MCB Honors Program

For COVID-19 related MCB honors updates, please see our FAQ

The MCB Honors program offers outstanding seniors the opportunity for recognition of their research through presentation and a thesis. H196 students usually work in an MCB laboratory. However, a student may work in an appropriate lab, on campus or off campus, and receive H196 academic credit for the research, with sponsorship from an MCB faculty member. A student is regarded as participating in the MCB departmental honors program once he/she has been accepted into a laboratory and has enrolled in MCB H196 (independent study). We strongly encourage students who are interested in pursuing departmental honors to look for a research spot during the first semester of their junior year. Students who fulfill all MCB Honors criteria receive a notation on their transcript and diploma which reads "Department Honors in Molecular and Cell Biology." The Honors Research Program consists of up to 4-8 units of independent research (MCB H196A, H196B), a thesis, and a presentation. Please be aware of relevant deadlines and feel free to ask questions along the way.

Requirements to Participate/Begin the Honors Program

To participate in the honors program, seniors must:

  1. work in a lab and have an MCB faculty research sponsor,
  2. currently have a 3.3* cumulative UCB grade point average,
  3. currently have a 3.5* grade point average in EITHER all courses required for the major OR all upper division MCB courses, 
  4. enroll in MCB H196A/B by submitting a completed honors application each semester, and have completed at least two MCB requirements for the major:
  • BMB - MCB c100A and one additional upper-division major requirement
  • CDB - MCB 102 and one additional upper-division major requirement
  • GG&D - Track 1: MCB C100A and one additional upper-division major requirement
  • GG&D - Track 2: MCB 102 and one additional upper-division major requirement
  • Immuno - Track 1: MCB C100A and one additional upper-division major requirement
  • Immuno - Track 2: MCB 102 and one additional upper-division major requirement
  • Neuro - Two upper-division courses, at least one of which is an MCB course

* Exceptions 

For seniors who are graduating in Fall 2020, Spring 2021, or Summer 2021, due to the changed Spring 2020 COVID-19 grading policies, we will accept these seniors into the honors program with:

  • a current 3.3 grade point average in EITHER all courses required for the major OR all upper division MCB courses,
  • AND the mathematical possibility of achieving an MCB major or upper-division GPA of 3.5 or higher by graduation. 
  • a current 3.3 cumulative UCB grade point average is still required 

For students who matriculated as freshmen in Fall 2015 or junior transfers in Fall 2017, we will accept these seniors into the honors program with:

  • a current 3.0 cumulative UCB grade point average (and the mathematical possibility of a cumulative UCB grade point average of at least 3.3 or higher by graduation)
  • AND a current 3.3 grade point average in EITHER all courses required for the major OR all upper division MCB courses (and the mathematical possibility of achieving an MCB major or upper-division GPA of 3.5 or higher by graduation). 

To Register for MCB H196A/B Credit for Research

  1. Discuss your proposed project with your lab group's faculty principle investigator (PI). If the lab is outside of the MCB department, find an MCB faculty member to sponsor your research.
  2. Submit the MCB Research Application online form by the Friday of the third week of the semester (must be logged in to Berkeley email). This form requires student information from CalCentral, lab information (PI/sponsor name and email, lab department, lab location), project title, and project proposal (up to one page). The online form replaces the paper form starting in Fall 2020.
  3. If the proposal is eligible for the units requested, the PI is sent an email with a copy of the student's application. If approved, the MCB faculty sponsor, if applicable is also asked for approval.
  4. Once approved, the advising office will send students their class numbers to enroll in research units on a daily basis. Students must enroll themselves by the campus add/drop deadline: Wednesday of the fourth week of instruction.

Requirements to Graduate with MCB Honors

To graduate with honors in the major, students must:

  1. write an honors thesis approved by their MCB faculty sponsor due by the last day of instruction. An H196 Honors Approval form must be submitted to the UAO on the last weekday of final exams of their graduating semester,
  2. present their research in an approved forum, such as an MCB symposium or poster session, or other scientific meeting,
  3. complete at least two semesters of research including (4) units and no more than (8) units of MCB H196A/B (sign up for H196B during the final semester of research, in which you will be writing your thesis, and for which you will receive a letter grade. If desired, one semester of MCB 199 can be used, in place of H196a, towards satisfying the two-semester research requirement),
    • COVID-19 Exception: Seniors graduating in Spring & Summer 2021 may enroll in MCB H196B in their graduating term without the prerequisite of a previous semester of research units (e.g. MCB H196A, MCB 199 etc). Instead, their Principal Investigator must provide written confirmation that the student has been in their lab for a minimum of one semester before MCB H196B. Students may elect to take MCB H196B for letter grade or P/NP, but the GPA cutoffs will not be adjusted for honors eligibility.  
  4. have a cumulative UCB grade point average of at least 3.3 or higher in all work completed at UCB, and
  5. have an MCB major or upper-division GPA of 3.5 or higher. MCB H196B cannot be used to calculate their MCB upper-division GPA.
  6. (COVID-19 update) must receive a letter grade for a minimum of 3 upper division major course requirements. A letter grade in MCB H196B cannot be used to fulfill this requirement. MCB Honors students who are approved for lab substitutions cannot use letter graded research (e.g. MCB H196B, MCB 191, Chem 196 etc) to fulfill this minimum. 

MCB Honors and Academic Misconduct

Any student who has been found responsible for academic misconduct in their coursework or laboratory research will not be allowed to enroll in the MCB honors program or graduate with MCB departmental honors (with rare exceptions; see “Appeal Process” section below). 

This includes first-time offenses. Although first offenses are “non-reportable” by the Center for Student Conduct (CSC), this applies only to entities outside of  UC Berkeley (e.g., graduate schools, employers, etc.). Academic  advisors at Berkeley have access to all records of misconduct at UCB and will use them to  verify honors eligibility. Please refer to this website for more information on privacy and records. 

Also, note that if you accept responsibility or if you are found responsible for academic misconduct, the policy of the  College of Letters & Sciences is that you may not drop the course or  change your grading option. . If a late drop or grading option change request is processed and you are later found responsible for academic misconduct, the course or original grading option will be reinstated on your record. 

If you have been reported for academic misconduct but do not believe you are responsible, , you should  not admit responsibility. You may contest the accusation and request a hearing by the CSC. They will review the evidence and render a decision, which is then binding.  Review this website for an overview of the conduct appeal process. You can also seek advice from the Student Advocate Office

For more information about academic misconduct, please refer to the Center For Student Conduct website

MCB Honors Conduct Appeal Process

If a student has been found responsible for a single instance of academic misconduct in a lower division course prior to their junior year or 5th semester, but is otherwise eligible for honors in MCB, they may appeal to participate in the MCB honors program. 

To appeal, please submit the following documents by email to

  • Personal Statement (1 page) - Please answer the following prompt:

The MCB department expects honors students to meet high standards of academic integrity as well as academic performance. How have you grown, and what have you learned since the academic misconduct occurred about academic integrity? Mention  any context and circumstances surrounding the incident of  academic misconduct that are relevant to your appeal. . 

  • Provide any other  documentation, including any materials submitted to the CSC to satisfy their sanctions related to the misconduct adjudication process. 

These materials will be considered by the MCB Undergraduate Affairs Committee and the Head Faculty Advisor will make a decision, which will be communicated within one month of the appeal. Note that the committee will not re-adjudicate the misconduct charge, but will only evaluate whether a student may merit departmental Honors despite the misconduct.

Calculating the GPA 

  • Your GPA calculation will be based upon the grades in the courses you have taken to date, including electives. We will not disregard a grade in an elective already taken until you have taken and received a grade in a class to replace it. An example would be that you take MCB 165 toward your Neurobiology major and earn a C in it. You decide that you want to use MCB 167 as your elective instead. We will not exclude the C in MCB 165 until you have taken and earned a grade in MCB 167.
  • We will round the GPA to the hundredths place, for example, 3.494=3.49 and 3.495=3.50. In the first case, a student would not be able to participate in the honors program. In the second case, a student would.
  • We will include grades of all courses you have taken for the major at UCB, even if you have earned AP credit that would have waived you from those requirements, e.g. if you received a 5 on the AP biology exam, then took Bio 1B here and earned a C, we will include the C in your GPA calculation.
  • H196 grades are not used in major GPA calculations.

    You can calculate your major GPA here.

Poster Session vs. Symposium Presentation

The presentation of your research in an approved forum is a required component of the MCB Honors program.  Students who are completing their honors work in fall will present at an Honors Poster Session. The MCB department offers two types of events to present your research during the spring semester: the divisional symposia or the poster session.  All H196B students must present at either event or be approved to present at another scientific meeting by the head faculty advisor of your emphasis.

  • The symposium presentation requires that you present your research in a 10-12 minute PowerPoint-style talk, followed by a 2-minute question & answer session from the audience. You may apply only for the symposium for your major emphasis, regardless of your research lab affiliation/field. Faculty select presenters based upon a review of your abstract and your GPA. If your application for the symposium is not selected, you are then expected to present at the poster session.
  • The poster session is a department-wide event open to all undergraduate MCB majors in which participants present research in poster format. Over the course of two hours, you will discuss your project, often one-on-one, with attendees and answer their questions. You are expected to be able to present a clear and concise 2-3 minute summary of your research for your audience so that they are able to get a snapshot of your endeavors. Poster Guidelines

Also, see "Writing or presenting a research talk or poster" by Dr. Bob Zucker (updated 2/29/16)