Distinguished Majors Program


The Biology Distinguished Majors program is a research oriented program allowing the opportunity to conduct a significant body of independent research culminating in a formal written thesis and oral presentation at the end of the spring semester. Students participate in a weekly seminar where they discuss recent advances in biology, attend biology seminars and interact with seminar speakers, explore the philosophy and practice of science, and learn skills in oral and written research presentation. Students may choose research mentors from the Biology faculty, from selected laboratories in the UVA Medical Center, or from other laboratories conducting biologically related research.

We ask your assistance in establishing a fund to support our Biology DMP students in summer research. Summer is the optimal time to make research progress, but many laboratories don’t have the resources to pay student stipends. At an investment of $3,000 per student, we must rely on philanthropic giving to support our students. We hope you will consider supporting this important initiative.  Your gift of any amount will make an immediate impact on our program. To make a gift today, click here.


Biology DMP class, 2015-16

Back, L->R: Britney Harper, Elisabeth Schott, Ian Miller, Nate Oberholtzer, Ellen Bouchard, Julie Hong
Front, L->R:  Ashley Ferguson, Alyson Barnes, Eric Teplitz, Gina Park, Julia DeCelles-Zwerneman


Class of 2016 Biology Distinguished Majors Following the 2016 Katz Symposium:

L-R: Sarah Kucenas (Co-Director), Karina Payerhin, Joanna Lee, Julie Hong, Ian Miller (3rd Place Winner), Elisabeth Schott, Eric Teplitz, Ellen Bouchard (1st Place Winner), Julia Decelles-Zwerneman (2nd Place Winner), Britney Harper, Jay Hirsh (Co-Director)



Application to the Biology Distinguished Majors Program is at the end of the 2nd or 3rd year.  Applicants should have a serious commitment to research, with completion of at least one semester of Biology Independent Study (Biol 4911) and an overall grade point averageof 3.400 after completion of at least three semesters of 3000 or above Biology including at least one Biology Core class (Biol 3000, 3010, 3020). Earlier application may be made in exceptional cases. Applications for the DMP should be made to one of the Co-Directors of the Distinguished Majors Program, Professors Jay Hirsh or Sarah Kucenas, during the spring term for the following fall semester. Applications should contain a brief (two page maximum) description of research experience and the proposed research project, and must be accompanied by a written endorsement of the project by the proposed research mentor. An overall GPA of 3.400 is required by UVA for graduation with distinction, but research potential will be a major consideration for admission to this program. For students initiating a research project during the summer prior to their fourth year, application at the end of the summer will be considered.

The deadline for receipt of applications to the 2017-18 Biology Distinguished Majors Program will be Friday, April 14th, 2017.  For students initiating a research program during the summer, applications are due Friday, August 11th, 2017.


1. Demonstrated evidence of a serious commitment to research as evidenced by exceptional performance in Biology Independent Research, BIOL 4911-4918. Students may enroll in additional semesters of independent research in accordance with Biology undergraduate degree policies (University of Virginia Undergraduate Record/Biology).         

Distinguished Major candidates conducting independent research in the Biology department should enroll in BIOL491x using the faculty mentor's instructor number. Candidates working with faculty members outside of Biology should enroll using the instructor number of the Director of Biology Independent Research (Professor Jay Hirsh). Grading will be determined by the Director of Independent Research based on the recommendation of the student's research mentor.

2. All DMP candidates must attain a minimum GPA of 3.400 overall in the University.  DMP candidates pursuing a B.A. degree must attain a 3.400 GPA in the 22 credit hours presented for the B.A. degree, exclusive of grades in BIOL 4810 and 4820. DMP candidates pursuing a B.S. degree must attain a 3.400 GPA in the 33 credit hours presented for the B.S. degree. BA/DMP students will require a total of 27 hours.

3. Completion of 27 credit hours of Biology courses (or approved equivalent) at or above the 3000 level for the BA/DMP; completion of 33 such credit hours for the BS/DMP.

4. Successful completion of BIOL 4810/4820, Seminar in Biological Research.

5. Completion of a written DMP Thesis and an oral presentation of the research project at the Richard D. Katz Undergraduate Research Symposium. The Katz Symposium is held at the end of the Spring term and gives DMP candidates an opportunity to present their research findings to Biology students and faculty.  The DMP thesis and Katz Symposium presentations will be evaluated by the Undergraduate Committee.  On the basis of these evaluations the Undergraduate Committee will recommend to the Chairman and Faculty of the Biology Department that one of the following degrees be awarded:

     1) without distinction 

     2) with distinction 

     3) with high distinction, or 

     4) with highest distinction

The decision of the Biology faculty regarding each candidate will be forwarded to the Committee on Special Programs and to the University Registrar at least ten days before commencement.   Students will be notified of their degree status by email prior to commencement.



Jay Hirsh, Co-Director

Sarah Kucenas, Co-Director

Laura Galloway, Committee Member