final grade (pass or no pass) via the University eGrades System.

I'm interested in applying to the Honors Thesis Program, but my current major GPA is a 3.599. Am I still eligible?

An applicant's overall and major GPAs must be a 3.600 or higher by the end of Summer Session II of the junior year to be eligible to participate in the Senior Honors Thesis Program.

Next year will be my last year at UC San Diego, but I plan to graduate a quarter early. Can I still participate?

Students must complete three consecutive quarters of research during Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters of the senior year at UC San Diego in order to participate.

Next year is my senior year at UC San Diego, but I do not anticipate to graduate until Fall or Winter quarter of the following year. Am I still eligible to participate and receive Distinction?

As long as the student completes one full year of BISP 196 (Fall, Winter, and Spring), completes all program requirements, and has a minimum major GPA of a 3.25 at time of graduation, the student is eligible to participate.

I plan to study abroad during a portion of my senior year. Can I still participate?

Students must complete three consecutive quarters of research in residence during Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters of the senior year at UC San Diego in order to participate.

Do I have to work in the same research lab for all three consecutive quarters?

Students must work with the same faculty sponsor/instructor of record and lab for all three consecutive quarters.

Please also see: Research for Academic Credit Frequently Asked Questions

Questions? Contact Student & Instructional Services (Pacific Hall 1128) through the Virtual Advising Center (VAC) or by phone at (858)534-0557.