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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 campus guidelines*.

Honors Thesis Eligibility and Prerequisites

Students interested in completing an Honors Thesis in Public Health must meet the following prerequisites:

  • A GPA of 3.5 or above at the end of their Junior year,
  • Successful completion of PH 142 by the end of their Junior year,
  • Successful completion of PH 150A by the end of their Junior year.

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

Mentor and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU):

Students must identify a research mentor who is affiliated with Berkeley (in any department – does not have to be Public Health) and who will guide your research. 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.

Required Honors Thesis Courses

The Honors Thesis courses cannot be used to fulfill the PH elective unit requirement.

  • Fall: PH155A – 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.
  • Fall: PH 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.
  • Spring: PH 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.

Research Project

Honors thesis projects can be quantitative or qualitative in design and can involve analysis of 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 Theses.

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 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 give an oral report describing their research.

Application process for Honors Thesis:

Please complete this application and email your mentor Memorandum of Understanding to by the end of Spring semester’s finals week. 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 (.pdf).

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:


* Honors Thesis grading policy per guidance from the UC Berkeley campus:

All students who complete a Public Health honors thesis and have a GPA of at least 3.5 in their major and an overall GPA of 3.3 or above (GPA requirements from UC Berkeley campus) will receive the distinction of Honors. Public Health does not issue High Honors or Highest Honors.

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. Honors courses must be completed before graduation in order for a student to receive honors on their diploma. 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.

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