Honours Thesis Course

The Honours Thesis Course (BIOL537/12.0) is one of the capstone experiences offered to Biology students. It allows students to work on their own independent research project under the supervision of a faculty member in the Biology Department or from a professor cross-appointed to the Biology Department. Students will have the opportunity to gain experience in the full range of research activity in Biology including project design, data analysis and interpretation, literature review, scientific writing, oral presentation and interactive collaboration with colleagues.  Assessment is based in part on the submission and defence of a thesis.  The Honours Thesis Course is particularly valuable hands-on experience for students who are planning to go on to pursue scientific research in graduate school and/or a career involving scientific research.

We strongly encourage all students interested in conducting independent research to apply.  Queen’s University and Queen’s Biology are committed to equity and diversity in all programs and activities and welcomes applications from women, visible minorities, BIPOC, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ persons.  The experiences offered by the BIOL537 program are valuable for a wide range of career paths. Students from all backgrounds are strongly encouraged to consider the BIOL537 program.

Eligibility Students must be in a Biology Honours (BSCH) program to enrol in BIOL537, and must have an offer of mentorship from a faculty member. Since students are not just taking a course but are also collaborating in the research program of a faculty member, faculty make BIOL537 offers to students based on their application (see below). 

Students are registered in BIOL537 during the fall and winter terms.  Depending on the requirements of the project, however, some students may begin their BIOL537 research in the previous spring / summer terms.  Often, this opportunity is combined with employment as a summer technician in the supervisor’s research lab.  Note, however, that students and their supervisors must ensure that the student’s application for the course has been approved (see below) before the student commences work on a BIOL537 project.

Workload expectations  Since the course is worth 12.0 units, students are normally expected to devote approximately 40% of their academic time to BIOL537 over the fall and winter terms, although this may be negotiated with the supervisor depending on the employment arrangements and amount of work accomplished in the previous summer.

Application  Application is usually made in March while students are in their third year.  At that time, students are notified about the application process.  The details will include a list of faculty who are interested in supervising BIOL537 research projects, possible project descriptions and contact information.   Once you have decided which faculty and research areas you are interested in,  you can fill in the application form (see below).  Sometime later in the winter term (usually end of March), applicants are notified regarding their acceptance in BIOL537.

Combined MSc/BScH Program This program provides the opportunity for Biology 537 Honour’s students who carry first-class standing to expedite their progress through an MSc degree, typically shortening the MSc program by two academic terms (see full details).

BIOL537 Application Form 2023-2024

BIOL537 Offers List for 2023-2024


I've spent more time than many will believe [making microscopic observations], but I've done them with joy, and I've taken no notice those who have said why take so much trouble and what good is it?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

It's a parts list... If I gave you the parts list for the Boeing 777 and it had 100,000 parts, I don't think you could screw it together and you certainly wouldn't understand why it flew

Eric Lander

What is true for E. coli is also true for the elephant

Jacques Monod

The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism

Richard Dawkins

Shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life?

Erasmus Darwin

Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it's impossible to determine the line of demarcation


Cells let us walk, talk, think, make love, and realize the bath water is cold

Lorraine Lee Cudmore

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history

Charles Darwin

It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum

J. Craig Venter

Imagine a house coming together spontaneously from all the information contained in the bricks: that is how animal bodies are made

Neil Shubin

A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die - which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct

Charles Darwin

The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied, downloaded and scanned

Steven Pinker

We wish to discuss a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biologic interest

Rosalind Franklin

We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget

Mary Roach

The systems approach to biology will be the dominant theme in medicine

Leroy Hood

I've always been interested in animal behavior, and I keep reading about it because it's so surprising all the time - so many things are happening around us that we neglect to look at. Part of the passion I have for biology is based on this wonderment"

Isabella Rossellini

Because all of biology is connected, one can often make a breakthrough with an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and later explore the generality

Thomas Cech

Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky

Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the twenty-first century

- Freeman Dyson

Nothing can be more incorrect than the assumption one sometimes meets with, that physics has one method, chemistry another, and biology a third

- Thomas Huxley