Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biology

Honours Co-ordinator

Dr. Dave Shutler

If you have any questions, please contact Dave!

Timetable Description

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biology (120h): The biology core and Biol 4023 and 4996 (27h) and 18h additional biology (48h) (15h of which are to be at the 3000-4000 level and include at least 3h from the biodiversity stream *) completed with a minimum grade of B-. Math 2233, 2243 and 6h chemistry, completed with a minimum grade of C-. All students will take an oral comprehensive examination and defend a thesis during the fourth year of study.


The Honours degree in biology involves two additional courses, BIOL 4023 (Intellectual Orgins) and BIOL 4996 (the Honours thesis). BIOL 4996 has a schedule and a syllabus. The syllabus outlines the course requirements and grading system.

BIOL 4996 Honours Thesis Syllabus (2017)


Biol 4996 has the following schedule. (More detailed info is in the drop down menus below).

  1. In most cases, students undertake research in the summer and fall months. In some cases, such as co-op students, research could be undertaken at any time.
  2. Complete an oral comprehensive exam in late Sept/early Oct.
  3. Deliver a 12 minute presentation on your research to the department during Biofeedback. This is always held in February, the week before spring break. You must prepare an abstract, which will be included in the Biofeedback booklet that is made available to all faculty and participants.
  4. Prepare a Biology@Acadia fact sheet revising the abstract that you prepared for Biofeedback so that non-biologists can understand it. In addition you add a short biography and a couple of images to your abstract, and format this into a small, one page poster. These will be displayed within the department and sent to your high school.
  5. Write your thesis (this takes months! Start as soon as possible; e.g. start working on your literature review in the summer)
  6. Defend your thesis in March, followed by cries of joy, or much revision and weeping.
  7. After you have successfully defended your thesis, you must submit a completed version of your thesis to graduate studies for external review. Your thesis will be read by a faculty member from outside of the department for final approval. You may be required to make corrections before submitting a final version of your thesis to graduate studies.
Finding a Supervisor

Before you register in Biol 4996 you MUST FIND a faculty member within the Biology department who is willing to supervise you. Go around and chat with faculty members who you might be interested in working with. This is a very informal process. We would suggest that you start this process in the fall of your third year, i.e in Oct or November. Bear in mind that some of the greatest learning benefits from doing an Honours thesis come from the process, not the particular topic you are studying. In other words, you learn a lot from the research process, the oral comprehensive, presenting at Biofeedback, and writing up your thesis, regardless of what your topic is. * Thus, if your first choice in supervisors/topics is already filled up (or has no funding), look further afield. For example, there have been numerous Honours students who worked in microbiology, plant biology and genetics, who are now doctors, dentists ,or optometrists. The Biology@Acadia fact sheets provide some insight into the research conducted by Biology Honours students.

* Many of our former Honours students (now in graduate studies at other universities) acknowledge that their Honours work at Acadia gave them a significant leg up on other students in their graduate programs.

It is also possible to do your research elsewhere, with an off campus (external) supervisor; for example, you could work with someone at Agriculture Canada, a hospital, or the Ministry of Natural Resources, to name a few possibilities. However, even if you do your research with an off campus supervisor, you must still have an ‘internal Acadia supervisor’ willing to supervise the on campus components of your Honours (e.g. the oral comprehensive, Biofeedback, and your thesis defense). If an external supervisor is the way to go, there is a form (link below) that must be signed by the external and internal. Don't worry, your supervisor will get this done.

External Supervisor Agreement

Oral Comprehensives

Date:  Oral comprehensive exams are typically held in the last two weeks of September and the first week of October.
Length:  1.5 to 2.0 hours

Oral comprehensives are much less stressful if you start preparing during the summer months, rather than waiting till September!!  Students are expected to be conversant with the material covered in introductory biology and all of the other “core courses” in biology.  Some supervisors provide the committee members with a list of the biology courses you have completed.  Thus concepts and content that you have learned in more advanced courses can be fair game as well.  I would suggest meeting with your supervisor to discuss reviewing strategies.  One useful approach is to start off by re-reading your first and second year biology texts and notes during the summer.

The committee for your oral comprehensive exam is selected semi-randomly by the Honours Coordinator and consists of the thesis supervisor and two other faculty members from within the department.  The Oral Comp committees are usually posted in the first week of the September semester.  Off-campus supervisors may participate as an extra examiner if they wish, but they are not "expected" to attend.  The student is responsible for arranging the time and location of the oral exam.  It can be quite difficult to arrange a time that is acceptable to all of your committee members, in other words a lot of emailing back and forth might be required.  The Department Office has a list of rooms and times available.  Reserve your room and time with the department secretary.


Presentation Date: Held in February, the week before spring break
Presentation Length:12min presentation, 3 minutes for questions

Biofeedback is our Honours Student Research Conference. Traditionally it is scheduled in the week before Spring Break.Depending on the number of honours students, Biofeedback can take one to two days, usually starting on a Wednesday afternoon, and taking up most of Thursday. Some professors cancel their upper level classes and labs on those days, but core courses are usually not cancelled. The Honours Coordinator will provide a sign-up sheet to allow you to select your presentation time slot.  Students who work in the same lab on related research are encouraged to sign up for consecutive time slots.

You will have a maximum of 12 minutes for your presentation plus 3 minutes for questions. Graduate students from the department run the sessions and they will cut you off if your presentation goes over 12 minutes! Practice your talk thoroughly to avoid embarrassment.

You must also provide an abstract of your research to the departmental secretary by NOON, the Friday before Biofeedback. The abstract preparation form can be viewed by clicking the following link (Abstract Preparation Form). The abstracts will be included in the Biofeedback Booklet. Abstract preparation takes time and you may need to go through several drafts. All abstracts must be approved by your supervisor, and should include the name and addresses of your internal and external supervisors. DO NOT leave abstract preparation to the last minute!!

Note - Anyone thinking of graduate studies should also seriously consider going to the Science Atlantic joint Undergraduate Biology and Aquaculture & Fisheries Conference (Science Atlantic), which is held in mid-March. Contact for Biology is Dr. Allison Walker (, and for Aquaculture & Fisheries is Dr. Trevor Avery (

Science Atlantic

You may present your thesis work at Science Atlantic in either the Atlantic Undergraduate Biology Conference (AUBC) or the Aquaculture and Fisheries Conference (A&F) section. The conference is jointly held with these two Science Atlantic committees in March/April. If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies you should take advantage of this valuable opportunity.

The AUBC conference is open to undergraduate students only, and only allows two (2) oral presentations and two (2) poster presentations for judging for each participating institution. However, some years more posters are allowed (non-judged), and students may also attend (pending supervisor financial contributions) for the experience.

The Aquaculture and Fisheries conference is open to undergraduate and graduate (M.Sc., Ph.D.) students undertaking research with an aquaculture or fisheries focus. There is no limit to the number of presenters, but slots fill up quickly. There is no poster session in A&F, but occasionally, students present posters in the Biology Conference (non-judged). In A&F, presentations are judged in undergraduate and graduate categories and cash prizes are awarded.

If you are interested in presenting or attending Science Atlantic, contact the departmental representatives.

Biology Conference contact: Russell Easy

Aquaculture and Fisheries contact: Trevor Avery


Biology@Acadia Factsheets

Length:  1 page legal
Due Date:  must be submitted to the Honours Coordinator during the week after spring break

These should be quite easy for you to prepare.  The honours coordinator will provide you with a word template, so they all look the same. The abstract you prepared for Biofeedback will be revised for your Biology@Acadia factsheet.  All you have to do is find an interesting picture or two and make up a little biography.   Please have your supervisor check and approve your Biology@Acadia factsheet.  Submit during the week after spring break. (Please note that you need to resize any images that you are using on the factsheet!! (and in your thesis)).  As you are probably aware, the images from most modern digital cameras can be large (e.g. 2-7MB).   These large file sizes make it difficult to email, use, or even print factsheets.  Please re-size your images down to a manageable 50-100kb each.


The student is required to carry out a program of research under the supervision of a faculty member, and prepare a written thesis according to the guidelines provided by the Honours Committee of Senate (see Regulations For Honours Theses:

The student must successfully defend the thesis before a committee consisting of the supervisor and two other faculty members (usually from within the department).  The thesis defense committee can be identical to the original oral comprehensive committee.  However, it may be appropriate to replace one person from the original committee with a faculty member who has greater expertise in your area of research.  The basic rule is that the Thesis Defence committee must consist of the supervisor and "at least" one other faculty member from the oral comprehensive committee.

Off-campus supervisors are encouraged to participate in the thesis defense, but are often too distant to attend.  If you wish, the off campus supervisor can participate via Skype or other conferencing software.  The student is responsible for scheduling the date and location of the exam.

At the start of the thesis defense, the student is expected to present a 10-15 minute PowerPoint summary of their work.  The summary can be similar to your biofeedback presentation, or you may take an entirely different approach.  Discuss the content of your thesis oral presentation with your supervisor

Typically, the last possible day to schedule a thesis defense is a day or three before the Research and Grad studies deadline for submitting theses. Note that there are often many corrections and revisions to be made after the thesis defense. You may need several days to make the corrections.  Correct formatting of the thesis is ESSENTIAL. Your thesis will be rejected by the Office of Research & Graduate Studies if it is not correctly formatted. One copy of the corrected thesis together with the appropriate thesis check form must be submitted to the Office of Research & Grad Studies before their deadline (See link below).

At this point your thesis will be read by a faculty member from outside the department, appointed by the Senate Honours Committee. After this external review, the thesis will be sent back to you for a few, hopefully minor corrections. The final submission date is in the link below.

Honours thesis regulations can be found here (this is where the dates are!):

After all corrections are complete, you must submit one hard copy of your thesis plus an electronic copy to the Office of Research & Graduate Studies. For complete details on electronic theses submissions see:

Note - in some cases it may be impossible to complete your thesis by this date. If you have a valid explanation, then it may be possible to get an extension; A "Request for Extension of Honours Thesis Submission" form is required (see link above).

Other Important Information
  • Students entering the Honours program are required to change their program from BSc to BScH before they can register for BIOL 4996. Please see Lita Taul (secretary) with permission from your supervisor in hand, via email, or verbally, to make that change!
  • Honours students who are starting their summer research should register in Biol 4996 ASAP!! That way the department has you on a list of names, and can begin to communicate with you.
  • All Honours students are REQUIRED to take a WHMIS chemical safety course.
  • Funding- Some info on Honours student funding (USRA and HSRA) here:

Biology@acadia Fact Sheets