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Honors Program

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The Earth Systems Honors program provides students with an opportunity to pursue individual interdisciplinary research. It consists of a year-long research project that is mentored by one or more Earth Systems-affiliated faculty members, and culminates in a written thesis. The Earth Systems Honors application deadline for Academic Year 2023-24 is October 24th, 2023 and April 30, 2024 for Academic Year 2024-25.

For application instructions, please see: Applying to the Earth Systems Honors Program

To qualify for the honors program, students must have and maintain a minimum overall GPA of 3.4. Prospective honors students are encouraged to complete the EARTHSYS 111 Biology and Global Change and EARTHSYS 112 Human Society and Environmental Change sequence by the end of the junior year. Qualified students can apply in Spring Quarter of the junior year, or four quarters before graduation, by submitting a detailed research proposal and a brief statement of support from a faculty research advisor. Students who wish to pursue an honors thesis should begin planning no later than Winter Quarter of the junior year. The spring deadline for applications for the 2023-24 academic year is May 9, 2024

During the senior year, honors students enroll in 1-9 units of EARTHSYS 199: Honors Program in Earth Systems within the thesis advisor’s section (please contact Earth Systems if your advisor is not listed). These units can be split among quarters, but may not substitute for any other required parts of the Earth Systems Curriculum. Completion of the honors thesis satisfies the program’s senior capstone requirement.

In addition, all senior honors students enroll in EARTHSYS 199A: Earth Systems Honors Workshop in Fall Quarter. EARTHSYS 199A comprises four workshop sessions (2 in fall, 1 each in winter and spring quarters) that foster a supportive community among the Earth Systems Honors cohort and assist students at each stage of the thesis research and writing process. The workshop series also provides guidance in planning and structuring the undergraduate honors thesis, cultivating effective writing habits, embracing an interdisciplinary research approach, and crafting thesis sections. Students also acquire skills in designing visuals, charts, and graphs to effectively communicate research findings.

All theses are evaluated for acceptance by the faculty thesis advisor and one additional faculty member, who is the second reader. The faculty advisor (first reader) must be a member of the Academic Council. Generally, the second reader is also a member of the Academic Council; however, the second reader may be an academic staff member not a part of the Academic Council if approved by the faculty advisor. Acceptance into the Honors program is not a guarantee of graduating with the honors designation. The thesis must be accepted and approved by both readers and the Director of Earth Systems, and a minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained. 

Honors students present their research at the Earth Systems Honors Symposium in Spring Quarter (June 5, 2024). Faculty advisors are encouraged to sponsor presentations of student research results at professional society meetings. 

Exceptional honors thesis will be nominated for special recognition by the university and the Earth Systems Program. Nomination criteria include (1) the contribution of the thesis research to addressing an unanswered question in the scholarly field of interest; (2) relevance of research to an important sustainability challenge; (3) rigorousness of research methodology; (4) interdisciplinarity of scope and methods; and (5) quality of writing.

If you have further questions, please contact Richard Nevle, Deputy Director, Earth Systems Program
Yang and Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building, Room 133; 
(650) 724-0984;

More Information

  1. Earth Systems Honors Guide
  2. What makes an honors thesis an Earth Systems honors thesis?
  3. Apply for the Earth Systems Honors Program