Honours Projects at York

Helpful Tips and Useful Information

Below are a few notes, tips etc. that should help students who are thinking about doing their Honours Projects. Many of these points come as a result of repetitive questions that I get as the Biochemistry 4000 Course Director from students in Biochemistry, Biology and Chemistry here at York U.

Who is the person I talk to about the Honours Project?

  • For Biochemistry and Chemistry 4000 projects, the Course Drector is is Prof. Gerald Audette (audette@yorku.ca), and here is the Biochem, and Chemistry websites

  • For Biology 4000, the Course Director is Prof. Sam Benchimol(benchimo@yorku.ca). Your best bet is to check out the Biology 4000 website


Can I enrol in any one particular project course?

  • No. Each Project course is designed for students in that particular stream.

  • This is not to say that a Biochem 4000 project can't be done in a chemistry lab or a Chem 4000 project couldn't be done in a biochemistry lab ... the project is important.
  • Biology is a little different, and you would have to talk with Prof. Benchimol first


When are the Projects (the 8.0 credit versions) offered?

  • Biology 4000 has 3 options: F/W, W/SU and SU/F

  • Biochemistry 4000 has 4 options: F/W, W/SU, SU/F and SU-only
  • Chemistry 4000 has 2 options: F/W and SU


What are the deadlines? When do I have to register?

  • Quite often, students panic and try to get a position lined up to a year in advance. In my experience, this is overkill and not needed. Thre are 2 reasons for this:

    1. The Registrars Office will not let you enrol that far in advance.
      • For F/W, W/S, SU & S/F projects, the general enrolment windows are May-June, September and March-April, respectively
    2. Quite often professors are not thinking that far out in terms of undergrads in the lab.
  • Check out the following link (its for FW09, but you get the idea): http://calendars.registrar.yorku.ca/enrolmentguides/fw09/index.htm


Do I need to find a professor before registering?

  • Each program is slightly different:

    • For Biology, I know that you should find a professor first, but even before that talk with Profs. Coe or Noel.
    • For Chemistry and Biochemistry, this is not the case. Please fill out the appropriate registration form and submit it to the Undergraduate Assistant in the Dept. of Chemistry main office first.
      • Note that if you talk with a professor before being allowed to enrol, you will need to reconfirm with the professor (and get their signature)
      • Please note that if your gpa is on the lower side, you may be required to find a professor first ... Talk with Profs. Audette and/or Wilson if you are concerned.
    • It is always advisable to have an idea of what you'd like to do for your project when you register (See below)
    • An incredibly common statement I hear from students when they are looking for projects 12-14 months in advance is "But all the popular professors get picked first, so I have to talk to you now!"
      • This seems odd to me...a research project is a chance to gain experience in research, not just work in the "popular" lab. Consider broadening your horizons :)


What is the Summer-only option?

  • The SU only option is a 4-month project versus a full 8 months. The catch is that you still need to put in all the required hours for the project. This means that you would be full-time in the lab for the SU-only project. It is a good way to get experience and the project out of the way, but you do lose the work during the day option, which may be an issue for some students.

  • You should check with your potential supervisor prior to signing up for this option. Quite often some projects just can't be done in 4 months ... For instance, if the project requires cell growth, and those cells take a very long time to grow, you have to complete the project on that timeline.


How do I find a Professor to do my project with?

  • This is the big one, and here are a few pointers:

    • Most professors have a lab website, or reserach blurb on the departmental page. Check those out. You may also have one or two professors in mind from courses you've taken.
    • Make a list of potential professors. Don't limit yourself to just one.
    • Once you have a list of professors, and are eligible to enrol (for Biochem/Chem 4000 at least), go to the professors offices and introduce yourself, ask about potential projects, and indicate that you've been given permission to enrol in the Honours Project.
    • I repeat: Go to the professor's office and talk to them in person! This is a really important point.
      • Think of it this way: You are asking a professor to take you into their group. This is not a trivial thing. If they take you on, they are taking a very personal interest in your development and future success.
      • Show the initiative and demonstrate that you are really interested.
      • Consider this a job interview. It is.
        • If you present yourself as professional, you will be treated as such.
        • If you present yourself as unprofessional, you will be treated as such.
      • Don't just email and say "can I work with you?" ... This is not professional when you are on campus 5 days a week. Profs get a ton of these emails from all over the world, and quite often treat them as spam (dealing with them accordingly).
      • If you think you must email, do so to ask for an apppointment to discuss a potential project.
      • When you talk with the professor, have something useful to say. If you've checked out their website, you should know what they are doing...ask a question about it.
    • Don't panic if the first professor(s) say no. The point of the 4000 project is lab experience, and getting into a lab, any lab, is a means to getting that experience.


Can I use a Professor's First Name?

  • The short answer is No. The Longer answer is: Not unless they tell you that you can.
    • Think of it this way...A professor is a docotor - they have earned a Ph.D. or "Doctorate of Philosophy", which means at least 5 years of graduate school after a 4 year undergradaute degree. They have also put in a few years as a Postdoctoral Fellow before joining the Faculty here at York, and may have even been professors at other universities.
    • They are not your buddy, text message pal or Facebook friend. They are someone you are looking to work for.
    • Give them the respect that they have earned.
  • NOW...Some professors don't mind you calling them by their first name. Once they tell you to call them as such, by all means, please do. But do not do so until they tell you that you can.



There are probably a few other things that one should think about. I'll get around to putting them up when I remember them ;)