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Undergraduate Honors Thesis

In their senior year, students majoring in Public Health may undertake an Honors Thesis. The Honors Thesis project is a two semester commitment, starting in the fall semester and concluding in spring. Successfully completing the thesis will earn the student Honors in Public Health on their UC Berkeley transcript if they meet department and campus guidelines.*

Honors Thesis Eligibility and Prerequisites

For the 2023–2024 academic year and onwards, students interested in completing an Honors Thesis in Public Health must meet the following prerequisites:

  • An overall GPA of 3.5† or above at the end of their Junior year
  • An Upper Division in the Major GPA of 3.5 or above at the end of their Junior year
  • Successful completion of PB HLTH 142: Introduction to Probability and Statistics in Public Health (offered Fall, Spring, Summer) by the end of their Junior year
  • Successful completion ofPB HLTH 150A: Introduction to Epidemiology (offered Spring only) by the end of their Junior year, and Identify a research mentor (see MOU requirements below)

Download the Guide to Writing your Honors Thesis (.pdf).

Please note that students must maintain an Upper Division in the major GPA of 3.5 and an overall GPA of 3.3 to graduate with Honors. Your major GPA can be found on your Academic Progress Report (APR) on Calcentral. Go to the Public Health BA and click on the “Upper Division in the Major GPA” section.

Mentor and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Students must identify a research mentor who is affiliated with Berkeley as a faculty member (in any department, must have doctoral degree, i.e., PhD, MD, ScD) and who will guide your research. The research mentor, who must have a doctoral degree (PhD, MD, ScD), has the ultimate responsibility for guiding the student towards the successful completion of the research, thesis, and potential publications. From what we have found, students who were the most successful were those who had a mentor solidified before summer.

Mentors must sign an MOU (provided below) stating that they will:

  • Support the student’s research
  • Read and provide feedback on the thesis
  • Meet with the student at least bi-monthly
  • Confirm that the dataset the student is analyzing will be complete by fall

Download the Mentor MOU – Public Health Honors Thesis Program (.pdf)

Honors Thesis Research Project

Honors Thesis projects can be quantitative or qualitative in design and can involve the analysis of a research mentor’s data or data from an existing publicly available database (e.g., NHANES). Mentors must have appropriate expertise, given the student’s research question and study design. Systematic reviews are NOT allowed for an Honors Thesis.

Required Honors Thesis Courses

The Honors Thesis courses cannot be used to fulfill the Public Health Elective Units requirement.

Fall Semester

  • PB HLTH 155A – Senior Research Seminar (3 units, letter grade)
    This applied course will help you understand how to conduct and interpret research in human health and disease, building on your knowledge of epidemiology and biostatistics. The course will provide skills in: critically reading the literature related to public-health-related research; developing a research question and a testable hypothesis; and creating an analysis plan. All students will have a hands-on guided experience analyzing data using R. This 3-unit course, taken for a letter grade, is offered in the fall and is required for students completing an Honors Thesis.
  • PB HLTH H195A – Honors Thesis Sequence (3 units, letter grade)
    An honors degree in Public Health requires the completion of PH H195A. In the fall, students will meet with peers and the professor 1-2 times in the semester. Other time is dedicated to meeting with the mentor, research, thesis prep and writing. A permission code will be provided to students during the adjustment period.

Spring Semester

  • PB HLTH H195B – Honors Thesis Sequence (3 units, letter grade)
    An honors degree in Public Health requires the completion of PH H195B. In the spring, students will meet with peers and the professor 3-4 times in the semester. Other time is dedicated to meeting with the mentor, research, thesis prep and writing. A permission code will be provided to students during the adjustment period.

Expectations of the Student

In the Fall semester, students develop a research question and hypothesis and describe the aims for the research. They conduct a literature search and write a literature review to ensure the student understands the foundations for their research. The literature review will serve as the background section of their Honors Thesis. In the Spring, students will analyze their data and write their Thesis with support from their research mentor and the Spring Honors Thesis seminar course.

Students will submit a written thesis and will present their project in the Honors Thesis Symposium at the end of the year.

Application Process for Honors Thesis

Please complete the application and email your mentor Memorandum of Understanding to by the end of Spring semester’s finals week. This is a rolling deadline. You will need to complete both steps before you can be considered for acceptance into the Honors Thesis program.

The mentor Memorandum of Understanding can be found in the email from the advisors ( or here: Mentor Memorandum of Understanding.

Public Health Honors Thesis Application

Example Titles of Prior Undergraduate Honors Theses

  • Prevalence and Treatment of Diabetes in Rural Tanzania
  • Rural vs. Urban risk and protective factors for the development of early childhood caries (ECC) in developing countries
  • The Biological Effects of Condom Lubricants and Public Health Policy
  • Implications: Focus on College Culture
  • The Role of CIITA fusion protein in Lymphoma cancer
  • Biofilm Formation and the MCE operons in Mycobacterium smegmatis
  • Environmental Associations for Onchocerciasis Prevalence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Example Prior Undergraduate Honors Theses Papers

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Pediatric Epilepsy: Validation of a Noninvasive, Presurgical Motor Mapping Technique
  • Experiences of Women with Bacterial Vaginosis and Expectations for a Lactobacillus Product
  • Population Health: San Francisco Excess Deaths and 911-Medically related calls During the 2017 Labor Day Heat Wave Event
  • DNA Sensing in Myeloid Cells
  • Time and Degree of Saturation and Recovery from Chronic 0.1% and 0.05% Atropine Treatment in the Guinea Pig Model
  • The Development of Social Capital through Micro Interactions in “Safe Spaces” Clubs for Adolescent Girls in Northern Nigeria
  • Determinants of Organophosphorus Pesticide Urinary Metabolite Levels in 42-Month-Old Children Participating in the CHAMACOS Birth Cohort Study

Honors Thesis grading policy per guidance from the UC Berkeley campus

*All students who complete a Public Health honors thesis with an overall GPA of 3.3 or above (GPA requirements from UC Berkeley campus) and a Public Health Upper Division in the Major GPA of a 3.5 or higher will receive the distinction of Honors. Public Health does not issue High Honors or Highest Honors.

Honors courses must be completed before graduation in order for a student to receive honors on their diploma. In exceptional cases, due to unforeseen obstacles such as illness or limitations on access for research, instructors may consider issuing an I (incomplete) grade to individual students. This means that if the student is issued an I grade, they must also agree to postpone their graduation (i.e. change their Expected Graduation Term (EGT) to summer or fall with their College Advisor). The major program should work with the instructor of record and the student to create a written contract before issuing an incomplete grade. The student’s final grade (replacing the I grade) must be entered in CalCentral by the deadline to submit grades for summer or fall; therefore, the instructor should arrange for their student to submit their completed work with the grading deadline in mind.