Program Description

  1. Program Organization
  2. Program Objectives
  3. Eligibility
  4. Requirements
  5. Honors Projects
  6. Withdrawing from the Program
  7. Registration and Preliminary Considerations
  8. Defining an Honors Project
  9. Faculty Members: The Candidate's "Committee"
  10. Application for Candidacy
  11. Junior Year Credits
  12. The Project Proposal
  13. Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval
  14. Senior Year Awards for George H. Cook Scholar Candidates


I. Program Organization

The George H. Cook Scholars Program is conducted by the George H. Cook Honors Committee, comprised of elected and appointed members of the faculty. The Honors Committee is responsible for establishing program requirements, reviewing and evaluating proposals and projects, awarding grants to support research expenses and designating candidates as George H. Cook Scholars.

The Director, Dr. Malcolm Watford, is responsible for the general administration of the program and serves as the initial contact and liaison with the Honors Committee for both students participating in the program and the faculty members working with them.



II. Program Objectives

The George H. Cook Scholars Program is designed to encourage and develop interest in scientific research or other independent scholarly and creative endeavors. The honors project must be an original and independent study conducted by the candidate, with direction and guidance provided by the designated faculty Project Advisor and Reviewer, as well as by faculty members or appropriate professionals (from Rutgers or elsewhere) willing and available to consult with the candidate in the course of the research.

The program also aims to develop and enhance the candidate’s skills in the oral and written presentation of their work.



III. Eligibility

Students participate in the George H. Cook Scholars Program during their senior year at Cook and prepare for it in the second term of the junior year. Eligible students must

  1. have completed at least 24 credits at Rutgers University by the end of their junior year, and
  2. be in the upper 15% of their class in the fall term of their junior year.

In the fall term of the junior year, these students are automatically invited to consider the program and begin planning an honors project and consulting with faculty members who can help them.

Students with grade-point averages above 3.000 who are not in the top 15% of the class may participate if they are nominated for the program by an SEBS faculty member (typically the student's academic advisor, who is required to sign the APPLICATION FOR CANDIDACY).

Students who wish to participate but have a grade-point averages below 3.000 may petition the committee. This petition, submitted to the Director, must be supported by the faculty member with whom the student wishes to conduct the honors project and include a statement of confidence in the student's capability for honors-level work in the field of study, despite a below-honors grade-point average.



IV. Requirements

The honors project itself is a two-term (@3-6 credits/semester) independent study with guidance and support from the candidate’s faculty “committee.” This project is normally undertaken in the last two terms of the senior year.

The term prior to the project itself (normally the spring term of the junior year) is spent planning the project with the faculty Project Advisor (see below). A proposal (see below) is submitted by the middle of the term prior to the senior year. This proposal is then reviewed by the Honors Committee. The student also designates a Reviewer and, if necessary, a Cook Co-Advisor (see below). A member of the Honors Committee is then designated by the committee to serve as the Session Chair.

Candidates are encouraged to begin their research in the summer prior to the senior year – and, with a project proposed already, are eligible for summer stipends offered through the university or external funding sources. Candidates who actually begin their research in the junior year (and some Project Advisors require this “initiation” into the laboratory or research group) may register for 11:015:398 Honors Research (BA). Candidates also register for 11:015:497 [498] G. H. Cook Honors Program (BA) with their senior-year courses.

Candidates continue their research in the first term of the senior year and register for the second term of the project, 11:015:498 [497] G. H. Cook Honors Program (BA). At the end of the first term, a Progress Report is submitted to the Project Advisor, who submits the grade for that term’s work. (The Progress Report is, essentially, a rough draft of the final thesis, updating the proposal and indicating revisions in its procedures and scope.)

Near the end of the second term, candidates submit their honors theses to the Project Advisor(s), the Reviewer and the Honors Committee (via the Director). The honors thesis is defended publicly at the George H. Cook Scholars Presentations. Theses accepted by the committee for George H. Cook Scholar honors are bound and preserved in the Chang Science Library, Foran Hall.



V. Honors Projects

The requirement that proposed projects be original means that students are expected to define, themselves, the area in which they wish to conduct advanced research or scholarly/creative activity. They should have sufficient background in the discipline to be familiar with its methods of inquiry and discourse and to suggest the design of an appropriate scholarly or creative project. The Honors Program is not, in other words, a means for students to take up a field (like computer science or photography or quantum mechanics) with which they have little previous experience. Students are, however, encouraged to use the honors project as a way to apply acquired expertise to new areas or problems.

Although students should seek faculty guidance in the design of the project, they should neither expect nor allow an advisor to provide a scripted project for them to walk through. Taking initiative in the planning is a significant aspect of the program objectives. Faculty direction is intended only to help define an objective and scope appropriate for a project of 6-12 credits and to help students enlarge and refine their repertoire of techniques and expertise.

The requirement that the proposed projects be independent means that students may not collaborate on the same project. Though students frequently work on related projects in an ongoing departmental research effort, a George H. Cook Scholar should be working on a well-specified and individualized aspect of the study. Candidates whose research contributes significantly to a published paper, furthermore, should expect to be acknowledged in the authorship.

Nor should a George H. Cook Scholar be allowed to become an unpaid assistant or technician for someone else's research. (One of the Honors Committee's charges is to prevent this from happening.) While such apprenticeships undoubtedly provide valuable learning experiences for students, other mechanisms in the SEBS curriculum are more clearly designed to provide them. Students who feel they have lost initiative and autonomy in their projects should discuss this matter with the Project Advisor – or the Reviewer or a member of the Honors Committee.



VI. Withdrawing from the Program/Conversion to Independent Study

An honors project can be dropped or converted into a curricular independent study at any time with the approval of the Project Advisor and the Director. Candidates may withdraw their own projects from the program through the eighth week of its final term and should consult with the Director concerning their alternatives. Projects approved by the Project Advisor but not approved by the Honors Committee for the George H. Cook Scholar award will, in consultation with the Project Advisor, automatically be converted to the appropriate independent study by the Director, without loss of credit to the graduating student.



VII. Registration and Preliminaries Considerations

Discuss with your Faculty (upperclass/major/academic) Advisor the wisdom of pursuing a senior-year independent study instead of 2-4 additional courses, so far as your own post-graduate plans are concerned. (This is the rationale behind requiring the Faculty Advisor’s signature on the , with whom juniors will also be completing a Senior Evaluation form in the spring.)

Having already conducted an independent research project provides invaluable experience for those planning to attend graduate/professional schools and is considered quite favorably by their admissions committees. But gaining additional skills and expertise through traditional coursework might make more sense for those planning to enter a field different from the undergraduate major.

Students who cannot complete the honors project in contiguous fall-spring semesters because, for example, they are undertaking Study Abroad, an off-campus internship or Cooperative Education placement, should not be discouraged from participating. Variations in the traditional spring-fall-spring sequence can be arranged through the Director.

Students who wish to begin their research in their junior year may also register for 11:015:398 Honors Research (BA). Special permission numbers for this are issued by the Director, and the Project Advisor submits a grade for the student at the end of the term.

Eligible students who intend to participate should register for the program with their other senior year courses. The program is found in the Schedule of Classes as 11:015:497 [498]:95 G H COOK HONORS PROG (BA,BA). (NOTE: The 5-digit index number changes from semester to semester.)

It is a "By Permission Only" course. Special Permission numbers will be issued to the student by the Director upon receipt of the APPLICATION FOR CANDIDACY. Students must indicate, at the time of registration, how many credits they want for the term, using the special procedures for "CREDITS BY ARRANGEMENT" courses. Once registered (i.e., in the course), the student may adjust the number of credits without an additional Special Permission number, so long as the original registration is not dropped.

(BA,BA) means that the credits may vary from 3-6/semester. The number of credits must be entered as 030, 045, 060, etc. when registering by telephone or WebReg, or in the special "By Arrangement credits" column on the ADD-DROP form. (Failure to indicate the credits correctly will result in being registered for 0.0 credits.)

How many credits should you register for? This matter should also be discussed with your Faculty Advisor, who knows the flexibility of your particular program, the curricular and graduation requirements that must also be met in the coming year and your own post-graduate plans. These factors, alone, may determine the feasibility or scope of your project: the minimal (6-credit total) project will replace two 3-credit courses.

You might also consider whether you have to "front-/back-load" the project, given the availability of the other courses you want/need. Research actually done in the summer can be "credited" for the fall, leaving you more real time in which to apply for grad schools/jobs (which is very time-consuming). Candidates are also strongly urged to use the Wintersession as a time to stay on campus and focus on their research. The crunch, so far as writing the thesis is concerned (and some kinds of projects are primarily "in" the writing of them), comes in March-April, but so do the interviews for graduate school or jobs.

While your Faculty Advisor can help you determine how much time you can devote to the project, it is the Project Advisor, the faculty member with whom you are working most closely, who is the final arbiter of the number of credits necessary for the project you define. A good working formula for a project consisting primarily of laboratory work is 3-4 hours of concentrated effort per credit per week; thus the minimal, 6-credit project will require approximately 9 hours of research/week for two semesters. A 6-credit project that is based primarily on reading or library research should result in a paper of approximately 50 pages. Fieldwork in the social sciences and the analysis of data collected thereby is commensurate with laboratory work. Artistic or similar creative projects are difficult to quantify. Again, the faculty members with whom you are working have their own senses of how many credits a project of the kind you are undertaking is "worth" and will advise you accordingly.

Perhaps this is a good place to point out that professionals are, by definition, not paid by the hour. Midnight oil is the lubricant of scholarship: you stay at that bench or computer all night, if need be, to get the results your professionalism demands. On the other hand, if you registered for only 3 credits/ semester and find that your project is consuming considerably more time, there is no reason you should not add credits for the work you are putting into it. Conversely, should you discover that you cannot afford the time demanded by a >3-credits/ semester project, you can adjust the credits or turn the project into a less demanding curricular independent study. Students with heavy courseloads (>15 credits/term, in addition to the honors project) or work commitments (>15 hours/week) should probably not undertake an honors project, unless much of the research can be accomplished during the summer or winter recesses.

This is also a good place to point out that faculty members expect more in the way of "professionalism" and "initiative" of students working on an honors project than of students simply helping out with research in the lab. Conversion of a project to a curricular independent study is, then, a way of accounting for work that is respectable but not worthy of "honors." Students may elect to make this conversion themselves, when they feel they cannot or do not wish to expend the energy/time that is required by the project or Project Advisor. (To that end, the honors and teaching effectiveness committees developed a learning contract of sorts, which is sent to candidates and Project Advisors at the outset of the project.)



VIII. Defining an Honors Project

There are two ways to begin to define an appropriate project:

  1. to know the general subject area/discipline(s) in which you want to do advanced work, or
  2. to know a faculty member with whom you wish to work.

The best source for defining (1) the area in which you wish to work is your own experience as an undergraduate. What course(s) have you most enjoyed and wished to pursue further? Have you decided to follow a professional path different from the one you imagined at the outset of your major? The honors project provides an excellent mechanism either for advancing your expertise in a given field (from "biology" in general to "reproductive endocrinology" or "genetic engineering") or for giving that expertise a slightly different twist (from "environmental economics" to "environmental planning," from "computer science" to "chemical modeling"). Go back to these professors and discuss possible projects with them. They can suggest areas open for research, as well as faculty members with whom you might work.

For those who know what they might want to do, but don't know (2) who at Cook/Rutgers works in that area, a list of current faculty members in New Brunswick who have worked with honors students in the past five years may be found on the website (see Honors Faculty). Look also at the projects/Project Advisors of the past few years (also on the website and in the Chang Library). Even if that faculty member cannot work with you, he/she can probably suggest a more appropriate colleague with whom to discuss the project.



IX. Faculty Members: The Candidate's "Committee"

If you do know (2), a faculty member with whom you would like to work, then contact him/her immediately to discuss possible projects. This faculty member may not be able to take on your project, for a variety of reasons, but, again, may be able to suggest someone else with whom you may be able to pursue your specific area of inquiry. (This faculty member may also be willing to participate as the Reviewer for your project.)

The Project Advisor is responsible for supervising the project, endorsing it for “honors” consideration and submitting a grade for the work (as an honors thesis or independent study).

Prior to presenting your revised proposal in the spring of your junior year, you must also designate a faculty member to serve as an "outside" Reviewer. (Your Project Advisor should be able to suggest an appropriate colleague. Or you might ask a faculty member who is familiar with your work.) The Reviewer should be available for consultation throughout the course of your project and should, therefore, have sufficient expertise in the subject of your project. The Reviewer's evaluation of the merit of the project is reported directly to the Honors Committee. The Honors Committee has final authority over the designation of a project for George H. Cook Scholar honors and resolves any discrepancies in the various evaluations of the project.

If your Project Advisor belongs to a faculty other than SEBS's (e.g., FAS Biology or Anthropology, SCILS Journalism, the College of Pharmacy, the medical school), then -- in addition to the Reviewer -- you must have a SEBS Co-Advisor, a member of our faculty responsible for consulting with you, the Project Advisor and the Honors Committee concerning your progress.

A candidate’s “committee” is completed by the assigned Session Chair, the member of the honors committee who oversees the projects of the candidate’s “session.”



X. The Application for Candidacy

This form must be submitted to the Director by the beginning of the second term of the junior year, in order to be registered for the program. This form must be signed by your academic advisor, at the same time you discuss your courses and prepare for the Senior Evaluation. You are asked, also, to indicate tentative topic(s) for your project, although you need not have consulted with potential project advisors in order to submit the application: only the Faculty Advisor’s signature is required. Special Permission numbers for the first term of the senior year will be sent via email to all applicants. You may, then, add the course at any time after the first day you are eligible to register. (See above for details.)

If you have misplaced the blue sheet, you may find the form under Forms & Applications.



XI. Junior Year Credits

Some faculty members prefer (or require) students undertaking a senior honors thesis to spend some time in the laboratory the semester before learning the procedures, reviewing the literature and interacting with the graduate/post-doctoral students in the lab. Some students are going forward with work begun as an independent study, honors tutorial or cooperative education placement to an honors project. These students may register for 11:015:398 Honors Research (BA) in the term prior to the “official” George H. Cook year, for 0.5 to 3.0 credits.



XII. The Project Proposal

A research proposal, approved/signed by the Project Advisor(s), must be submitted to the office of the Director by the end of April. The Project Proposal (4-5 pages, typed) should include:

  1. an introduction, which includes a summary of the literature and/or other relevant background materials [to be} reviewed;
  2. a description of the project and its significance;
  3. an outline or discussion of the procedures to be followed;
  4. a bibliography of relevant articles/books. The citation and bibliographical style must be uniform throughout the paper and conform to the predominant style of publications in the field. Bibliographical references must include:
    1. for articles: full names of author(s), title of article, title of journal, information on issue/date and inclusive pagination;
    2. for books: full names of author(s) and/or editor(s), title of chapter and/or book, edition number (if not the first), place/publisher/year of publication;
    3. for internet information: full addresses, including date of accession.
    (The Reference Departments of the university libraries maintain collections of the style manuals for various disciplines, which should be consulted for stylistic details for citing Internet material and the more esoteric sources, e.g. government documents, interviews, pamphlets, maps, images, hearings, etc.)
  1. The copy submitted to the Director must have a title page, signed by the Project Advisor, as shown in Figure 1.
  2. Candidates whose projects require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval (of projects involving human and/or animal subjects) must apply for review at this time and receive approval prior to actually beginning the research.

Note that, in order to meet this deadline, you should circulate a draft of your proposal to the Project Advisor(s) as soon as possible, to enable them to suggest revisions prior to their “signing on” to the project. Arrange, also, to meet with them to discuss the project, its progress, the proposal and whatever revisions their final approval of the proposal will require. Failure to submit the proposal by the deadline will result in the deletion of your registration in the program.

It is the candidate's responsibility to ascertain that all required submissions have been received by the Director. Do not ask faculty members to forward them: professors are well-known to be "absent-minded"! Hand delivery is the safest means. If the mail has been used -- federal or campus -- allow sufficient time for delivery and check that it has been received.




XIII. Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Ascertain, before begin your research, whether your proposed project will require IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval. Discuss with your Project Advisor any possible problems with chemical safety, biohazards or the care and use of animal/human subjects that might arise with your project. Such research is required by law to be reviewed by an internal board of faculty researchers (the IRB): this is an elaborate and time-consuming procedure. The IRB meets once a month and is authorized to put a moratorium on research that it feels requires further investigation. Several GHCook projects have been put on hold for months awaiting this approval -- a loss of valuable time for a project that must be completed within a narrow timeframe.

University faculty members are fairly clear about the guidelines for what does and doesn't require approval. Many have already obtained approval for the research protocols of their laboratories. But if you or your Project Advisor suspects that new approval will be required, you must initiate that process before the summer, since approvals must be obtained before you can begin your work. If IRB approval is required, a copy of the approval must be submitted to the Director.



XIV. Senior Year Awards for George H. Cook Scholar Candidates

Candidacy for the George H. Cook Scholar award becomes official following the acceptance of the project proposed to the Honors Committee. George H. Cook Scholar candidates are then eligible for several additional awards.

For several years now, George H. Cook Scholar candidates have received merit scholarships awarded by the college’s Financial Aid Committee. These scholarships typically amount to several hundred dollars (depending on the funds available and the number of candidates). Since candidacy is not “official” until the senior year, these scholarships are awarded as credit on the final senior year term bill. (Seniors graduating in January need to make arrangements with Dean Ventola to have their awards credited/refunded.)

All SEBS students receive, in February, application forms for scholarships for the following year.George H. Cook applicants receive a special form, which should be submitted to Dean Ventola (Lipman House/Martin Hall, 2 nd floor) in lieu of the general application. Applicants who have already submitted the general application should submit the “G. H. Cook” form with an indication that their scholarship application has already been submitted.

Students need not have submitted the official “financial need” paperwork to be eligible for these merit scholarships. However, the amount of such merit scholarships may be deducted from an existing financial aid package.

In October, official candidates and their Project Advisors are sent applications for The George H. Cook Scholars Grants Program. This fund is designed to reimburse candidates and/or their Project Advisors for the expenses of the research project. Typically, no more than $500.00 is awarded to any one project. Candidates are reimbursed for travel to research sites or special supplies purchased to conduct the project. Project Advisors are reimbursed for laboratory supplies used specifically for the candidate’s project. (The fund may not be used, however, for “equipment” that outlives the project.)

Students who incur expenses before the year’s grant request forms have been distributed must save all receipts for their expenses (or “log” their travel). Project Advisors typically track the expenses through purchase order numbers. The fund can reimburse only those expenses for which legitimate (and acceptable to the Business Office) documentation is supplied.

The fund can also be used to reimburse travel expenses for the presentation of the project at a scholarly conference or publication in a scholarly journal, again within the $500.00 limit for any given project.