Undergraduate Honors

Updated Requirements for Distinctions

Requirements for honors and distinctions were updated and approved Fall 2020.  Most students will follow the requirements below.  The old requirements can be found at Honors Prior to Spring 2021.

Distinctions in Mathematical Sciences, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Distinction

  • Complete at least 33 units of upper-level mathematics and/or statistics courses.
  • The GPA in these 33 upper-level units must be at least 3.7. If more than 33 units are taken for a letter grade, then the courses with the lowest grades can be omitted when computing GPA for this purpose.
  • Complete at least 5 courses, each with a B or better, at level 400+.
  • All these courses must be classroom courses (not independent study or study for honors), and they must all be taken for a letter grade.

High Distinction

  • Complete all requirements for Distinction.
  • Complete an honors thesis.

 

Highest Distinction

Complete all requirements for High Distinction with the requirement of "Complete at least 5 courses, each with a B or better, at level 400+" modified to: "Complete at least 5 courses, each with a B+ or better, at level 400+."

In addition, a student must complete one of the two paths below for Highest Distinction.

  1. Graduate Qualifier Path:
    Graduate qualifier courses in mathematics and statistics are two-semester sequences, starting in the fall.  In mathematics, a two-semester graduate qualifier sequence has a qualifier exam at the end of each semester.  In statistics, a two-semester sequence has a qualifier exam only at the end of the sequence in spring.
    Students must complete and pass either:
    1A) Two semesters of qualifier courses and their corresponding exams in mathematics (these can be a single yearlong sequence, or the first semester of two different sequences).
    OR
    1B)  One full-year qualifier course sequence and its corresponding exam in statistics.
    Note: These qualifier courses can count toward the additional course requirements for Distinction.
     
  2. Coursework Path:
    2A) ​​​​​​Complete at least 42 units of upper-level mathematics and/or statistics courses.  The GPA in these 42 upper-level units must be at least 3.7.  If more than 42 units are taken for a letter grade, then the courses with the lowest grades can be omitted when computing GPA for this purpose.
    AND
    2B) Complete at least total 9 courses at the 400 level or above, all with a B+ or better. These can include the five courses taken for distinction. All these courses must be classroom courses (not independent study or study for honors), and they must all be taken for a letter grade.

 

Distinctions in Mathematics and Computer Science

Distinction

  • For Distinction in Mathematics and Computer Science, students must take an additional 2 electives, for a total of 10 electives.
  • The student's GPA in the 10 electives must be at least 3.7.  If the student takes additional courses that satisfy these requirements, then the courses with the lowest grades may be omitted when calculating GPA for this purpose.
  • The student must complete at least four courses from the list of approved courses, each with a grade of B or better. These courses can be in either department (Math/Stat or CSE).  This list will be maintained by the Math/Stat Department and the CSE Department:

    Math 4111, 4351, 429,  439, 4392, 449, 450, 456, 459, 461, 475, 494, 470, 4111, 4121, 4171, 4181
    CSE 411A, 416A, 417T, 427S, 442T, 468T, 511A, 513T, 514A, 515T, 516A, 517A, 518A, 541T, 543T, 544T, 546T, 547T, 554A, 581T, 587A

 

High Distinction

  • Complete all requirements for Distinction.
  • Complete an honors thesis in either department (Math/Stat or CSE)

 

Highest Distinction

Complete the requirements for High Distinction.  Additinally, students must complete either the Qualifier Option or the Course Option, as described below.

  • Qual Option: Complete two semesters of graduate coursework and qualifier exams in the Math/Stat department, as described above for Highest Distinction in Math/Stats majors.

OR

  • Course Option: Complete three additional electives,  for a total of 13.  As with Distinction, the student's GPA in the 13 electives must be at least 3.7, and additional courses beyond 13 can be disregarded when calculating GPA.   The 13 electives must include at least 8 courses selected from the list under Distinction, each with a grade of B+ or better. At least two of these eight courses must be from each department (Math/Stat and CSE). 

Latin Honors

At the time of graduation, the mathematics department will recommend that a candidate receive Latin Honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) if she or he has completed the department's requirements for High Distinction or Highest Distinction in Mathematics, each of which requires an Honors Thesis. The College will then approve the recommendation if the student's final cumulative overall GPA is at least 3.65 (subject to change by the college).

The Honors Thesis

Arts & Sciences mathematics majors who want to be candidates for Latin Honors, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction must complete an honors thesis. Writing an honors thesis involves a considerable amount of independent work, reading, creating mathematics, writing a paper that meets acceptable professional standards, and making an oral presentation of results.

Types of Projects

An honors thesis can take three forms: 

  1. A thesis that presents significant work by the student on one or more nontrivial mathematics problems.
  2. A project in mathematical or applied statistics that involves an in-depth analysis of a large data set. To do an honors thesis involving data analysis, it is usually necessary to have completed 3200-493-494 by the end of the junior year, and to have an ability to work with statistical software such as SAS, R or Python.
  3. A substantial expository paper that follows independent study on an advanced topic under the guidance of a department faculty member. Such a report would involve careful presentation of ideas and synthesis of materials from several sources.

Process and Suggested Timeline

Junior Year, Spring Semester:

  1. Talk with a faculty advisor about possible projects.
  2. Complete the Honors Proposal Form and submit it to Blake Thornton.

Senior Year: 

  1. By the end of January, give your advisor a draft abstract and outline of the paper.
  2. A rough draft, including an abstract, should be given to the advisor by the end of February.
  3. You and your advisor should agree on when you will complete your writing, and on a date/time for the oral presentation in mid-March. (Deadline is March 31.)

Departmental Prizes

Each year the department considers graduating majors for three departmental prizes. Recipients are recognized at an annual awards ceremony in April, where they each receive a certificate and a set of honors cords to be worn as part of the academic dress at Commencement. Awards are noted on the student's permanent university record. 

Ross Middlemiss Prize

The Ross Middlemiss Prize is awarded to a graduating math major with an outstanding record. The award was established by former Professor Ross Middlemiss, who taught at Washington University for forty years. From 1936 through the 1960s, Middlemiss authored several books, including a widely popular calculus text that was used in University College courses until the late 1970s.

Putnam Exam Prize

The Putnam Exam Prize is awarded to a graduating senior who has participated regularly in the Putnam Exam Competitionand done exceptionally well throughout his/her time at Washington University.

Martin Silverstein Award

The Martin Silverstein Award was established in memory of Professor Martin Silverstein who, until his death in 2004, was a pioneer in work at the interface of probability theory and harmonic analysis. Each year the department considers for this award students in any major track, but especially those with strengths in probability or statistics.

Brian Blank Award

The Brian Blank Award was established in memory of Professor Brian Blank who passed away in 2018. Each year the Mathematics Department will select distinguished junior(s), majoring in mathematics and statistics.