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Honors Adviser - Bethia King

FAQ - Undergraduate Research and BIOS Honors

(Download a printable, 2-page pdf of this information)

Who should go see Dr. Bethia King and/or read these FAQ? Students with a bioGPA of 3.0 or better who are interested in getting research experience in a professor’s laboratory for credit.

What is a “bioGPA”? Your GPA in BIOS courses plus courses required for the BIOS major (CHEM 210, 211, 212, 213, 330 or 336, 331 or 337; MATH 229, 230 or MATH 211, STAT301; PHYS 210 and 211 or 253 and 273)

Why is there a GPA requirement for doing research credits? Professors feel that students with lower GPAs should concentrate on raising them.

Why should I consider doing research as an undergraduate? 1) Being involved in actual research is the best way to learn the process of science. 2) It helps you evaluate whether a career involving research is right for you. 3) You may have a chance to interact with graduate students, which can help you decide if graduate school would be right for you. 4) By working more closely with a professor than is usually possible in a classroom setting, you have someone who can write a meaningful letter of recommendation for you for graduate school, professional school, scholarships, internships and jobs.

How big of a time commitment is it? Roughly 3 hours per week of work for each hour of credit.

When can I start? Most students start their junior year because by then they have a solid background through coursework.

Which professors (faculty) can I work with? There is no list of professors with openings. Instead you pick someone and ask them if they have a project and space in their lab for you. Professors aren’t required to let undergraduates participate in their research; they do it because they enjoy working with students. A high GPA suggests that you are probably motivated, bright, perseverant and a hard worker. This is important because training a student can be a big commitment of the professor’s time and sometimes research money.

How do I pick a professor to work with? Professors, their research and email addresses can be found at The research does not have to be in the exact field that you plan a career in. The general process of doing science is what matters. For example, the first undergraduate research that I did was on leaf decomposition, but now I work on animal behavior. I chose the professor because he had a good reputation in research and in working with students. I learned general principles of experimental design, analyses, interpretation, literature search and scientific writing.

How do I contact a professor? Email him or her: say that you are interested in working in their lab for undergraduate research credits, ask if they might have room in their lab that semester, ask for an appointment to meet with them, and attach an unofficial copy of your college transcripts. When you meet in person, you will want to ask things like, “What sort of research would you have me working on? Will I have set hours? How will I be evaluated?" If youhaven’t met them before, try to get a sense of whether their personality will work well with yours. (You can also get some sense of this if you’ve had them as a professor and from talking to other students.) If your working with them suits both you and the professor, have the professor sign a course permit. Decide with him/her whether to take 1, 2 or 3 credits (depends on your needs and what projects the professor has for you).

Where do I get the necessary course permit? from the biology main office, MO 349.

What if I want to do more than one semester of research or to do departmental honors? The maximum credits toward the bio major for BIOS 370, 490, 499, 495 combined is 6, except students admitted to departmental honors in biology may take up to 9. What course you sign up for after 1 semester of BIOS 370, depends on whether you have been admitted into the biology department honors program and whether you are officially in NIU’s University Honors program: 1. If you are in the university honors program, regardless of whether you are in the departmental honors program, take BIOS499. The permit requires signatures both from the faculty member in whose lab you will be working and from the University Honors Program. 2. If you are in just the departmental honors program and not the university honors program, take BIOS495. The permit requires signatures both from the faculty member in whose lab you will be working and from Dr. B. King. 3. If you are in neither the university honors nor the departmental honors program, take BIOS370.

What are the requirements for graduating with departmental honors in BIOS? In this order:
1) Complete at least 1 credit of BIOS370,
2) Prior to signing up for your 2nd semester of research, gain admittance to departmental honors, which requires a bioGPA of at least 3.5 and permission of the honors advisor (i.e., email or bring an unofficial copy of your transcript to Dr. B. King along with the name of the faculty member under whom you will be engaging in research)
3) Complete 6 credits (usually 2 semesters) of BIOS 495 or 499,
4) Maintain a cumulative bioGPA of at least 3.5 from your 2nd semester of research through graduation.
5) Present and explain the results of the honors project at either the departmental or university undergraduate research symposium.
6) At the end of your last semester, turn in a senior thesis on your research, which will be written in consultation with your research advisor (the faculty member you did research with). A copy containing the signed approval of your research advisor must be given to the honors advisor, Dr. B. King, MO446.

Departmental Honors is separate from University Honors.   
Doing lower level (your 1st two years) in university honors allows you to sign up earlier for classes, thus increasing the odds of getting into classes that fill quickly. Whereas departmental honors focuses more strictly on research experience in science, upper level univeristy honors is more about traditional courses, less tied to your major, and emphasizes civic engagement, although it can also include a smaller research experience. See for specifics.

Can I use my departmental honors research for University Honors requirements? The senior research project that you do for departmental honors may double as a university honors capstone project.

Undergraduate research opportunities that provide stipends: NIU has some programs and links at (or Google niu undergraduate research) Note NIU tends to include these sorts of opportunities under “Engaged learning” and “Experiential learning”
Any questions? See Dr. Bethia King, BIOS370/Honors Advisor, MO 446, 753-8460,

(Download a printable, 2-page pdf of this information)

Photo of Bethia King


Bethia King
(815) 753-8460
Office: MO 446; Lab: MO. 404
Dept. of Biological Sciences Nothern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Morogoro, Tanzania (e. Africa) and Morgantown, WV

Degrees earned:
B.A. West Virginia University; Ph.D.Purdue University

Arrived at NIU: 1989

Classes taught:
Organismal Diversity; Behavioral Ecology; Entomology;
Graduate seminar;
Human Biology

Bethia King's Web Page