All of the Nicholas School’s degree programs — Environmental Sciences & Policy (A.B.), Environmental Sciences (B.S.), and Earth and Ocean Sciences (A.B. or B.S.) — offer a Graduation with Distinction option. The projects typically include a 25-50 page written manuscript and a poster summarizing its findings. To earn the honor, students must also have a 3.0 grade point average overall and a 3.2 grade point average in their major.



Students normally enroll in an Independent Research Study course (ENVIRON/EOS 393 [one semester] or preferably 393 and 394 for [2 semesters]) supervised by the research advisor. Only a second Independent Research Study course can be used to satisfy the major requirements, if allowed by their major advisor. The grade assigned by the faculty advisor for the independent research study course is independent of the committee’s determination of whether to award Graduation with Distinction. 

Thesis & Poster

Participants write a substantial (25-50 page) thesis describing their completed research. The format of the thesis is determined by the advisor. Students must also present a poster of their completed research, usually in mid-April, which is evaluated by a three-member committee. The committee is composed of the research advisor/mentor, a member of the Nicholas School faculty, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies or Director of Undergraduate Programs. 

Guidelines for Poster Preparation


The student is expected to participate in bimonthly workshops about topics relevant to the research process through their senior year. Duke Libraries offer special privileges to students working on honors theses. Learn more


Graduation May 2020 December 2020

Submit application for GWD

October 1, 2019 September 4, 2020

Submit draft of introduction to Research Supervisor

January 17 October 2
Submit draft of figures/tables to Research Supervisor March 1 October 23
Submit first full draft of thesis to Research Mentor March 16 October 30
Optional: Submit first draft thesis to committee members April 1 November 13
Submit an abstract and title to undergrad office April 3 November 24
GWD poster session TBA TBA
Final thesis due April 22 December 4

How to Apply

Interested students with a 3.0 grade point average overall and a 3.2 grade point average in their major should apply at the beginning of their senior year by submitting the Graduation with Distinction Application to the DUS by September 24.

Note that your major GPA is calculated using only core and focus study courses (excluding independent research study courses) and not co-requisites.  More information about calculating GPA can be found on the Office of the University Registrar’s site. 

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Contact Us

Undergraduate Program Office
Nicholas School of the Environment
Box 90328 Durham, NC 27708
(919) 613-8060