The MCB Honors Concentration is designed for exceptional MCB Majors who demonstrate personal motivation to explore a fuller complement of experiences in biology during their undergraduate training.

MCB honors students typically plan to enter graduate or professional programs and want an intensive undergraduate education as preparation. Although compatible, the MCB Honors Concentration is separate from the LAS James Scholar program.

Apply to MCB Honors  Watch a presentation  FAQ about MCB Honors

Application Process


Applications are generally accepted during the first five weeks of the Fall or Spring semester, for admission in the following semester. Dates for Spring 2024 are January 16 through February 19.


The MCB Honors Concentration is open to MCB majors only. All students admitted to the concentration must either change their major to MCB Honors or make MCB Honors their primary major, if they are completing more than one major.

In order to qualify for admission, students are typically required to have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher, as well as grades of B+ or better in mathematics and science courses taken at the university.

Completion of one year of general chemistry (Chem 102 and 104) is also a prerequisite. One semester or concurrent enrollment in organic chemistry is strongly encouraged for students enrolling in MCB 250 as well. 

During the application period, a link to the online form can be found here. It is recommended that you prepare and save the information in a separate document and copy/paste it into the form for submission. You may re-submit an application if you wish to make changes. Only the last application submitted will be read. 

The required essays are a critical component of your application assessment. Please take the time to construct thoughtful answers that provide some insight into your personality and character. Applicants who have not met this criterion may not be selected for an interview. 

Recommendation letter

Applicants must submit ONE letter of recommendation. This letter must be from a University of Illinois professor/instructor or a graduate teaching assistant. Letters from high school instructors or undergraduate TAs will NOT be accepted.

Students who have transferred from another university or community college and are applying during their first semester on this campus may submit a letter from their previous institution.

A letter of recommendation should address your qualifications for participation in a college-level honors program and your level of commitment to furthering your education. Consider asking someone who has known you in a classroom or lab research setting.

The referee should email their letter to Dr. Shawna Naidu, Senior Coordinator for Instruction - Honors.

Remote Media URL

MCB Honors Concentration Information Session


Hear more about the program from Shawna Naidu, Honors Coordinator, and several students.

Program requirements


Honors students must

  • Fulfill all normal requirements of the MCB major

  • Complete five honors discussion sections

    • MCB 297 A, B, and C in consecutive order

    • MCB 298 A and B

  • Complete four or more MCB Honors points (options listed below), typically taken as third and fourth-year students (although Honors students are encouraged to begin MCB 290 research sooner, if chosen as an option.)

  • Complete all courses used to fulfill the above requirements with a grade of B- or better (if the course is graded).

  • Maintain the following minimum grade point averages: 3.5 cumulative or 3.3 major.

  • Other requirements may be added over time.

Required MCB Honors discussion sections

In addition to providing smaller and more interactive courses, honors sections are designed to help students develop skills in reading and critiquing primary scientific literature, analytical thinking and problem solving, oral and written communication, teamwork, and creativity.

Students are strongly encouraged to take the five honors discussion sections alongside the following MCB courses:

  • MCB 250, 252, and 354 simultaneously with MCB 297 A, B, and C
  • MCB 251 and 253 simultaneously with MCB 298 A and B

Students may also offset the discussion sequences from the core course requirements under certain circumstances, such as a student being accepted into the Honors Concentration after already having completed one or more core courses. Please consult the MCB Honors Coordinator with questions about your potential circumstances. 

Additional courses (points)

MCB Honors students must accumulate four MCB Honors points by choosing from the following options (each option is worth one point):

  1. Complete an additional advanced MCB course (1-4 credits) from the Approved List of Advanced Courses for MCB Majors .
  2. Complete an Honors Project in one advanced MCB course from the Approved List of Advanced Courses for MCB Majors.
  3. MCB 290: Individual Topics (Undergraduate Research). Must be taken for a minimum of two credit hours (or one, if taken during the 8-week summer session).
  4. MCB 492: Senior Thesis. May be applied towards graduation with distinction.
  5. MCB 292: Experiential Learning. Must be taken for a minimum of two credit hours.
  6. Study Abroad in MCB-approved discipline-specific programs only.
  7. Complete an Approved Supplemental Advanced Course outside of MCB. (See Honors Coordinator for list of courses approved for this option.)

Students must consult the Honors Coordinator about MCB Honors Option courses. MCB 290 may be repeated up to two times, although continuing MCB 290 beyond two semesters is encouraged.  Other options by not be repeated.  Other restrictions may apply, and other courses/options may be added to this list over time.

Contact us


Shawna Naidu, PhD, Senior Coordinator for Instruction-Honors, can be reached at 217-333-6774 or