Meteorology Program

Departmental Honors

The Honors in Meteorology Program gives ATM undergraduates an opportunity to do original research in an area of their choice, working closely with a faculty member.

Requirements for admission are:

  • sophomore status
  • completion of at least 2 semesters of science laboratory or calculus courses, and
  • an overall GPA of at least 3.5. 


You and a faculty member of your choice agree on a suitable research project. Before deciding on your research project, consider talking with several faculty members to discuss possible projects, as well as exploring an idea through the 1-credit Reading Topics ATM 371 course with a selected faculty member, culminating in a term paper. For at least two semesters, you must have enough time in your schedule to devote to research. Two-three credits are given as ATM 411 for each semester of research, including during the term in which you write the thesis.

In addition to the requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric Science degree, a student must select a three member faculty thesis committee, complete six credits of independent research as ATM 411, and present a poster of the research at a public forum such as the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting or the UM Research and Creativity Forum. To have the statement “Graduated with Departmental Honors in Atmospheric Science” on your final transcript, you must have completed the required 6 credits and the public presentation, have a final G.P.A of 3.5 in Meteorology and 3.3 G.P.A. overall, and have your senior thesis reviewed and accepted by your faculty committee. Examples of previous theses provide a guide to what is possible.

Guidelines for writing the senior thesis

Your Senior Thesis should be written in the general format of a scientific paper submitted to a research journal. It should be organized into the following sections:

  • Title
  • Introduction (even though sometimes not labeled as such)
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References (or Literature Cited).

The Thesis should also have either an:

  • Abstract (right after the title), or a
  • Summary (after the discussion).

If you do not have a clear idea of what belongs in each of the sections mentioned above, you may consult books on scientific writing, such as

  • Scientific Papers and Presentations, by Martha Davis
  • How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, by Robert A. Day;
  • Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker and Scientist, by David M. Schultz;
  • Technical Writing and Professional Communication, by Thomas A. Huckin & Leslie A. Olsen.

Briefly, the Introduction should contain a clear and concise statement of the question being asked, and the reason for doing the experiment or making the observations. The Materials and Methods section should contain a description of the general methods used, and the kinds and sources of equipment and supplies used to make the observations. The Results section should contain the observations, along with any summarizing statements, tables, figures, and statistical analysis; this section should stand for all time, even if a century from now the interpretations of the results (in the next section) might be different. The Discussion should contain an interpretation of the observations, a consideration of any limitations imposed by the methods, alternative explanations of the observations, and discussion of their general significance. The Abstract or Summary should contain a brief description of the most important observations; it should not contain any information that isn’t already in the Results section of the paper; and material repeated from the Introduction and Discussion sections, if included at all, should be limited to one or two sentences.

Your best guide is to read a few papers published in an AMS or AGU journal that specializes in your field of research (for example, Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, or, Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres). Don’t pay too much attention to the specific data and ideas, but to the general organization and content of each section Your faculty research advisor should suggest an appropriate journal to use as a guide. (Note that Science and Nature, two prestigious and widely read scientific journals, use atypical formats and should not be used as guides.)

Journals vary somewhat in the format of their Figures, Tables, and References; you should follow the exact format of an appropriate journal in your field. Whatever the details, note the following:

  • Figures are numbered consecutively, and each has an explanatory legend below it.
  • Tables also are numbered consecutively (separately from the Figures), and each has an informative heading over it.
  • Each Figure, each Table, and each Reference is specifically referred to somewhere in the text.

When a manuscript is submitted to the editors of a scientific journal, the Figures (with their legends) and the Tables are usually collected at the end, after the list of References. You may submit your Senior Thesis this way. (It is usually left up to the type-setters, with guidelines from the author, to decide on the best location of Figures and Tables for the final page lay-out.) Alternatively, you may incorporate the Figures and Tables into the body of the text, as they would be in the final published journal article.

Even experienced scientists rewrite their manuscripts several times before submitting it to a journal, and usually have to rewrite it again in response to the comments of reviewers and editors. You can anticipate that your thesis will undergo several revisions before it is acceptable. Therefore you should ideally submit your Senior Thesis to your faculty advisor(s) four to six weeks before the end of the semester, so that you will have time for at least two revisions.

Submit a final bound version of your Senior Thesis to the Director of the Atmospheric Science Program, Dr. Paquita Zuidema, by the end of the semester (i.e. end of finals week). Your thesis advisor(s) may also want copies; check with them.

Note: These guidelines are for a Senior Thesis submitted to the Marine and Atmospheric Science Program. They may not be suitable for a Senior Thesis submitted to the General Honors Program for a Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude degree. A Senior Thesis conforming to the requirements of the General Honors Program for graduation Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude is acceptable to the Marine and Atmospheric Science; but a Senior Thesis fulfilling the minimum requirements of the Marine and Atmospheric Science program may not be acceptable to the General Honors program. The General Honors Program usually requires that the Senior Thesis be written in non-technical language that can be understood by a non-specialist, and that a more thorough and clear presentation of basic concepts be included.


  • Manuscript double-checked for spelling errors?
  • Have you avoided the following common errors?
    • there for their and vice versa;
    • affect for effect and vice versa;
    • its for it’s and vice versa;
    • ...the data is, was, shows for ...the data are, were, show (the word data is plural)
  • Pages numbered?
  • Figures numbered consecutively?
  • All figures with legends under the figures?
  • Tables numbered consecutively?
  • All tables with headings over the tables?
  • All figures and tables referred to, in the body of the text?
  • All tables and figures understandable without reference to the text?
  • All sources cited in the text present in the list of References?
  • All sources in the list of References cited in the text?
  • References double-checked for accuracy in volume numbers and page numbers?


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