Departmental honors in chemistry involves demonstrating excellence in independent research, academic writing, and oral communication. Students who wish to pursue senior honors research in chemistry should apply to the department chair no later than April 15 of the spring semester of their junior year. Admission to the honors program requires the approval of the Chemistry Department and the College. College minimum academic requirements (for the Course of Study) are:

  • a cumulative GPA of at least 3.33

In addition, the department expects:

  • no grade of D or F in any chemistry course or in any course being used to satisfy the requirements of your major

Application to honors consists of a research proposal summarizing research completed thus far with the intended principle investigator and detailing the intended senior project. The proposal will be 300-600 words, excluding figure captions and references.


A. Research. Honors research (CHEM 497-498) builds upon an established research project conducted with a faculty mentor in the Chemistry Department. Students accepted by the department to pursue senior honors research are those who have already demonstrated research proficiency and who show a strong potential for successfully completing the program. Work completed in the senior year, however, is the emphasis of the thesis and evaluation. Prior to the senior year, candidates must successfully complete at least two semesters (or one semester and one summer) of research at Kenyon:

  • Chemical research: CHEM 375 (usually taken in the junior year)
  • Summer research at Kenyon during a summer preceding the senior year is strongly recommended.

Senior Honors - CHEM 497-498. Expectations for senior honors research are:

1. at least 10-12 hours of lab work per week, with times recorded and submitted;

2. regular participation in group meetings or discussions with your faculty mentor;

3. proper recording of experimental results (lab notebook, data files, etc.);

4. searching and reading relevant primary and secondary literature on your research topic;

5. presenting (in the fall semester) a 15-min summary on your honors project, briefly describing general objectives and background, summarizing your results-to-date, and explaining experiments needed to complete the thesis;

6. presenting your research as a poster or talk to a scientific audience outside of Kenyon.

7. regularly attending chemistry department colloquia.

These research requirements are evaluated to determine the grade in CHEM 497-498. Non- chemistry majors pursuing honors in chemistry are strongly encouraged to enroll in CHEM 475 to help them learn the primary literature related to their research, support their thesis writing, practice presentations, bond with their cohort, consider scientific ethics, and gain other professional skills. Chemistry majors pursuing honors may petition the department to have 497-498 count in place of 475.

B. Thesis. The thesis is based on the research project and is submitted to an outside examiner for review. The Introduction section of the honors thesis, reviewing relevant background material and primary literature articles relating to the project, must be submitted to the department at the end of January (a complete draft is due before leaving campus in the fall semester); we encourage Introduction sections to be 25 pages or less. A full thesis also includes sections describing experimental methods, results and discussion, and includes appropriate references. A minimum of 50 pages is normally expected. Students should consult their faculty mentors on questions of style and format. The full thesis must be submitted to the department by the end of April.

One section of the thesis (~500 words) will examine social disparities or other injustice that relate to the thesis topic in some way, with respect to the production or application of chemical knowledge. This examination may include various aspects of chemistry — ideas, communal practices and behavior, or institutional structures and priorities — and should plausibly relate the topic to historical oppression, present injustice, or the potential for future abuse. Ideally this section, and the thesis as a whole, should seek to discern and acknowledge marginalized voices in chemistry. An honors graduate of our program should be equipped to detect and anticipate structural, social, and epistemic inequity in the profession; and to provide leadership to challenge it.

A final corrected copy of the thesis, with any changes requested following the oral exam, must be submitted to the department in mid-May. A copy must also be submitted to the Kenyon library's institutional repository. Be sure to follow the Kenyon guidelines for the format of an honors thesis.

C. Oral Examination. An oral examination is held at the end of the spring semester. The candidate begins with a 30-minute oral presentation on their thesis research. If the candidate wishes, this talk can be open to the public. The oral presentation is followed by the oral examination, which is closed to the public and is conducted by an outside examiner along with the department faculty.

The awarding of "Honors" (or "High Honors" or "Highest Honors") is decided by the outside examiner. The decision is based on the degree of excellence achieved in (1) the quality of the thesis, (2) the oral summary and examination, (3) lab productivity, and (4) meeting program deadlines.

Senior Capstone for Honors Candidates

Students working toward senior honors simultaneously complete requirements for the Senior Capstone in chemistry or biochemistry. The 30- minute oral presentation of the thesis research (in May) counts as the oral portion of the Senior Capstone, and the Introduction section of the honors thesis (submitted in January) counts as the written part of the Senior Capstone. A grade for the Senior Capstone (passed, or passed with distinction) is a separate grade from honors. In addition, honors candidates must attend all of the regular Senior Capstone presentations during the spring semester.

If the Honors Program Is Not Completed

The Kenyon College Course of Study states that "at any time the department may deny the student the opportunity to continue in honors." Also, some students elect not to complete the honors program for various reasons. The department encourages students to consider the expectations and rewards of completing the program before the senior year, and we would like all students to complete the program. An honors candidate who does not meet the expectations for the fall semester will need to drop CHEM 498 and will receive a grade for CHEM 497 and will complete the standard Senior Capstone (see separate guidelines) at the beginning of the spring semester. The research project could be continued for credit by enrolling in CHEM 375. An honors candidate who does not meet the expectations during the Spring semester will not receive a degree "with honors," but will receive a grade for CHEM 497-498 that reflects the effort for the year. To satisfy the Senior Capstone in chemistry in this case, the student must give an oral presentation on their project (background, results and analysis) before the end of the spring semester. This presentation will be equivalent in length to that required for the Senior Capstone in chemistry.

Students graduating with honors in chemistry often state that it was the part of their time at Kenyon about which they are most proud. The Department of Chemistry shares this pride and encourages students to consider the path toward Honors and discuss with us the challenges and rewards.

Approved by the department on April 8, 2022. For reference, the prior policy is here (PDF).