Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biology

Honours Co-ordinator

Dr. Allison Walker

Program Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours in the Honours program as follows:

  1. The Biology Core (15h), completed with a minimum grade of B- in all courses
  2. BIOL 4023 and BIOL 407T/BIOL 408T, each completed with a minimum grade of B-
  3. 21h additional BIOL courses at the 3000-4000 level, each completed with a minimum grade of B-
  4. MATH 1253/2243 or MATH 1253/2253 or MATH 2233/2243, each completed with a minimum grade of C-
  5. CHEM 1013 and CHEM 1023, each completed with a minimum grade of C-


The Honours degree in Biology has three required courses, BIOL 4023 Intellectual Origins, and BIOL 407T and 408T Honours thesis (this is a 2-semester course).


BIOL 407T and 408T 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, an Honours project may begin in the fall (no summer research). Ask your supervisor for options.
  2. Complete a committee Meeting in late September to early October.
  3. Write your thesis. It takes several months to complete so start as soon as possible. It is recommended to start working on your literature review as soon as possible (in summer for those doing summer research, for example).
  4. Defend your thesis in March.
  5. After you have successfully defended your thesis, you most likely will require some revisions before submitting a final version of your thesis to graduate studies. So, be prepared and defend early!
  6. Deliver a 12 minute presentation on your research to the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science during a research symposium (e.g. Impact Conference or BioFeedback) held in the last week of classes in April. Several weeks before the event you must prepare an abstract.
Finding a Supervisor

Before you register in BIOL407T-408T 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 October 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, discussing and presenting your research, and writing up your thesis, regardless of what your topic is. Thus, if your first choice in supervisors/topics is already filled up, look further afield. For example, there have been numerous Honours students who worked in microbiology, plant biology and genetics, who are now working in health and medicine professions.

Many of our former Honours students (now in graduate studies at other universities) acknowledge that their Honours work at Acadia gave them a significant advantage over other students in their current 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 a Provincial agency. However, with an external supervisor, you must still have an internal Acadia supervisor willing to supervise the on-campus components of your Honours (e.g. organize committee meetings and your thesis defense). If an external supervisor is the way to go, there is a form that must be signed by the external and internal supervisors. This is something your supervisor will do, but a reminder is often helpful.


Research projects generally require funding. Funding can come from various sources including research project grants that your supervisor holds, project funding from an organization you may work with, or funding awards you receive directly including Acadia Honours Summer Research Awards (HSRA), Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA), Nova Scotia Scholars Undergraduate Awards, or Webster Undergraduate Research Awards. Information on these awards.

Committee Meeting

Date: Typically held in the last two weeks of September and the first week of October.
Length: 1.5 to 2.0 hours

The major focus of this meeting is a comprehensive discussion on how your thesis fits into the broader scientific landscape. You will start the meeting with a brief overview of your research, including progress to date and plans for completion of the thesis (~ 10 min). The following discussion is meant to provide you with an opportunity to discuss your thesis including how your research fits into biology overall, connections with other areas of biology that you have studied, and directions for future discovery.

Your committee is selected by the Honours Coordinator and consists of the thesis supervisor and two other faculty members and/or graduate students from within the department. External supervisors may participate as an extra examiner if they wish, but they are not required to attend. You are responsible for arranging the time and location of the meeting. Organizing a date and time can take a while so begin this process early. Reserve your room and time with the department secretary once date and time is settled.

Research Symposium

Presentation Date: Held in last week of classes in April
Presentation Length:12 minute presentation, 3 minutes for questions

A research symposium celebrates undergraduate research and is typically the Impact Conference held across the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science. The Honours Coordinator and/or the IMPACT Conference event coordinator will provide a sign-up sheet to allow you to select your presentation time slot. Graduate students run the presentation sessions and they will end your presentation if it goes over 12 minutes! Practice your talk thoroughly to avoid embarrassment.

You must also provide an abstract of your research several weeks before the event. 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 consider going to the Science Atlantic joint Undergraduate Aquaculture & Fisheries and Biology (AFB) Conference (Science Atlantic), which is held in mid-March.

Science Atlantic

You may present your thesis work at Science Atlantic in either the Biology or the Aquaculture and Fisheries section of the Aquaculture & Fisheries and Biology (AFB) Conference held in March. If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies you should take advantage of this valuable opportunity.

The Biology section 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 & Fisheries section 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 occasionally a poster session. 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 contact: Russell Easy

Aquaculture & Fisheries contact: Trevor Avery



You are 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.

You must successfully defend the thesis before your Honours Committee; this is the same committee as your Committee Meeting. You are required to schedule the date and time of your defense. External supervisors are encouraged to participate in the thesis defense even virtually.

At the start of the thesis defense, you are expected to present a short presentation of your project. The summary can be similar to your research symposium presentation, or you may take an entirely different approach. Discuss the content of your thesis presentation with your supervisor.

Typically, the last possible day to schedule a thesis defense is a few days before the Research and Graduate studies thesis submission deadline. Note that there are often many corrections and revisions to be made after the thesis defense and they may take several days to complete. Correct formatting of the thesis is essential. Once revisions are completed, there are a couple of forms to complete including a Thesis Checklist. Then you upload your thesis to the library, your supervisor submits the signed forms, and you are done!

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.

Other Important Information
  • Students entering the Honours program are required to change their program from BSc to BScH in about February if they are applying for USRA or HSRA funding (see below). Permission from your supervisor is required. Please see Lisa Taul (Administrative Assistant) with supervisor permission granted so Lisa can make the program change!
  • Students register for BIOL 407T-408T through the Self-Service portal in June. BIOL407T is in the fall and BIOL408T is in the winter. These courses are co-requisites meaning you will take both.
  • All Honours students are required to take a WHMIS chemical safety course.
  • Some Honours students are required to take Animal Care Certification training.