The Botany Department believes that writing a thesis/report based on original research can be one of the most valuable experiences of an undergraduate career. The conception, execution, and analysis of a research project in collaboration with a faculty advisor can help one integrate knowledge gained from a variety of sources and apply it to a specific problem. Writing a lucid closely reasoned report on this original work can itself be one of the more useful aspects of the experience. A thesis/report provides an opportunity for extensive, one-on-one contact with a faculty member, as well as first-hand experience with the nature of scientific research; for some students it may serve as a stepping stone to graduate school and a scientific career. For all these reasons the Department thus requires all undergraduates majoring in Botany to write a senior thesis or report based on original research. A senior thesis is a large, independent research project that students take on during their senior year of college to fulfill their graduation requirement. It is the culminating work of their studies at a particular institution, and it represents their ability to conduct research and write effectively.
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Majors are required to complete an independent research project. All projects are to be plant-focused, include a writing intensive component, and require depositing a written report/thesis with the student services coordinator. You need to arrange to have one of the Botany faculty either supervise your project or be willing to grade a project done under the guidance of an approved mentor elsewhere.
Criteria for allowing a course to count toward our requirement include ALL of the following:
- The course must be at least three credits
- The course must involve original, independent botanically focused research in the lab or field
- The course involves writing a substantial paper or report that is deposited with the student services coordinator.
Options for completing the independent research requirement for the Botany major
- Senior Thesis. Students enroll for 4 to 6 credits of Senior Thesis (Botany 691 and 692) OR 6 credits of Senior Honors Thesis (Botany 681 and 682) over a period of 2 semesters, typically in their senior year.
- Directed Study. Students enroll for a minimum of 3 credits of Directed Study (Botany 699) over a period of 1 or 2 semesters, typically during their last 3 semesters.
- Botany Field Research Course. Students enroll in an occasionally offered field course (e.g., under Botany 575; capstone course) that has independent plant-focused research and intensive writing components. IF the course can be used to fulfill the research requirement for the Botany major, it will be documented in The Guide under “notes” for that particular sectioned course.
- Independent Research Outside of Botany Department. Students enroll in independent plant-focused research or thesis courses from other departments (e.g., 699) or universities (if studying abroad). The student is required to check with Senior Thesis Coordinator (David Baum) about the suitability of the course to fulfill research experience for the Botany major.
To initiate the requirement of this independent research experience, a research plan signed by student and faculty mentor must be submitted to the Student Services Coordinator (Mark Connolly) prior to authorization for enrollment. To complete the requirement of this independent research experience, the final written report or thesis (signed by faculty research mentor) must be electronically submitted to the student services coordinator by the end of the student’s final semester. The report or thesis should have a cover page with the title, date of submission and the signature of your faculty advisor. The faculty mentor may permit, in lieu of a written report, the depositing of a powerpoint presentation (with details of hypothesis, methods, results, discussion) given at a lab meeting or conference.
There are a number of funding opportunities available to undergraduates to help support research projects.
The Grants Information Center in Memorial Library has sources of information on scholarships, loans and grants available to individuals. The collection includes a sampling of books, periodicals, and databases on fundraising and proposal writing.
Some funding programs available:
Honors Programs in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the College of Letters & Science support student research. Check with the college’s honors department for information on these.
Hilldale & Holstrom Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship
The Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowships support undergraduate research done in collaboration with UW–Madison faculty or research/instructional academic staff. Approximately 97 – 100 Hilldale awards are available each year.
Deadline is usually in February of each year.
University Book Store Academic Excellence Award
Supported by a generous grant from the University Book Store, this award recognizes undergraduate students who have completed an outstanding independent project, such as a senior thesis, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Projects in all academic fields are eligible.
Application deadline usually in the beginning of March of each year.
The research thesis or report is to have one-inch margins and double spaced. If you expect to publish in a particular journal, follow the format prescribed by the journal. Consult with your senior thesis advisor for his/her preferred style. If your mentor does not have a preferred style, use the requirements for the journal Science. We have a standard Title Page format that you should use. An example is available the Student Services Coordinators office in Birge 139. You must provide one copy to your senior thesis advisor and one copy to the student services coordinator (an electronic version is fine, but MUST INCLUDE the cover page signed by your faculty thesis advisor.
How do I pick a senior thesis topic?
Discuss possibilities with a faculty or TA who have taught courses that you found interesting. Attend a Colloquium or Talk (Biology/Ecology/Evolution or other) to find faculty interests and possible project topics. Review the Faculty list and their areas of research on the Botany website.
When should I start thinking about fulfilling this requirement?
Students should begin planning as soon as possible but no later than their first semester of their junior year. If given enough time, a faculty member may be able to help secure funding through one of the funding sources listed.
How do I get in touch with a faculty member?
One way to introduce yourself to faculty is to write a letter of introduction via email with include your interests. Also provide a resume including your course work, grades and work experiences, etc. Stating how many hours per week you have available and when you plan to do your research. Follow-up by visiting their office hours, by phone or email.
Can I complete this requirement over the summer?
If you are registering for senior thesis, only one semester of senior thesis may be taken during the summer 8-week session. However, the same required number of hours as a regular semester is required for the same number of credits. (i.e. two credits in the regular semester is at least 90 hours, you would have to complete at least 90 hours per credit in the eight-week session.)
I wanted to spend a semester during my senior year abroad, can I complete my requirement while overseas?
Yes, you can. You have to plan ahead by choosing the program or university you will be attending, discussing the program with the study abroad advisors and talking to the Senior Thesis Coordinator (Prof. David Baum) about approvals. You will have to provide information for approval and documentation after your semester abroad if any DARS exceptions need to be made on your record.