Biological Engineering Undergraduate Thesis

Important Documents

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 at

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?

  • You must submit a thesis proposal form and 1 page proposal to your faculty research advisor for approval.  Once approved, send your signed form and proposal to the end of spring term junior year and no later than add date of fall term senior year.

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 ≤ 15 credits). Amount should be decided in consultation with thesis advisor and is typically related to the number of hours a student plans to spend in the lab.  Most students sign up for 12 units of 20.THU in the Fall and Spring terms of their senior year.
    • You cannot receive both thesis credit and UROP credit/pay in the same term.  The only exception is if you are doing a thesis on project X in one lab and a UROP on project Y in another field.  In order to do this, both projects need to be on diverse topics and in different fields, and the combined number of credits received for UROP and thesis projects cannot exceed 15 credits per semester.
    • In the Fall term senior year, students have the option of doing senior thesis work as a UROP for pay or 20.THU for credit.  For the spring term, students will have to register for 20.THU for credit and cannot be paid through UROP funds for this work.
  • 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.
  • Znaty and Merck Prizes: All senior theses will be considered for the Znaty and Merck Research Prizes for Undergraduate Research in BE.


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.
  • Students are encouraged (but not required) to pursue research in their thesis lab.
Senior Year
  • 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.
  • BE Communication Lab holds seminars or working sessions with all thesis students to assess research progress thus far, review expectations and models for written thesis, and draft content.
  • Students present research updates at the end of month.
  • 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”
      • All senior theses will be considered for the Znaty and Merck Research Prizes.
    • 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.