Distinguished Majors Program

Congratulations to the winners of the 39th Annual Richard D. Katz Undergraduate Research Symposium, held May 3, 2023.

August Kahle, Lily Kauffman, and Victoria Feist

The Katz Symposium gives Distinguished Majors in Biology, under the direction of Prof. Michael Wormington, an opportunity to present their independent research findings to the Biology faculty, fellow students, and family.

  • 1st Place – Lily Kauffman: Dorsal motor vagal neurons can suppress heart rate and anxiety-like behavior in mice. (Campbell Lab)
  • 2nd Place – August Kahle: Analysis of inflammation-induced glial signaling and phagocytosis by single cell mass cytometry (Deppmann Lab)
  • 3rd Place – Victoria Feist: Identifying variation in host defenses against infection in C. elegans (Gibson Lab)

In total, 20 Distinguished Majors (see below) presented this year. Congratulations to all, and best wishes for your future endeavors!

(First Row L-R): Victoria Feist, Keely Pattisall, Nicole Freeman, Cristen Huynh, Lily Kauffman, Shuwen Shan, Laila Latifi
(Second Row L-R):  Olivia Keenan, Daria Gundermann, Christopher Heron, Samantha Olmsted, Jesus Near, August Kahle, Christopher Xie, Leila Shepard, Phillip Reeves, Caroline Tyndall, Charan Vemuri, Matthew Smith, Rija Jain



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.



Applications will be reviewed and acceptances made on a rolling basis beginning Monday April 15 and continuing through 5PM Monday, August 26. No applications will be accepted after August 26.

Application to the Biology Distinguished Majors Program is at the end of the 3rd year.  Applicants should have a serious commitment to research, with completion of at least one semester of Biology Independent Study (Biol 4910 or 4920) and an overall grade point average of 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. 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.

Applications for the DMP should be emailed to the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program, Professor Douglas Taylor. The application package should include a 2-3 page research statement (including a description of both the candidate's research experience and of the proposed research project), a CV, and an unofficial transcript. In addition, the candidate's research mentor must email a separate letter of support directly to Professor Taylor. Finally, please include a brief statement (1 paragraph) of your career aspirations. This is not taken into account when accepting students to the DMP. Rather, it is a way for us to learn the future goals of our potential students so that we can plan activities for the subsequent year that align with our students' ambitions.

If you have questions, please contact Professor Douglas Taylor to discuss further.


1. Demonstrated evidence of a serious commitment to research as evidenced by exceptional performance in Biology Independent Research, BIOL 4910-4920. Distinguished Major candidates conducting independent research in the Biology department should enroll in BIOL4920 using the faculty mentor's instructor number. Candidates working with faculty members outside of Biology should enroll in BIOL4910 using the instructor number of the Director of Biology Independent Research (Professor Masashi Kawasaki). 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.

Professor Douglas Taylor, Director