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Honors Program

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  1. Overview
  2. Application
  3. Progress
  4. Completion


The Materials Science and Engineering Honors Program offers an opportunity for outstanding undergraduate MSE majors to pursue independent research at an advanced level, supported by a Faculty Advisor and graduate student mentors. The main requirements are as follows:

  1. Hold and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.700 (AY24-25 and later).
  2. Application to the Honors Program with support from a Faculty Advisor.
  3. Enrollment in MATSCI 150 for independent research for a minimum of three full quarters and nine units.
  4. Completion of a faculty-approved Honors thesis.
  5. Participation in either the annual Materials Science and Engineering Research Symposium or an alternate, approved public oral/poster presentation (*waived for students completing the Honors Program in AY 2023–2024.)

Since this requires three full quarters of research in addition to a final written thesis and presentation of the work, students must apply to the Honors Program no later than four quarters prior to their planned graduation date. We encourage you to meet with an MSE Advisor no later than the Winter quarter of your junior year to receive information on the application process. 

You are allowed to complete some/all of these research units prior to application. Even then, please submit your application by the four-quarters-prior deadline.

If you're a first-/second-year student and the Honors Program interests you, we encourage you to look at the Stanford Academic Advising page or speak with an MSE Advisor to help plan ahead.

All requirements for the Honors Program are in addition to the normal undergraduate program requirements. Please do not hesitate to contact the Honors Program Coordinator, Enze Chen, if you have questions at any time.

To apply to the MATSCI Honors Program

Why apply?

There are many reasons why one might want to apply to the Honors Program, including but not limited to:

  • You are excited by independent research and the prospect of discovering new knowledge in a materials-related domain.
  • You seek an intellectual challenge of working on unsolved problems.
  • You want to further develop your scientific communication skills outside of the classroom, particularly written (thesis) and oral (presentation).
  • You want your hard work in undergraduate research to be formally recognized on your diploma (MSE "with Honors").
  • You want to join a community of like-minded Honors students at Stanford; we're happy to share more information about the Bing Honors College.

If you're unsure, please do reach out to an MSE Advisor.


  1. [Strongly recommended] Have met with an MSE Advisor to discuss the Program expectations and answer your questions.
  2. Have an overall GPA of 3.700 or higher (as listed at the end of the unofficial transcript) at the time of application.
  3. Have taken ENGR 50 and at least six MATSCI Fundamentals/Depth courses with passing grades. If you haven't taken enough courses, we ask you to wait before submitting an application.
  4. Seek out a Faculty Research Advisor and agree on a proposed research topic. If the Research Advisor is not a member of the MSE Faculty or not a member of the School of Engineering Academic Council, students must have a second advisor who fulfills these requirements.
  5. Complete an Honors Program application package, which includes the following three documents:
    1. The MSE Honors Application form signed by your chosen Faculty Research Advisor. [save the file as: LastName_Honors_Application.pdf]
    2. Compose a brief (1 page, ~300–500 words) summary of the proposed research, including a proposed title. You should first motivate its significance and briefly discuss current developments (citations optional). Then describe the methodology you will perform and the anticipated impact of your work. [LastName_Honors_Proposal.pdf]
    3. Your unofficial transcript as downloaded from Axess. [LastName_Honors_Transcript.pdf]
  6. Submit the application package as email attachments to MSE Student Services and MSE Advisors at least four quarters prior to planned graduation.
  7. After approval for the Honors Program, formally declare the Honors degree through Axess. You must complete the declaration process before applying to graduate in order for Honors to be reflected on your diploma.

Progressing through the MATSCI Honors Program

Congratulations on joining the MATSCI Honors Program! To support you in successful completion of all program requirements, here are some tips. Keep this information on your radar and periodically check back to ensure you're on track.

  • MATSCI 150: We recommend you sign up for UG research units commensurate with the amount of work you’re doing (1 unit ≈ 3 hours). The Honors Program requires that you complete at least nine units of UG research over three quarters—so don’t forget to enroll!
    • This requirement is not intended to limit you; rather, it’s to signify that a comprehensive Honors research project takes extended commitment. It’s possible that due to the 20-unit cap and other circumstances you cannot enroll in MATSCI 150 units in some quarters, but are still putting in the work; or you're on a research hiatus. This is acceptable as long as it's arranged with your Research Advisor, who must sign off on a petition in the end.
    • The three quarters must focus on the same project/topic and you should maintain the same Faculty Advisor throughout. The quarters do not have to be consecutive and we anticipate that some/all of them will be completed prior to application.
    • When you enroll in MATSCI 150, you need to specify your Research Advisor as the Instructor. If they're not listed in the options in Axess, please email MSE SSO to have them added, and then try to enroll.
    • In addition to doing research for units, you may be doing research for pay and/or research over the summer (see Major Grants). These alternative options are also valid, please note them in your petition for recordkeeping.
  • Oral presentation: We require you to share your Honors research with the broader scientific community, as this is an integral part of research. If there is critical mass, we will hold the MSE Research Symposium poster session in the Spring quarter which will be a soft requirement for Honors students. Other ways of satisfying this requirement include (at the Faculty Advisor’s discretion):
    • At Stanford: The Symposium of Undergraduate Research & Public Service (SURPS) in the Fall, the Stanford Research Conference (SRC) in the Spring, and ASURPS in the Spring. Be aware that you have to apply a few months in advance, so plan ahead!
    • At conferences: Plenty of past Honors students have presented their research at professional conferences, which is a major and fun accomplishment. There are usually options for posters and talks. You'll be alongside graduate students, postdocs, and faculty who are excited to hear about your work. Just be aware that these have even earlier application deadlines than on-campus opportunities, so we encourage you to discuss with your Research Advisor about the best venue, including:
      • General MSE-related conferences that may have a symposium session on your work. These include annual meetings from the Materials Research Society (MRS), The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS), American Chemical Society (ACS), American Physical Society (APS), etc.
      • Specialized, smaller conferences like the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) and the Electrochemical Society (ECS) meetings.
      • Conferences are also exciting opportunities to travel and explore new places; however, they're costly (look to see if there's a student registration tier) and money doesn't grow on trees. If you’ve been accepted to present, you can apply for a Stanford Conference Grant or talk to your PI about assistance with covering the costs.
    • Poster design and presentation tips: See SURPS and other online guides. You can also chat with us or your lab mentor/members for templates and feedback.
    • What does not count: REU poster session (even if it’s the same project, this is too premature of a stage), group meeting presentations (need a broader, public audience).
  • Thesis writing: We have shared some recommended guidelines on your thesis and helpful tips, as well as templates in Google Docs and LaTeX.
    • Examples from past years (styles vary widely) can be found in the MSE Collection in Searchworks.
  • Thesis readers: Your thesis needs two Faculty to sign off on it, so it’s good to think about who else besides your Research Advisor may be a good choice to evaluate your work. If you’re co-advised or collaborate with other groups, those PI may be the easiest ones to convince (remember, they have to commit time to reading your thesis, and that’s easier to do if they’re already involved in/thinking about the research). Otherwise, you may want to look through our MSE Faculty (or those of other departments) to identify PIs with aligned research interests and reach out to kindly ask for their support.
    • Reaching out several months in advance to get a verbal/written commitment is advised, if not even earlier. The sooner they're on board, the sooner they can serve as a resource during your Honors research/thesis process!

Again, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact an MSE Advisor or the Honors Program Coordinator (Enze).

To complete the MATSCI Honors Program

At the start of your final graduation quarter, double check your unofficial transcript on Axess before applying to graduate to make sure it contains:

  • An overall GPA of 3.5 or higher (AY23-24).
  • The MSE "with Honors" degree option listed at the top; if not, you have to add Honors to your degree through Axess
  • At least three quarters of research with a minimum of 9 units of MATSCI 150 with satisfactory performance (may petition out with Faculty Advisor approval).

With regards to your Honors thesis:

  • Submit final drafts of your thesis to two Faculty Readers (one must be your Research Advisor, and one must be an MSE Faculty member or SoE Academic Council member) at least one month prior to the thesis submission deadline, out of respect to your readers who have many theses to read. 
    • For those graduating in June 2024, this means by May 7, 2024. Of course, the earlier the better!
  • Both Faculty must approve the thesis by completing a signature page.
  • Your Research Advisor also needs to sign off certifying completion of the poster/oral presentation requirement. (*waived for students completing the Honors Program in AY 2023–2024.)

Final submission

  1. Prepare your PDF files as: LastName_Honors_Thesis.pdf, LastName_Signature_Page.pdf, and LastName_Petition_MSE150.pdf (if necessary).
  2. Submit one electronic copy of the Honors thesis including the completed signature page by both Faculty Readers to MSE SSO and MSE UG Advising. Include a petition for MATSCI 150 units, if applicable, in this email only.
  3. Submit to Durand 104 (MSE SSO) one hard copy of the Honors thesis with the printed signature page.
  4. Submit one electronic copy of the thesis and the signature page to the School of Engineering’s Office of Student Affairs (email Darlene Lazar).
  5. Deposit the electronic thesis (PDF) into the Stanford Digital Repository MSE Honors Collection following these instructions.

There are a few deadlines to keep in mind:

  • Timely submissions of the thesis by May 24, 2024 5pm will be eligible for University Thesis Awards nominated by the MSE Department. We encourage you to submit your final thesis by this date!
  • The SoE deadline for Undergraduate Honors thesis submissions is May 31, 2024 by 5pm. This is the last possible date.