Honors Program


Physics and Engineering Physics majors may graduate with an honors designation on their diploma.

Three levels of honors are achievable:

  • Summa Cum Laude - highest honors
  • Magna Cum Laude - high honors
  • Cum Laude - honors

An honors designation is only achievable by the completion of an original piece of work. A senior thesis must be submitted, with typical lengths anywhere from 20 to 100 pages. An oral defense of the thesis also must be given to a committee of 3 faculty members. Typically the presentations last for 40 minutes. The thesis will be directed by a faculty member from physics or any of the associated departments, including APS, CASA, JILA or possibly even a research lab such as NIST or NREL. The physics department honors
chair can play a helpful role in directing students towards potential advisors.

The first order determination for graduation with honors is based upon the GPA:

  • GPA > 3.8 Summa Cum Laude
  • GPA > 3.5 Magna Cum Laude
  • GPA > 3.3 Cum Laude

However, a GPA of 4.0 with no honors thesis will not earn an honors designation, nor will a 4.0 GPA with a very poor quality thesis earn a designation. An especially high quality thesis will often bump a student up from one designation to another – for instance a student with a 3.4 and a very strong thesis may earn a Magna or possibly even a summa designation.

It is for this reason that we open enrollment in PHYS 4610/4620/4630 to students with a GPA > 3.0 There will be hourly honors meetings, twice a month, which all enrolled students are required to attend. The students will rotate through giving 20 minute oral presentations of their research to their peers.

To graduate with an honors designation students should enroll in at least one semester of honors, although 2 or 3 are more usual.

To be eligible for Departmental Honors in Physics, a student must complete an original piece of research and write and defend an honors thesis. Information on how to obtain a research opportunity can be found on our Research Opportunity page.

PHYS 4610/4620/4630 are the Physics Honors Seminars for students pursuing Departmental Honors in Physics. To graduate with an honors designation, students should enroll in at least one semester of honors, although two or three are more usual.

Registration for Physics Honors classes is by special arrangements through the Department of Physics.

 Please contact a Physics Honors Council representative if you are interested in enrolling.

PHYS 4610/4620/4630 Meeting Times:

  • Fridays 4-5 PM DUAN G1B31

Thesis format information using LaTeX

Honors theses may need to be formatted using the LaTeX programming language. Please consult your honors thesis committee to ensure that your thesis meets their guidelines and expectations.