Brown University School of Engineering


Engineering Honors Program

Honors are granted by the University to students whose work in a field of concentration has demonstrated superior quality and culminated in an 'Honors Thesis of Distinction'.

Honors recipients in the School of Engineering must meet the following criteria:

  1. Demonstrate a strong academic record (3.40 concentration GPA through the seventh semester)
  2. Propose and execute an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty member
  3. Complete a written thesis to the satisfaction of the Honors Program Committee
  4. Give a scientific/technical presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in April
  5. Fulfill all deadlines for applying for or completing honors to the satisfaction of his/her research advisor and the Honors Program Committee

The following guidelines are for non-BME concentrators.
Guidelines for BME concentrators are here.

If you wish to participate in the honors program, you will need to:

  • Meet the GPA requirement 
  • Select a thesis topic and find a thesis advisor
  • Submit the application form (which must be signed by your advisor)
  • Receive notification that you have been accepted into the program (note that acceptance does not guarantee that you will be awarded honors at graduation)
  • Select a reader for your thesis
  • Complete your thesis, and submit it to your advisor and reader
  • Give a presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium

Contact information for the honors thesis committee

Relevant deadlines are listed in the table below. Failure to meet any of these deadlines is grounds for dismissal from the honors program. Note that these deadlines are intended for students graduating in four years. Students with different graduation timelines who would like to pursue Honors should contact a member of the Honors Program Committee to discuss alternative plans.

2019-20 Dates Deadline

Sept. 18

Honors Information Session
6:00 p.m., Barus & Holley 190
Intended for all sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in honors. 
Sept. 24 Honors Application Due
Oct. 8 Applicants are informed of acceptance into the Honors Program.
Nov. 8 Research proposal due
Jan. 21 Honors Program Committee will inform candidates if they are to continue with the Honors Program (based on 7th semester GPA, research proposal, and advisor's sign-off)
March 14

Draft of two sections of thesis due
Name of confirmed reader due to Honors Program Committee (text entry via canvas)

April 15

Thesis submission for review by advisor, reader, and Honors Program Committee
April 24  Undergraduate Research Symposium

April 28 Final deadline for approved thesis submission with signed cover page, due by 9 am.

GPA requirements

The minimum grade point average for admission to the Engineering Honors Program is 3.4/4.0 based on graded concentration coursework through the seventh semester. Note that

  • Your GPA will be calculated based on the courses that are required to satisfy engineering concentration requirements, as listed on your approved engineering concentration form. It is important to make sure that your concentration form is up-to-date at the time of application.
  • The GPA will be calculated at the beginning of the fall semester to determine acceptance into the program (GPA may be slightly below 3.4 if the seventh semester is expected to bring it above the threshold). A GPA calculation will be computed at the end of the seventh semester to determine if the student meets the academic requirements for admission into the program.
  • Courses not taken at Brown and/or not taken for a grade will not be included in the GPA calculation.
  • Honors candidates must not have more than three concentration classes taken for S/NC, including ENGN0030, but not including the four humanities, over all eight semesters.
  • Any pending INCs must be carefully explained and are generally not favorable for admission.

If you do not fully meet these criteria, you may petition the Honors Committee to consider other evidence of academic accomplishments, such as significant project work completed in collaboration with a faculty member. One or more letters of recommendation from faculty should accompany such a petition, which may be referred to the Concentration Committee for a final decision.

Selecting a thesis topic and an advisor

Your thesis could address a basic experimental, theoretical or computational research problem, or a major independent design project. You may propose your own idea, which could be based on course-work or an internship; or develop a thesis topic based on an on-going research area at Brown. Your thesis topic should be distinct from any project work undertaken during required engineering courses.

To design a thesis program, you should work with a faculty member with expertise in your area of interest who can act as your thesis advisor. You can approach faculty members from whom you have taken classes, or use the faculty research pages to identify someone with relevant experience. If you have difficulty finding a research advisor, schedule a meeting with a member of the Honors Committee.

  • You must identify a thesis advisor when you submit your honors proposal during the first semester of your senior year.
  • Your thesis advisor must be an engineering faculty member. In cases of cross-disciplinary research students may be co-advised, so long as one faculty member is in engineering and/or biomedical engineering.
  • It is very helpful to start planning your honors research project well before the start of senior year. Many honors candidates perform research over the summer before senior year, although this is not required. Many students also take independent study courses during sophomore or junior year, which is a great way to initiate a relationship with a potential research advisor. It is never too early to begin thinking about the process, and students of all levels are invited to attend the Honors Information Session at the start of the fall semester.

Completing your honors program

Honors candidates work closely with their advisors and/or research lab throughout their senior year. Writing a thesis can be a significant undertaking, and it is helpful to be able to be able to spread the workload over several months rather than to try to complete it at the last minute. It can be helpful to register for an independent study course that focuses on your thesis topic (but note that only one independent study can be used for concentration credit).

Admission to the Honors Program does not guarantee that a student will receive Honors upon graduation. Recommendation for this distinction by the School of Engineering is contingent on demonstrable academic excellence throughout the senior year. The candidate’s thesis advisor will make recommendations to the Honors Committee regarding their advisee's progress toward achieving the honors thesis requirements.

Choosing a Reader

In addition to a research advisor, each honors candidate must also ask an expert in his or her field of research to be a “reader”. The reader’s responsibilities are to read the written thesis, attend the student’s presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, and offer general guidance in both of these areas.

The reader is commonly a member of faculty, but this is not a requirement so long as the reader is capable of assessing the student’s research. Non-faculty readers will require Honors Committee approval. The honors thesis advisor often helps candidates choose a reader. However, it is the honors candidate’s responsibility to approach potential readers by clearly communicating the thesis topic and outlining the reader’s responsibilities. A confirmed reader is due to the honors committee in March.

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Students will be required to present their research in an oral presentation at a research symposium at the end of their eighth semester. Details will be provided at the beginning of the eighth semester.

Honors Form