The senior thesis is the report of a student’s independent research project. Whether based in the laboratory or not, the thesis should demonstrate a solid knowledge of molecular biology and of the problem under analysis. It should move logically from this background to one or more clearly articulated, testable hypotheses.
Most students elect to work in an adviser's laboratory (lab-based thesis). The student works independently but under supervision to plan and conduct experiments to advance scientific knowledge. Students are expected to analyze and interpret critically the results of experiments, to use their results to guide subsequent experiments, and to integrate knowledge from various sources. Students who choose a lab thesis are strongly encouraged (but not required) to participate in our 9-week summer research program after their junior year.
In the non-laboratory-based thesis, the student’s hypotheses are also examined by original research. Original research does not merely consist of a literature review. Rather, students are expected to analyse new or existing data in order to test their hypotheses. Sources of data could include (but are not limited to): online databases chosen in consultation with the thesis adviser, existing experimental data perhaps from the adviser's lab, or new student-initiated surveys or ethnographic studies.
All Molecular Biology theses provide a complete statement of the study’s methods, a report of results, relevant tables or figures, and (as appropriate) tests of significance. The thesis is capped by a discussion that frames and summarizes the research question(s), places the results in the context of existing knowledge, analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the research, and suggests future directions for research in that area.
Each thesis is read and graded by the student's adviser and two other faculty members. In addition to submitting the thesis document, students are required to present their work to the two non-adviser thesis readers in a 30-minute oral exam. The adviser and readers use a grading rubric for each component. There are separate rubrics for the oral exam, lab thesis, non-lab thesis, and computational thesis.
Guidelines for preparing and submitting the thesis, important dates, and additional information and advice can be found in the Guide to Independent Work.
If you need an extension, you must contact Professor Tom Silhavy.
Extensions beyond the University’s submission deadline (April 30) can only be granted by your college Dean with the approval of the Undergraduate Studies Committee. Any extensions past the Dean’s date (May 5) must be approved by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.
Copies of senior theses from 2001 to the present are housed at Mudd Library.
- Current Senior Lab Assignments
- Class of 2020 Senior Thesis Abstracts
- Office of Undergraduate Research: Independent Work Information
- Undergraduate Admission "The Senior Thesis"
- The thesis: quintessentially Princeton