Graduation With Distinction


The Physics Department offers an honors program that can lead to graduation with distinction or with high distinction based on academic excellence and on excellence in research as judged by a committee of physics faculty. The honors program requires writing a thesis followed by defending the thesis. Examples of physics theses can be found here. These requirements and procedures apply to both physics and biophysics degrees.

A physics major can also graduate with Latin honors, which is based on the student's grade point average and does not require any research. Details about Latin honors can found on the Registrar's webpage Academic Recognition and Honors.

Students doing senior thesis may wish to register for PHYSICS 495, an independent study course. However this is not required. 


To enter the Physics honors program, a student must:

  1. Identify a faculty mentor who will guide the student in research. This is best done before the beginning of the senior fall semester.

  2. Have an overall grade point average of at least 3.0 at the beginning of the senior year.
  3. Have a grade point average based on physics courses of at least 3.0 at the beginning of the senior year.
  4. Fill out an Intent to Graduate with Department Distinction form and then meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to get signed approval of the form. This approval should ideally be obtained before the end of the junior spring semester, but can be submitted until end of drop/add in the spring semester of the senior year.  (Note that if student is taking a thesis independent study course, a separate independent study form is required to register for this course.)


To graduate with distinction, you must:

  1. Complete all requirements for the B. A. or B. S. degree in physics.
  2. Finish the senior year with an overall grade point average of at least 3.0.
  3. Finish the senior year with a grade point average based on physics courses of at least 3.0.
  4. Complete a substantial research project under the guidance of a faculty member.
  5. Document the research in the form of a carefully written thesis that is consistent in style and quality with a published journal article as described here. Successfully defended theses may be posted on the Department's website.
  6. Orally present and defend the thesis during a two-hour exam that is administered by a thesis committee that consists of three faculty members. This defense must take place before the final day of classes for the spring semester. Further information about the honors defense can be found here.
  7. Present a poster summarizing the thesis research at the annual student poster session of the Physics Department. The poster session usually takes place the week during which spring classes end.

To graduate with high distinction, you must:

  • Complete all of the above requirements, plus, the the thesis committee must further unanimously agree by vote that the work you've done, as demonstrated during the oral defense and by the written thesis, represents exceptional quality and originality.