Honors Program

If you find that you enjoy research and want the experience of being the author on a thesis manuscript, consider doing a research honors thesis in your senior year. As an honors candidate, you take the lead on a research project, guided by your thesis mentor, and are responsible for communication of the result to the Cornell community. The experience, while demanding, is great preparation for graduate school or a research career. The E&S Research Honors program is open to E&S major students from the College of Arts and Sciences, and to all students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who are doing research with an environment or sustainability focus in the arts, social science, physical and life sciences, humanities and more. Applicants must have a cumulative Cornell GPA of 3.0 or higher at the time of entry.

Reach out if you would like to explore whether your research is a good fit for the E&S honors program.

Program Overview

Ideally, candidates start their thesis research in their junior year. Students doing research abroad or off campus rely on winter and summer breaks to collect data at their field sites.

Your final thesis must be completed by mid-April in your senior spring semester for May graduates (very early December for December graduates). The thesis manuscript is submitted for formal review to the E&S Honors Committee. Candidates give a public presentation (oral or poster) in their final semester. Once the thesis is formally accepted, CALS candidates graduate with Distinction in Research on their diploma. Latin Honors in CALS is awarded separately based on GPA. In Arts & Sciences, candidates are awarded Latin Honors on their diploma for successful completion of a thesis. 

Theses can encompass the broad range of E&S concentrations. Accordingly, E&S theses represent this broad range of intellectual disciplines and have a variety of formats in alignment with the typical scholarly products of those respective disciplines. You can see examples of honors theses on eCommons, a public Cornell database. Only theses for which authors have given a Release to Publish will be found on eCommons. 

Honors Timeline

The E&S Honors application has two parts: 1) the application and 2) thesis proposal (1 - 2 pages) consisting of a description of your thesis question, what is known about it (reference a few key papers if possible), and your methodology for studying the topic (e.g. literature analysis, experimental work, case studies, personal interviews, etc.).


Junior Year

  1. Identify a thesis advisor and research topic.
  2. Apply to the E&S Honors Program no later than the start of your senior year (September 16 deadline for both December and May graduates). If it is difficult to submit by this date, please contact Prof. Irby Lovette (IJL2), Chair, E&S Honors Committee, to discuss.

Senior Year

  1. There are no formal or required classes associated with completing an honors thesis in E&S. Most honors candidates enroll in Special Studies 4990 - Undergraduate Research, in consultation with their thesis advisor, to receive credit for research work done in fall and/or spring. Enroll in research credits using the CALS Special Studies form available online. You may select the home department of your thesis supervisor to enroll in 4990 related to their field (e.g. NTRES 4990), or you may choose ENVS 4990. [Note: On the Special Studies form, choose ENVS as the home department of your supervisor in order to enroll in ENVS credits.] Arts & Sciences candidates, enroll in ENVS credits to receive AS credit! However, It is NOT required to enroll in research credits to submit an honors thesis.
  2. Attend one fall and one spring honors cohort meeting with the E&S Honors Coordinator. Dates TBD.
  3. Submit a progress report and annotated bibliography in late fall. Due date will be announced at the start of fall semester.
  4. The target date for the formal thesis submission is April 15. You do not have all of spring semester to finish your final manuscript.
  5. By the end of classes, candidates will receive thesis feedback and have an opportunity to revise their writing.
  6. By the end of finals, candidates have the opportunity to submit an updated version of their thesis.
  7. Honors candidates participate in and present the findings of their thesis project in a public forum in their semester of graduation.
  8. Authors may volunteer to publish their original honors research on eCommons, Cornell’s digital repository, as long as doing so does not interfere with other plans, such as patenting or publishing in a professional journal. A permission form to allow a thesis to be made available online in eCommons can be obtained from the E&S honors program coordinator.
E&S honors graduate Pamela Wildstein sits behind a desk at COP25
E&S honors graduate Pamela Wildstein '20, at the 2019 U.N. Climate Conference in Chile (COP25) where she interacted with leaders in the energy field for her thesis research on distributed energy resources (DERs).