Biological Engineering Undergraduate Thesis

Important Documents

As of January 2017, BE Juniors seeking to pursue exceptionally in-depth research and scientific communication will have the opportunity to pursue an Undergraduate Thesis.

Over the course of Senior year, accepted students will write a thesis based on their research, and receive opportunities for public presentation of their work. Support for project management and communication will be provided by both students’ faculty research advisors and the BE Communication Lab.

Consider pursuing a senior thesis if you would like a structured opportunity to...

  • engage more deeply with your research,
  • strengthen your written and oral communication skills,
  • prepare for graduate school,
  • and receive support in formalizing your research, potentially enabling publication.

For questions, please contact the BE Academic Office, Undergraduate Programs at be-sb@mit.edu.

What are the eligibility requirements for applying to do a thesis?

  • By the end of Junior year, you must have completed at least 1 semester of research in a laboratory of interest,
  • and received verbal approval from your faculty advisor to pursue a thesis.

How do I apply to do a thesis?

  • In Junior spring, you must write and submit a thesis proposal to your faculty advisor for approval.

What if I have less than 1 semester of research experience in my desired lab in junior year, or decide later than junior year that I want to do a thesis?

  • If in doubt of eligibility, you may petition to be considered to still pursue a thesis.

What support would I receive as a thesis student?

  • Faculty advisors will be expected to meet with thesis students at least once a month to discuss progress and provide feedback.
  • The BE Communication Lab will provide support for all thesis students, potentially including group workshops, group writing and feedback sessions, and individual mentorship by BE Communication Fellows.

What rewards or recognition would I receive as a thesis student?

  • Credit: Thesis students can receive up to 15 credits for thesis research per semester of senior year (where thesis credits + any UROP credits ≤ 15 credits). Amount should be decided in consultation with thesis advisor.
    • If you wish to receive both thesis credit and UROP credit/pay, you cannot reward yourself from both sources for the same hours of work. e.g., 8 hours of lab research + 2 hours of thesis-writing per week should correspond to 8 hours of UROP compensation and 2 hours of thesis credit.
  • Grading: The thesis will be graded by the student’s faculty advisor at the end of senior year.
  • Recognition: Thesis students will receive at least one opportunity to present their research publicly, and thesis titles and abstracts will be published on the departmental website. Theses receiving an A will receive the title of ”Senior Thesis with Distinction,” which can be listed in students’ resumes/CV’s.
  • Printed theses: BE will pay for the printing and binding of thesis copies for both the student and their laboratory.

Can I receive UROP credit or pay at the same time as thesis credit?

  • No, the UROP office states: “Although it is not uncommon for UROP research to eventually become thesis work, students conducting research when they are registered for thesis credit may not earn UROP pay or credit for that research during the same term.”
  • You may receive funding from non-UROP sources at the same time that you receive thesis credit.

Timeline

Junior Year
End of spring semester
  • Student will have worked in intended thesis lab for at least 1 semester.
  • Student receives approval from advisor to pursue thesis.
  • Student works on thesis proposal with advisor.
    • Thesis Proposal Guidelines (pdf)
    • Advisor evaluates research significance, design, and feasibility.
    • Advisor returns written evaluation.
    • Student completes any necessary revisions.
    • Advisor approves thesis, and student notifies Undergraduate Academic Office, cc’ing the advisor.
  • The Undergraduate Academic Office will compile a list of approved thesis students and notify BE Communication Lab.
Summer
  • Student are encouraged (but not required) to pursue research in thesis lab.
Senior Year
Fall
  • Add Date: Student registers for 20.THU, such that thesis credits + any UROP credits ≤ 15 credits.
  • Student works in lab and begins to receive communication and project management support from BE Communication Lab (e.g., monthly meeting with a Communication Fellow mentor).
  • Student meets with thesis advisor at least monthly.
IAP
  • BE Communication Lab holds seminars or working sessions with all thesis students to assess research process thus far, review expectations and models for written thesis, and draft content.
  • Students present research updates at end of month.
Spring
  • Add Date: Student registers for 20.THU, such that thesis credits + any UROP credits ≤ 15 credits.
  • April: (3 weeks prior to standard non-PhD thesis due date, e.g., 5/12) Student submits first draft to advisor and BE Communication Lab.
    • Advisor returns comments within 2 weeks.
  • April: Thesis students present work, potentially as highlighted presenters at the Undergraduate Research Symposium.
  • May: Student submits final draft by standard non-PhD thesis due date..
    • By last day of final exams: Thesis advisor evaluates and grades thesis.
    • Awards and recognition
      • All thesis titles and abstracts showcased on BE website.
      • Students who receive an A receive the title of “Senior Thesis with Distinction”
      • Advisors can nominate theses for Znaty-Merck Prize.
    • Publication
      • Thesis Office pays to print bound copies of thesis for advisor and student.
      • Students with no IP concerns can submit their theses to D-Space.