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The School of Life Sciences (SoLS) aims to develop the biological knowledge, technical skills, and critical thinking that will make our undergraduates into effective citizens, scientists, and scholars. Our faculty and students engage in cutting-edge research across a wide range of disciplines, as reflected in our diverse undergraduate programs. The concentration in Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology (GCD) integrates the study of three exciting, closely related areas of life science research. Genetics examines the blueprints of life, such as DNA sequence and gene expression, while Cell Biology concerns the machinery of life enclosed within the boundaries of cells. Developmental Biology uses both genetics and cell biology to understand how genes and the environment interact to produce a whole new individual from a single cell. The combined study of these fields has resulted in a better understanding of many diseases, and it promises even greater importance in the future. Any Barrett student who is considering majoring or minoring in Genetics, Cell, and Developmental Biology should contact the lead Faculty Honors Advisor (FHA).
Honors theses in GCD vary widely, but they typically require a student to pose a novel scientific question, design a way to answer it, carry out their design, and then report the results in a formal scientific document. The research typically involves laboratory experiments, but may instead center on field work, computational modeling, or theoretical studies. The thesis itself often takes the form of a scientific journal article; hence students must learn how to write this kind of document. In SoLS, an honors thesis committee is composed of three members. The director and the second reader must be ASU faculty members. The third member of the committee can be anyone with sufficient expertise in the thesis topic.
The most important preparation is to get involved with research early. This is the best way to identify novel questions and to learn the techniques needed to answer them. Students should consult the SoLS Undergraduate Student Research web page to find out about research opportunities throughout the school. They can identify potential thesis directors by reading the profiles and web pages of SoLS faculty. The GCD Faculty Honors Advisor can help students find specific faculty mentors whose research matches their interests.
Years 1 & 2: Students should read and think seriously about research areas that interest them. They should identify and contact potential thesis directors. Their FHA can give advice on how best to do this. Ideally, they will find and commit to a thesis director by the end of their second year.
Year 3: Students should expect to do the bulk of their thesis research in this year. They should work with their director to make and execute a clear plan. Ideally, they will write and submit a prospectus by end of this year. They should also identify a second reader; the third reader can be selected now or in the following year.
Year 4: In this year, students will complete their research, write the thesis, and defend it. Because writing takes time, they will ideally have finished all or most of the research itself before this year. Typically, students take BIO 492 in Fall and BIO 493 in spring; however, it can be a good idea to shift this earlier by one semester, taking BIO 492 in the spring of the third year.
Most SoLS undergraduate courses can be taken with an Honors Enrichment Contract. Interested students should contact the instructor at the beginning of the semester to discuss the requirements. Activities for an Honors Contract might include attending discussion groups, developing lab exercises, writing papers, preparing class material, or giving presentations. Some SoLS courses offer special honors sections. For example, Barrett students taking Conceptual Approaches to Biology I and II (BIO 281 and 282) should enroll in designated honors lab sections. These sections are taught by our best TAs and sometimes by faculty members. Honors students work with one another during labs and are challenged to dig deeper into their understanding of biology in both lecture and lab.
Students who aim to continue with a graduate degree should consider the Accelerated Bachelor of Science / Master of Science program. This gives students a head start on the MS degree while they complete their BS degree.