Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research

In Fall 2021, we restructured the Honors program to become the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research (STAR) program. This change is intended to expand the number of Psychology and Neuroscience & Behavior students we can accept into this rigorous training program.

Students with strong interests in psychological/neuroscientific research are encouraged to apply for admission to the Psychology Department's Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research in the fall of their junior year or the equivalent, such that they will be able to participate in the three consecutive semesters (spring - fall - spring) that are required in the program. 

Students can find the link to the info session in the Psychology Department's weekly email newsletter, or by emailing the Psychology Undergraduate Curriculum Assistant.

The application can be found here and will be due by November 1, 2023. Applications may be submitted earlier than due date. 


Important: Students will need to confirm that a professor has agreed to mentor them before being admitted into the program. Therefore, interested applicants should reach out now to potential mentors. Tip: The best way to ensure finding a mentor is to get involved in that mentor’s research before asking if they can provide mentoring/supervision on your thesis. Please read through all the information below before submitting your application.


What is the Senior Thesis Advanced Research?

How/when do I sign up for the Senior Thesis Advanced Research track?

What are the prerequisites?

How do I find a PI mentor?

How many credits should I sign up for?

How do students graduate with honors?

The series includes: 

a) enrolling in a 3-semester Senior Thesis Research Intensive series, which includes a weekly seminar and research commitment, that must occur consecutively in your Junior year spring semester and Senior year (fall & spring), or equivalent [NOTE: this research course includes performing intensive, independent research with a lab mentor, writing a final thesis, and oral presentation of the thesis at the end of the 3rd semester],


b) enrolling in a one-semester methods course in any semester during undergrad (i.e., before or during the series). Students are strongly encouraged to register for PSYC UN1920 The How-To's of Research. If that is not possible, other methods courses in the department can also count towards this requirement (PSYC UN1420/21, UN1450/51, UN1455/56, UN1490/91) Students are strongly encouraged to complete this methods training during or before the spring of their junior year (or equivalent).

All students aspiring to graduate with Academic Honors must enroll in the series described above. However, acceptance to and participation in this program does not automatically result in earning academic honors (see requirements for Honors below).

Note the students majoring in Neuroscience & Behavior may earn academic honors through the Department of Biological Sciences instead. (Please check their website for more details on that process.)

The Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research is open to students majoring in Psychology or Neuroscience & Behavior and includes the following: 

Senior Thesis Advanced Research Seminar (UN3930): This is a two-hour, one-credit course that meets biweekly, during which students present and discuss their ongoing research. Students in the course also attend the Psychology Department's Colloquium Series, which features researchers from outside the Department speaking on a variety of topics in Psychology/Neuroscience. The seminar and colloquia always take place on Wednesdays from 4:10 - 6:00 p.m. Students in the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research enroll in this course during the spring of their junior year and during the fall and spring of their senior years, or the equivalent.

Senior Thesis Research: Starting in the spring of their junior year and continuing through senior year, all students in the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research conduct research under the supervision of a Psychology Department faculty member or a faculty member/principal investigator in a psychology- or neuroscience-focused lab outside the department, including at Barnard College, the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia Business School, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and other research institutions in the area.

Research Methods Course: To fulfill this requirement, students should ideally enroll in PSYC UN1920 The How-To's of Research, but this requirement can also be fulfilled by one of the Research Methods Courses (PSYC UN1420/21 Research Methods: Human Behavior; PSYC UN1450/51 Research Methods: Social Cognition & Emotion; PSYC UN1455/56 Research Methods: Social & Personality Psychology; PSYC UN1490/91 Research Methods: Cognition & Decision-making)

Senior Thesis: Students in the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research complete an original research project under the supervision of their faculty advisor. Senior students present their research orally at the last colloquium of the Spring term, and also submit a written senior thesis.

Students participating in the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research program are also eligible to receive academic honors when they graduate, provided they 1) complete all components of the program, 2) earn a GPA in the major of 3.6 or higher at the time of graduation, and 3) are recommended by the Psychology department faculty. Please note that academic honors can be awarded to no more than 10% of the graduating class each year, so while only students who have participated in this senior thesis research intensive are eligible to receive academic honors, not everyone in the senior thesis research intensive will receive academic honors. 

The application is due in early fall, and decisions are communicated by mid fall, in time for admitted students to register to begin Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research-related classes in the spring. 

The application process comprises the following steps: 

  1. Identifying a lab sponsor: If you think you might be interested in applying, you should start reaching out to labs that you’re interested in well in advance of the application deadline to see if they might have openings for research assistants and if they’d be willing to mentor you in your research. Keep in mind that mentoring a student is a significant commitment on the part of a professor, and so it may be difficult to identify a professor who can provide mentorship. You can find more information/advice on securing research opportunities in labs on our courseworks site. Successful applicants typically demonstrate how their own research interests fall in line with those of their proposed sponsor and attest that their faculty member/PI has agreed to sponsor them. Once you have secured a position in a lab, you and your mentor will need to fill out the mentor agreement form
  2. Complete the online application: The application will be made available on this page and comprises a few relatively short questions asking students to describe their previous coursework and research-related experiences and to write about their intended research interests.

Prof. Lila Davachi and Prof. Nim Tottenham lead the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research program. You can direct any questions to Prof. Davachi or Prof. Tottenham or to the peer advisors who are currently enrolled in the program.

While the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Advanced Research program can be a wonderful opportunity for students in Psychology and Neuroscience & Behavior, many students find that it does not work in their schedules, e.g., because of other coursework, employment, or activities; plans to study abroad; and so on. Many students get involved in research and write papers without being a part of the Psych/Neuro Senior Thesis Research Intensive.