Mathematics Honors program information

Mathematics Honors program information

If you have any questions please contact the honors coordinator David Zureick-Brown (

2023-2024 Honors Application Form

If you are finishing your degree in Spring 2024 or Fall 2024 and would like to be considered for Honors, please fill out this form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Around the end of January 2021, we will start accepting applications for the honors program. You will receive an email (sent to the majors mailing list) once the application is open. There is not much that we ask from you, other than letting us know that you are interested in the program; around the end of March // beginning of April our department will have a meeting where we consider all of the candidates, and will let you know mid April if you are invited to participate in the honors program.

The main things we consider are: In terms of proactive things to do: there isn't much, but make sure that you do very well in your courses now (not just A's, but try to be one of the top students in many of your math and CS classes).

GPA requirement. Additionally, there is a hard requirement (imposed by the university) of a 3.5 GPA. If the GPA is slightly lower (> 3.45) then we are allowed to petition, and that was successful the one time I have done so (for a student at the top of all of their math classes, but with low grades in GER's). Usually (but not always) the students have a much higher GPA (3.8 or higher), but plenty have GPA's in the 3.6-3.8 range.

Other requirements. Once you are admitted to the honors program, the requirements to graduate with honors in mathematics are the following. A few notes.

For (c): Math 495h counts as a continued writing requirement. You can register for 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits (it still only counts for one continued writing requirement). I will email you in November to confirm the number of credits you want. There is no real difference between 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits. If you need extra credits, take 3 or 4; if you are on a reduced schedule and the extra credits would cost money, take 1.

The course 495h serves to reward you for the writing you are already doing for your thesis, and no "additional" work is required. It is basically free credits and a free Continuing Writing (WRT) requirement. As long as you submit the honors thesis, you get an A in the course. Occasionally a student is not able to complete honors; in those cases, the student and the advisor come to some agreement about how to finish 495 (for example: a writeup of results so far).

Residence Requirement. For (d), this means that you must join the honors program 2 semesters before you graduate. In particular, if you are graduating in the Fall instead of the Spring, it is possible to do honors; in this case, please contact me as soon as possible to coordinate. You do not need to take 495h during your first semester, just your second semester.

Graduate course. For (a), if you have already taken a graduate course, then this requirement is already satisfied (you are welcome to take more graduate courses). The most common courses that students take are Math 511, 515, 521, or 535 (but other courses are also common). Mathematics honors students are permitted to take a graduate course from the CS department instead, as long as it is approved (contact me for approval). To register for the graduate course, please contact me directly with your course number and student id; you cannot register directly for graduate courses, and instead we have our staff place you into the course. The course cannot be taken S/U.

The graduate courses usually do not have their prerequisites listed correctly online. But hopefully the prerequisites are evident for most of them; for instance, Math 315 is a prerequisite for 515; 411/412 is a prereq for 511; 421/422 is a prerequisite for 521 and so on. If you have any uncertainty about the prerequisites for a course please reach out to me.

The graduate course does not count for an elective or any other requirements for your degree. You are welcome to take a second graduate course to count as an elective, but the first graduate course only counts as the honors requirement, and does not count for any other requirements.

Research and finding an advisor. For (b), some students already have a faculty member in mind or are already working on research. Many students are not. I provide some help finding a mentor; my broader advice is to talk to faculty you might be interested in working with (even if they don't know you) and directly ask if they are taking honors students. You don't need to know what your research project is ahead of time; your faculty mentor will work with you to help find a suitable project. It is also common to meet with them (or discuss over email) first to see what kinds of projects they have in mind and gauge your interest before committing.

The pages here (general) and here (for applied math) are helpful.

You should plan to meet with them regularly during both the Fall and the Spring, and you should expect to set aside at least 10 hours each week to work on this (and 10 hours a week for the graduate course; graduate courses are more work).

Your advisor does not need to be faculty from the mathematics department; it is common for Math honors students to have an advisor from CS or QTM.

Thesis requirements The requirements for the actual content of an honors thesis are fairly undefined, and are left to the discretion of the thesis advisor. You can find some examples of past theses here.

Many end up as publishable work, and just as many are purely expository (and honestly, I appreciate theses where a student reads some old-ish collection of papers and writes a cleaner "modern" expository account, and wish that more of the theses were expository). Some involve a fair amount of coding, and some none at all.

The thesis defense is a short presentation about your thesis work (usually 30-50 minutes). Your defense committee has 3 members; it must have at least one math faculty member, and one member who is not math faculty. Oxford faculty are allowed to serve as a committee member. You are welcome to invite other faculty or friends and family to the defense.

Procedural questions (deadlines, paperwork, submission etc) are handled by OUE; go here for more information

The honors program coordinator is Carlee Beard. (Nonetheless, feel free to contact me with questions; if I am unsure of the answer I contact OUE.) In the Fall, they will contact you with instructions and deadlines, and there will be a few meetings to attend that have more information.

If you decide to participate in honors and later change your mind, please let me know.

If you have additional questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.