The CS Departmental Honors (DH)
Undergraduate students in Computer Science completing BA or BS degrees have several options for completing the Departmental Honors (DH) track. The core of the DH is the Honors Project (previously called the Capstone Project), which is a chance to work one-on-one with our faculty on a year-long, in-depth research project. It's fantastic preparation for graduate school and industry, providing a chance to learn skills that are harder to obtain in a classroom setting.
This webpage describes the recommended steps to complete the CS Departmental Honors. For additional details, please check the Commonwealth College website.
The CS Honors Program Director (HPD) is happy to take any questions you may have. Just send an email to askCSHonors [at] cs [dot] umass [dot] edu with your questions, or schedule an appointment.
Students who are currently members of the Commonwealth Honors College and have an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher (earned after one fulltime semester of UMass Amherst coursework) are eligible to apply for DH track. The admission is authorized by the HPD through an online form.
Honors course refers to a course that has an associated Honors Colloquium (the course number of which starts with an H). For example, CMPSCI 320 may have an associated Honors Colloquium CMPSCI H320. You need to enroll in both to be eligible. Service courses such as 102 and 105 do not count towards honors courses.
In addition, any CMPSCI graduate-level course (600 or above) that is not a paper-reading class usually counts towards an honors course. 500-level courses vary and require approval by the HPD. If you need confirmation about a specific course, please send an email to askCSHonors [at] cs [dot] umass [dot] edu
The Honors Project or Thesis requirement is a two-semester sequence. You will work with a research advisor on a specific project that both of you agree on. To do so, you need to enroll in CMPSCI 499Y (Honors Research, previously called Capstone Research), and then CMPSCI 499P or T (Honors Project or Thesis, previously called Capstone Project or Thesis). 499Y is designed to provide preparations for research: students typically work with a faculty member to learn research methodology, select a research topic, and perform literature review. The research project is then completed through taking 499P or T. To enroll in 499Y/P/T you need to submit the Honors Project/Thesis Contract form.
Currently 499Y can be satisfied by taking CMPSCI 691DD (Research Methods), which is offered regularly in the spring semester. This is the recommended way to meet the 499Y requirement. Additional details are described below. If for some reason you are not able to enroll in 691DD, you can still enroll in 499Y by submitting the Honors Project/Thesis Contract form.
Recommended Timeline and Steps
If you cannot meet these deadlines, please send mail to askCSHonors [at] cs [dot] umass [dot] edu. In particular, if you miss the proposal submission deadline, you MUST detail how your proposal can still be completed in the time remaining in the semester. Under no circumstances will proposals be accepted after Add/Drop. In that case, your schedule must be delayed a semester. The UMass calendar is posted here.
During your second semester of your research (499P/T), you need to provide a revised proposal for your second semester of work The revised proposal is sent on to Commonwealth College.
Although a completed Honors Research (499Y, and 499P or T) is 6 credits toward graduating from UMass, only 3 credits, upon UPD approval, may count toward your CS degree (that is, it's worth one CS elective).
Research Methods (691DD)
As part of completing your Honors Research, we strongly recommend you to register for 691DD Research Methods. The class is designed to teach you research methodology, and the homework revolves around your specific reseearch project. Taking this class also automatically satisfied the CMPSCI 499Y requirement. Compared to directly taking 499Y, this class will provide a structure for completing your research that your advisor may not be focused on (they are going to be focused on defining the problem). While taking the class, you'll also meet with your Honors Research advisor weekly. The course is offered only in spring semesters.
Research Methods isn't appropriate for every project. It works well when:
Be sure to confirm with both your academic advisor, the instructor of 691DD, and your Honors Research advisor that Research Methods is the right course for your capstone.