Honours and Undergraduate Student Awards Committee

(Subcommittee of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee)

The committee will consist typically of; an administrative executive, advisors for the Biology honours programmes, advisors for the Honours Marine and Marine Co-op programmes, and coordinators of the 4900 class (class coordinators should also be familiar with programme regulations).

Responsibilities of the Committee:

  1. Advising students about honours programmes, determining their admissibility and monitoring their progress (different individuals advising for the Biology and Marine programmes); any changes to honours programmes must be approved by the department and science faculty's curriculum committees; administrative executive maintains all files of registered honours students.

  2. Procedure:

    • Although students are not normally signed into BIOLOGY honours  programmes until their 3rd. year after they have completed most of their core class requirements, earned the required GPA standing and have arranged for a supervisor of their honours research project, they are encouraged to seek advice from the Admin. Exec. early, often at the end of their first year.  In their third year, they meet with a Biology Advisor who reviews their courses and grades, lists all the courses required to complete their programme and approves their official application. MARINE students, particularly Co-ops necessarily must be signed into the programme earlier. These students meet with the Marine or Marine Co-op Advisors.
    • All advisors participate in the University’s annual advising sessions as well as make themselves available for advice during the summer.

    • At the beginning of their 4th year, the programmes of all the Biology students are reviewed by the Administrative Executive, those of the Marine Students are reviewed by the Marine Advisor and those of the Marine Co-ops are reviewed by the Marine Co-op Advisor.  Students are notified immediately of  any possible problems which may prevent them from graduating in May.

    • Occasionally requests for waivers of specific course requirements are considered by the committee.  The student submits a request electronically to any committee member who then forwards this through the entire committee. Decisions are made according to the majority response.  The Administrative Executive maintain a record of waivers given and denied so that there can be consistency in the rendering of decisions.

  3. Revising calendar entries, guidelines to supervisors and honours students, and informational brochures and Web information as required.

  4. Coordinating the Biology 4900 class, handling all the activities of the class and the students' records and their progress; evaluating the students’ class presentations and giving them a grade/10.
  5.             Procedure:

    • Three individuals commit to coordinating the class and attending all weekly sessions; usually the Admin. Exec. plus two others.
    • The Admin. Exec. maintains all the class records
    • The Admin. Exec. creates a WebCT Course site for the class. All of the coordinators of the class have access to this site and can participate in the bulletin board discussions.

  6. Determining the suitability of new external supervisors
    Procedure for having an external, non Biology Faculty scientist approved to serve as a Biology or Marine Biology honours supervisor.  This information is in both the Students’ and Supervisors’ Guides to the Thesis and is posted on the honours web site.

    1. The student meets with a member of the honours committee to discuss the potential external.  If the external has regularly supervised Biology or Marine Biology honours students (see the list of previous externals), s/he will be automatically approved.

    2. If the external has never, or rarely supervised Biology or Marine Biology honours students, the committee member will request that the student provide: 
      Confirmation from the proposed external that s/he is a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University. If the scientist is a member of this faculty, s/he will be automatically approved to serve as an honours supervisor. If the external is NOT a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University, the student will be asked to provide to the Honours committee:

    3. i.    The qualifications, i.e., professional position of the supervisor.
      ii.   The academic degrees obtained by the supervisor.
      iii.  A list of recent publications.

  7. Reviewing and approving all honours thesis research proposals.

  8. Procedure:

    • The Guidelines for the format of the Honours Thesis Proposal are included in the Students’ and Supervisors’ Guide to the Thesis and are posted on the Honours Web site.
    • Students are told to submit a proposal before starting their work, hence the Admin. Exec. emails all students who are working in the department in the summer with NSERC or Sarah Lawson research awards and also Marine Co-op students who join the 4900 class in January, reminding them to have their projects approved before starting their research.  The rest of the students are given a deadline in late September/early October of their final year for submitting their proposals.
    • The proposals which are submitted outside of the regular fall term are submitted to the Admin. Exec. as an attachment to an email. The Admin Exec. forwards these to the committee, and once 2-3 people have responded, the comments are sent to the student. The proposals which are submitted in the fall are divided among the committee members and are usually assessed by just one member. The hard copies are returned to the students.
  9. Coordinating the evaluations of the honours theses and determining a final grade for the students for Biology 4900 or 4901 & 4902; this involves several responsibilities:
  10. A.     Considering requests for extensions until August 1 for submitting theses

    • The following regulations for obtaining an extension are included in both the Students’ and Supervisors’ Guides to the Honours thesis and are posted on the honours web site.

    • Extensions for submitting theses will be granted only on the basis of 1) a medical excuse, or 2) a letter from your supervisor arguing that extreme, unavoidable circumstances caused a delay in completion.

    • Requests for extensions must be submitted, in writing, to the Honours Committee by one week before the due date for submitting the theses. Theses which are submitted after the official deadline will be evaluated for FALL CONVOCATION ONLY.

    • Being given an extension only means that the honours committee will record INC. and not F for 4900 and will still circulate your thesis for evaluation as long as it is submitted by August 1.

    • The requests are sent electronically to any member of the committee who forwards them to the rest of the committee. Although the committee strongly discourages extensions, in practice it supports all requests which are supported by the students’ supervisors.

    B.  Selecting readers for the honours theses.


    • The entire committee meets to select thesis readers. The policy for choosing readers has been that only individuals who have a formal appointment with the department (regular faculty, adjuncts, Honorary Research Associates), or current external supervisors of students can be expected to evaluate honours students’ theses. Post-docs, sessionals, limited term appointees can also be asked to review theses but they are offered an honorarium of $25. Each reader should be assigned NO MORE than three theses in addition to those of their own students. Readers are NOT given advance notice of which and how many theses they will be assigned although as soon as the assignments have been determined, the Admin. Exec. posts on the honours bulletin board, the list of readers for both the benefit of the readers and the students.

    C.  Circulating the three copies of the theses, collecting the grades, and returning theses and evaluations to the students


    • The Admin. Exec. coordinates all of these activities.
    • Readers are given three weeks from the time that the theses are due to return their evaluations and grades.
    • Students get back all of the original evaluation sheets from the readers.

    D.  Determining students’ final grades for Biology 4900 or 4901 & 4902


    • The entire committee reviews the spreadsheet of the final thesis grades (prepared by the Administrative Executive) and discusses any cases in which a simple mean calculation of the thesis grade may not be the best option -, i.e., cases in which the grade spread is large. It is at the discretion of the committee to discard an outlying grade, accept the outlier and take a mean, or select another reader. If a 3rd evaluation cannot be attained for a student, it is the discretion of the committee to decide whether to accept the two evaluations which it has or select another reader. All of these decisions must be made quickly since final grades are always due at that time.
    • The Administrative Executive submits the final grades to the Registrar.

    E.  Preparing the theses for binding by the main office

    • The Admin. Exec. compiles the indices for the combined bound theses and passes the copies to the staff in the Biology Main office in September once all the theses have been submitted. The staff arrange to have the theses bound.

  11. Reviewing all final honours recommendations for graduation and selecting the winners of the University Medal in Biology and the Medal in Marine Biology
  12.             Procedure:

    • The Administrative Executive reviews the programmes of all Biology students, the Marine Advisor reviews all Marine students and the Marine Co-op Advisor reviews all those of the Marine Co-op students. Each reviewer insures that forms which have to be approved by other departments are sent to them in sufficient time for them to complete their assessments and return the forms to the Registrar. The Marine advisors pass all their signed recommendations to the Administrative Executive who makes copies to be put into the students’ files and returns the originals to the Registrar by the due date.

    • Each reviewer consults with the entire committee on cases in which the students may not be recommended for graduation with an honours degree if they involve inadequate GPA levels in the Biology or Marine Biology required classes, or failure of the students to take a required class. (Unless the required class was not listed on the students’ original approved honours application.  In those cases, the student is approved as the error was not theirs but was that of whoever originally approved their programme.)

    • The policy for the required 3.0 GPA in the required classes is that rounding up will only occur with GPAs 2.95, but the entire committee should be consulted on this on each occasion.

    • The Administrative Executive crosschecks the list of students for whom the Registrar sent honours recommendation forms for approval against the list of students in the honours class.  Regularly there are a few students who are overlooked for consideration for graduation and these must be found quickly to ensure that they are not disappointed on Convocation day.

    • The Administrative Executive determines the winners of the University Medals using the GPA values in the two main subject areas which are calculated by the Registrar and sent to the Administrative Executive.  The highest GPAs in Biology and Marine each are awarded the University Medals.

  13. Annually hosting the Cameron Conference for Honours students
  14.             Procedure:

    • The Administrative Executive coordinates the event and committee members volunteer for various activities

  15. Recommending students to participate in the AUUBC conference, and if possible, escorting the students  - although the departmental representative on APICS, and thus to the AUUBC, belongs to the Public Relations Committee
  16.             Procedure:

    • The participants at the AUUBC are selected from students who offer to attend and present. The past several years the selection has been done by a random drawing.
    • In 2003 an APICS representative was selected who is not a member of the honours committee

  17. Determining the recipients of the following undergraduate awards and scholarships:
    NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Awards
  18. Procedure:

    • The Administrative Executive collects and compiles the applications and submits the information to the Faculty of Science.  A representative from the committee attends the Faculty of Science final selection meeting.

    Sarah Lawson Research Awards
                David Andrew Dougall Memorial Bursary
                Hugh P. Bell Scholarship
                Gary Hicks Memorial Award
                Hua and Yuh Prizes in Biology
                Alex Graham Memorial Award


    • The Administrative Executive advertises for applications for each of these awards, compiles the applications and arranges a meeting with the entire committee when the winners are determined.  The selection criteria for each of the awards can be found in the Awards List and Information which the Administrative Executive has compiled since 1988.
    • NOTE:  a non-voting executive member of DAMS who has not applied for the Graham award is invited to the selection meeting
    • The Administrative Executive notifies the Departmental Administrative Officer and the Chair of the department of the winners and the respective values of each award.
    • The Admin. Exec. also maintains records of the recipients of the following Biology awards which are determined by the Instructors for the courses for which these are awarded:

    - David Durwood Memorial Prize for top student in Physiology of Marine Animals (Biology 3071)
    -  Ming Fang Li Memorial Prize in Marine Biology for top 3rd. year Marine Co-op student
    -  B’nai B’rith Prize for Biology 1000
    -  Ogden Memorial Prize for top student in Limnology (Biology 4068)

    • Each May the Administrative Executive provides the Faculty of Science with the names of the recipients of all the Biology Awards for the previous academic year to be included in the Faculty’s Convocation issue of Science Fax.

  19. The Administrative Executive prepares and submits to COW the committeeannual report.

  20. The Administrative Executive compiles and provides when requested the information to be included in the Departmental Bi-Annual Report regarding the graduating honours students each year.

Prepared February 1995
Revised May 2003

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