Undergraduate Honors

Undergraduate Honors in Mathematics and Statistics

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics has several different levels of honors and prizes in the department. 


Distinctions for Majors

For most of the majors in the department, there are three levels of distinction awarded to graduating students:

  • Distinction: Usually more advanced coursework at a sufficiently high level.
  • High Distinction: Completing an honors project.
  • Highest Distinction: Passing graduate qualifer examinations or additional course work.


Latin Honors

Students who graduate with High Distinction are recommended to the College of Arts and Science for Latin Honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude).  Awards of Latin Honor are controlled by the College and there may be additional requirements that are needed outside of Mathematics and Statistics.

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

  1. Junior Year Fall Semester: Talk with your faculty advisor about possible projects.
  2. Junior Year Spring Semester: Complete the Honors Proposal Form and submit it to Blake Thornton.
  3. Senior Year, end of January:  Give your advisor a draft abstract and outline of the paper.
  4. Senior Year, end of February: Give your advisor a rough draft, including your abstract.
  5. Senior Year, end of March: Complete your final draft and present your work. (Deadline is March 31.)

Finding a Project and an Advisor

Start with the Mathematics and Statistics undergraduate research page.  Then, talk to your major advisor, your instructors and other faculty in the department about your interests, your background.  Be sure to let them know you are interested in doing a honors project.

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.