Undergraduate Research

The Department encourages interested students to explore opportunities to work with faculty and graduate students on research projects.  Participating in research provides an opportunity to learn about the tools and approaches used in various disciplines and helps to enhance career opportunities.  Most research can be rewarded with either course credit or wages.

Fourth-year students with qualifying GPAs may participate in the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP), which involves research toward the development of an undergraduate thesis.  Other 4th-year students with either lower GPAs or who do not wish to participate in the DMP may nonetheless work on an undergraduate thesis through the Thesis Program.  Students interested in research regardless of their class rank may participate through the Research Mentoring Program in which you will work on a topic in conjunction with a faculty member and a graduate student mentor.  Finally, students may sign up for Independent Study or Supervised Research credit by contacting a faculty member directly and developing a course of study.

Distinguished Majors Program

The Department of Environmental Sciences offers its Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) to highly qualified majors wishing to pursue a special in-depth course of study and research at the undergraduate level. The focus can be theoretical or applied and can involve laboratory, field, computational, or other experience appropriate to the course of study. At least 12 hours of advanced work must be included in the program, with 6 of these hours being Supervised Research involving work leading directly to the thesis.

Majors admitted to the program work closely with faculty. Successful completion of the program results in a thesis and the presentation of findings to the Undergraduate Academic Review Committee, the supervising faculty member, and an audience of peers. Based on the completion and communication of their research, successful majors are awarded Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction upon graduation.

Admission to the DMP

Majors admitted to the program must have an overall grade point average close to 3.4 or above and must have achieved at least 3.400 at the time of graduation. They must have the consent of at least one Department faculty member to supervise the development of their thesis. Applications for admission to the program are required no later than early October (2023-24 deadline: Monday, October 9), for a planned graduation the following May or August, and no later than mid April for a planned graduation the following December (please contact the DMP director for exact dates). It is best to apply well ahead of these deadlines. The content of the application and the steps necessary to complete the DMP are linked below.

Completing the DMP

The final thesis must be approved by the supervising faculty member and submitted to the Director of the DMP through the Collab site by April (2023-24 deadline: Sunday, April 14).  The results of the completed research and thesis must be presented publicly in a thesis defense that will be in late April for Spring graduation or approximately mid-December for Fall graduation (2023-24 presentation date: Wednesday, May 1). The thesis should follow the format and guidelines established by the Graduate School for M.S. theses.  More details on completion of the DMP are linked below.  Final details of the defense and thesis submission will be provided directly by the Director of the DMP.

Review of the DMP

The successful completion of the DMP will be evaluated as follows. The completion of the thesis and its presentation will be evaluated by the Undergraduate Academic Review Committee. The supervising faculty member will make a recommendation for level of distinction to the Undergraduate Academic Review Committee as well. The Undergraduate Academic Review Committee will develop the Departmental recommendation for level of distinction based on the evidence presented on the quality of the student’s research, thesis, and public presentation; the student’s overall work in the DMP and major; and the student’s overall record. This recommendation will be forwarded to the College Registrar in time to be included in the Graduation Bulletin.

Director of the DMP

For the academic year 2023-2024, the Director of the DMP in Environmental Sciences is:

Robert Davis
386B New Clark

DMP Admission and Research Proposal Instructions
Steps to Completion of the DMP
Rating scheme for DMP’s level of distinction
Preparing and submitting the final thesis

Thesis Program

Students may elect, typically during or at the end of their third year, to engage in independent research culminating in a thesis. At that time, or very early in the fall semester of the 4th year, the student should work with a faculty member who will become the thesis advisor to select and narrow down a subject for study. Students who are interested in field projects should plan well ahead so that the summer between the third and fourth years is available to them if their study requires summer data collection. The student should prepare a proposal for presentation to his or her research committee which is comprised of the research advisor and one additional member of the department faculty who, in the period in which they serve as a committee member, is also a member of the Undergraduate Academic Review Committee. Committee members beyond these may be added at the discretion of the student and the research advisor. The written proposal should be defended before the research committee, and approval of the proposed work must be obtained no later than the end of the seventh semester. Earlier approval is recommended and may be necessary to allow completion of the work and preparation of the thesis before the end of the final semester. In cases where a large amount of field effort is required, and especially if warm weather conditions are necessary, approval of the proposal, or at least a clear statement of the work plan agreed upon by both the student and the research committee, should be obtained by the end of the third year to allow use of the summer between the third and fourth years for completion of data gathering.

Although timing of enrollment in courses providing credit for the thesis research is not inviolably proscribed, the normal sequence would be to take three hours of Supervised Research (EVSC 4995) under the research advisor in the fall of the fourth year. This period would be used for finalization of the proposal, obtaining data, beginning data analysis, etc. Students who earn a grade of B- or better would then be eligible to enroll in Thesis Research (EVSC 4999) for three hours in the spring semester of the fourth year. Upon completion of the thesis (presumably by the end of classes), and upon defense of that thesis before the research committee, a grade for Thesis Research will be assigned by deliberation of the committee. Although not a requirement, each thesis candidate is encouraged to make a public presentation of their work at the time of the thesis defense to students and faculty who are interested in the topic. Theses (as pdf files) will be placed on file in the library collection.

Research Mentoring Program

We have an active undergraduate research mentoring program in which undergraduate students work on a research project with a faculty member and are mentored by one of that faculty member’s graduate students.  Each year, an updated list of topics and mentors is provided.

Link to the program description.

Link to the list of graduate student mentors.