Senior Honors & Research Distinction Policies

Senior Honors and Research Distinction

In Earth and Planetary Sciences Latin Honors Is granted the basis of overall GPA.  EPS also grants Departmental Distinctions will honor exceptional academic achievement in Earth and Planetary Sciences. Both Latin Honors and Departmental Distinctions require the completion of a senior thesis.

Senior Thesis Policies

In the Spring of their junior year, the student should select a faculty member to guide the generation of this thesis. The student should then enroll in EPSc 499 Honors Research or EPSc 490 Independent Study with that faculty member, for the Fall of their senior year. At that time the student and faculty advisor should meet and choose the two additional readers for the student's thesis (the thesis committee) and establish a set of goals for the fall semester's work. At this time, the student should fill out the Senior Honors Topic Form (available on the department website Resources).

The student may also (but is not required to) enroll in EPSc 499/490 in the Spring semester of their senior year. The faculty adviser will determine, with the student, a date by which a complete draft is to be given to the faculty readers for review, such that the readers have ample time to review the work prior to issuing their evaluations. These drafts will be due no later than the Monday following Spring Break. A final copy containing revisions required by the committee is due by the first day of finals period.

An oral presentation of the Senior Honors research is expected to be presented to the Department, usually late in the senior's last semester. The thesis document must be prepared following the formatting guidelines in the Senior Honors Thesis Guide (see Resources). All theses must be submitted in PDF to Katherine Totty prior to graduation, for online archiving.

Latin Honors Procedures and Criteria

Students will be accepted to the Latin Honors program if they meet two criteria:

  • Washington University cumulative GPA > 3.65 through the sixth semester.
  • A plan for the completion of a senior thesis

Students must enroll in EPS 499 Honors Research for a minimum of three credits.

The final level of Latin honors (Summa cum laude, Magna cum laude, or Cum laude) will be determined by the College immediately prior to commencement.  Of the group eligible for Latin honors:

  • Top 15% receive SCL
  • Next 35% receive MCL
  • Bottom 50% receive CL

Students who do not perform up to the department's expectation (e.g., by not completing a satisfactory thesis) can be removed from the Latin Honors program at any time.

For more information, see the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Policies

Departmental Distinction Procedures and Criteria

Students will be eligible for departmental distinction if they complete a thesis, regardless of their GPA. 

Students must enroll in EPS 499 Honors Research (cumulative GPA > 3.65) or EPS 490 Independent Study (cumulative GPA < 3.65) for a minimum of three credits.

The department will offer three levels of distinction

  • with Distinction
  • with High Distinction
  • with Highest Distinction

The level of distinction will be granted on the basis of three criteria:

  • the quality of the thesis, including the oral presentation
  • written assessment of the research supervisor and/or major advisor
  • performance in upper level EPS classes or related classes from other departments, with additional consideration of the number of classes that were taken in excess of major requirements

For a given graduating group, the number of students awarded Highest Distinction should be no larger than the number of students awarded High Distinction, which should be no larger than the number of students awarded Distinction.

An example of what might appear on a diploma:

James D. Dana
A.B. Earth and Planetary Sciences: Geology, Magna cum laude
with Highest Distinction in Earth and Planetary Sciences