School of
Integrative Biology

Graduation with Distinction

Requirements, Procedures and Deadlines for Integrative Biology Majors

2020-2021 Academic Year

Many undergraduate students in the Integrative Biology major carry out undergraduate research. To provide recognition of senior students in the Integrative Biology major who have demonstrated excellence in research while maintaining overall academic excellence, the School of Integrative Biology awards graduation honors of "Distinction for Excellence in Research" in three categories based on quality of research: Distinction, High Distinction, and Highest Distinction. The final transcript and diploma will note if a student earned distinction and at what level.

Use this link to obtain an application for graduating with for Excellence in Research in Integrative Biology (.docx reader).

How to Get Involved in Undergraduate Research for Distinction Consideration

Since good research requires intensive effort, you should plan to get started as soon as you can. Past experience indicates that one-semester projects rarely succeed in producing substantial results. Two-semester projects may succeed, but three-to-four semester projects are more likely to be successful. First decide what your area of interest is, then talk to potential faculty advisors in that area to arrange a research project. Individual departments have more detailed information about faculty research interests. Suggestions for how to get involved in research are available on the SIB Undergraduate Research page. When you have found an advisor and the two of you have agreed on a project, the professor will have you enroll under an independent study rubric (IB 390 or IB 490, with the latter course letter graded). You must be signed up for IB 490 prior to or during the semester you intend to graduate.

If you wish to pursue a research project in the laboratory of a professor at Illinois who is not affiliated with an IB department, you must obtain approval from the School’s Associate Director of Academic Affairs before you start your project. You must have an "advisor-of-note" in an IB department before you begin your research. Details on how to arrange this are presented on the webpage, Working with Non-SIB Faculty and Other Researchers. Please do not wait until your research is underway or you’re in your last semester if you are conducting research with a non-SIB faculty member, otherwise you may not be eligible for distinction.

Specific Requirements for All Submission Dates

To be considered for Distinction for Excellence in Research in Integrative Biology, you must be enrolled as an Integrative Biology Major and meet the following requirements:

  • Completed 2 or more semesters of IB 390 or IB 490 for 2 credit hours or more each semester and taken IB 490 prior to or during the semester you intend to graduate.
  • Maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA within the major at the end of your penultimate semester.
  • Be on the graduation list for that semester you intend to graduate.
  • Have a completed Distinction Evaluation Form submitted by your faculty research advisor.

To be eligible for graduation with Distinction for Excellence in Research you must also give a poster presentation at the University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium or other approved venue. The latter must be approved by the Chair of SIB’s Distinction Committee or the Associate Director of Academic Affairs. There is no requirement to do an oral presentation or submit a final research paper. The award of Distinction will be determined by the Distinction Committee based on the poster presentation and faculty research advisor’s evaluation.

To be eligible for graduation with High or Highest Distinction for Excellence in Research you must also submit a written final research paper and give an oral presentation at the University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, the School’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, or other approved venue. The latter must be approved by the Chair of SIB’s Distinction Committee or the Associate Director of Academic Affairs. The level of distinction awarded will be determined by the Distinction Committee based on the written thesis, the oral presentation, and the faculty research advisor’s evaluation. When warranted, the level of Distinction for Excellence in Research may also be considered.

Submission Dates

December 2020 additional requirements and deadlines
(dates subject to change)
11:00 AM, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 Submit the application form, along with a page that provides the tentative title of the research paper or poster and a one-paragraph summary to Staci Baxley, 286 Morrill Hall, slsears@illinois.edu. This information is needed by the Distinction Committee to determine the number and disciplinary distribution of papers and posters to be reviewed.
11:00 AM, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 If you wish to be considered for High or Highest Distinction for Excellence in Research, submit final paper as a PDF file to slsears@illinois.edu and one hard copy to Staci Baxley, 286 Morrill Hall.
11:00 AM, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020

Advisor submits completed Distinction Evaluation Form as a PDF file or Word document to slsears@illinois.edu.

Poster and paper presentations will be conducted virtually over Zoom, with the date and time set after Nov. 20 and with mutual agreement among all presenters. If the poster or paper will be presented elsewhere, the venue must be approved by the Chair of the Distinction Committee or the School's Associate Director of Academic Affairs beforehand.

May 2021 additional requirements and deadlines
(dates subject to change)
11:00 AM, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 Submit the application form, along with a page that provides the tentative title of the research paper or poster and a one-paragraph summary to Staci Baxley, 286 Morrill Hall, slsears@illinois.edu. This information is needed by the Distinction Committee to determine the number and disciplinary distribution of papers and posters to be reviewed.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 Submit the first draft of your research paper or poster to your faculty research advisor.
11:00 AM, Thursday, Mar. 25, 2021 Submit final paper as a PDF file to slsears@illinois.edu and one hard copy to Staci Baxley, 286 Morrill Hall.
11:00 AM, Thursday, Mar. 25, 2021 Advisor submits completed Distinction Evaluation Form as a PDF file or Word document to slsears@illinois.edu
Dates to be announced Give a poster or 15 minute power-point presentation of your research at a research symposium or other approved venue. The campus Undergraduate Research Symposium is typically held the last week in April.
August 2021 additional requirements and deadlines
(dates subject to change)
11:00 AM, Friday, July 16, 2021 Submit the application form, along with a page that provides the tentative title of the research paper or poster and a one-paragraph summary to Staci Baxley, 286 Morrill Hall, slsears@illinois.edu. This information is needed by the Distinction Committee to determine the number and disciplinary distribution of papers and posters to be reviewed.
11:00 AM, Friday, July 16, 2021 Submit final paper as a PDF file to slsears@illinois.edu and one hard copy to Staci Baxley, 286 Morrill Hall.
11:00 AM, Friday, July 16, 2021 Advisor submits completed Distinction Evaluation Form as a PDF file or Word document to slsears@illinois.edu

The Research Project

The research project must consist of original research, which should attempt to answer a specific scientific question. Simply learning to master a technique is not sufficient. Because research often involves unanticipated technical problems, you should be prepared to accept delay and frustration when things do not go smoothly. Your best approach to your project is to have a clear understanding of the questions you are asking and why you are asking those particular questions. This understanding is aided by a familiarity with the literature in your area before you start work.

The Research Paper

The research paper should be a formal report of your results, and therefore should follow accepted professional standards for such reports. To assist you in preparing your paper, you are strongly encouraged to purchase a guidebook on how to write about biology. A suggested title is:
Jan A. Pechenik. 2007. A Short Guide to Writing About Biology (Sixth Edition). Pearson Longman, New York.

Also use the Guidelines for Writing A Scientific Paper on the SIB website.

Model your paper after papers published in the major research journals in your field. Ordinarily, such papers contain an abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and references sections. Be sure to label and caption Tables and Figures. You must fully credit any data, analyses, illustrations, etc., that are produced/obtained by, or through collaboration with, other individuals. This credit must include the names of those with whom you collaborated and an explanation of the nature of their assistance and/or collaboration. Failure to give proper credit may disqualify you from consideration for graduation with distinction.

You should recognize that communication of your results is the final step in scientific research. Therefore, your paper should be as clear as you can make it. Do not get bogged down in detail. (Twenty double-spaced typewritten pages, including tables and figures, is the maximum acceptable length. About 10-15 pages double-spaced should do in most cases.) A well-written, concise paper should be understandable to researchers in allied fields as well as to specialists in your own field. Complex figures, color illustrations or other materials that do not photocopy well must be reproduced clearly in each copy.

The Research Poster

A scientific poster is a visual representation of data that have been organized and consolidated into an easily digestible format. Your poster should be logical, consistent and designed well. Many websites are available on how to make an effective scientific poster, including those provided by the University of Illinois:

Evaluation Procedures

Your poster or oral presentation at the University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium or SIB’s Undergraduate Research Symposium will be attended by the SIB Distinction Committee, which consists of 3-4 SIB faculty members. They will be evaluating the extent to which you understand the context of your project and interpretation of your results. If considered for High or Highest Distinction, your research paper will also be read and evaluated by members of the SIB Distinction Committee. Committee members may ask other faculty for additional evaluation of papers that fall outside their range of expertise. Remember that committee members will consider clarity of expression as they read your paper. In addition, the committee members will also take into account the Distinction Evaluation Form completed and submitted by your faculty research advisor.

The criteria of evaluation include whether the student has made a substantial investment of time and effort on the project, and whether the student gained a substantive research experience, achieved an in-depth understanding of the research, and greatly advanced his/her ability in scientific thought, conducting of research, and production of a high quality poster or scientific manuscript. A secondary consideration in deciding the level of distinction will be the quality of the presentation, particularly a demonstration of a sound understanding of the science of their project. The Committee will decide which projects, if any, are worthy of Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction for Excellence in Research. As a part of this evaluation process, the committee may interview some students. If you are interviewed, you will be asked to discuss your work and will be questioned on its technical aspects, the interpretation of results and the significance of the research. The objective of this interview is to find out how well you understand what you did, why you did it (the scientific reason), and what the results mean in relation to other knowledge in the field.

Appeals

Students may request an appeal from the Chair of the SIB Distinction Committee if an extenuating circumstance has prevented them from meeting the criteria for distinction outlined above. If a student does not want to disclose personal or sensitive information for the appeal, the committee will accept a letter from the Office of the Dean of Students on the student’s behalf.

COVID Considerations

Please be aware that COVID-related circumstances may require the School to change deadline dates and presentation requirements. As examples, both poster and oral presentations may need to be conducted virtually. We understand that students are conducting research and preparing presentations under very challenging times. The SIB Distinction Committee may also need to modify expectations for distinction consideration and how student projects are evaluated, with the students’ best interest always in mind. If the campus response to COVID changes, please return to this page for updates.


Questions should be referred to the Chair, SIB Distinction Committee, 286 Morrill Hall, slsears@illinois.edu