Graduation with Distinction

The Graduation with Distinction Program (GwD) in Psychology & Neuroscience is intended for students who demonstrate academic excellence through the successful completion of a significant research project during their undergraduate career. This is especially important for students planning to pursue a graduate degree, but is highly recommended for any student with a strong interest in research.  Please read the information below, and note that there are separate processes for each major.

GwD Process for Psychology Majors

GwD Process for Neuroscience Majors


GwD for Psychology Majors

Who is eligible to enroll in GwD?

Students majoring or minoring in Psychology; students enrolled in Program II.

Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and a Psychology GPA of at least 3.5 (GPA points are not rounded; psychology GPA does not include grades for Independent Study or GwD Course). Psychology students may register for the Graduation with Distinction program without meeting these GPA requirements but will not receive Distinction if these GPA requirements are not eventually met. 

Summary of GwD Requirements

  • Submit the GwD application forms by the appropriate deadline.
  • Take two semesters of independent study related to the project.
  • Complete your thesis defense in front of a three-person committee.
  • Enroll in the Honors class during spring of their senior year (PSY 496)

Additional information

To learn more about specific deadlines, enrollment forms, and criteria for GwD, Psychology majors should refer to the 2018-2019 Graduation with Distinction Handbook.

If after reviewing this information you have additional questions, please contact the Undergraduate Studies Office in 235 Soc Psy or at 919-660-5719. For general information on the University-wide Graduation with Distinction Program, please click here.


GwD for Neuroscience Majors

Graduation with Distinction (GwD) is an opportunity for senior neuroscience majors to expand their research further and present their findings via an oral defense, a written thesis, and a poster presentation.

Important dates to remember

GwD 2019

  • May graduates: applications are due in the Fall semester senior year, by 4:00pm on Friday during the first week of classes.

Neuroscience Graduation with Distinction Approval Form

  • February 28th-April 1st: Turn in a draft of your Results & Discussion sections of thesis to your mentor for comments
  • Assemble defense committee list and email names to by 4:00pm on Friday, March 15th, 2019
  • Completion of final polished version of thesis must be submitted to committee members between March 18th-April 5th
  • Oral defense period: April 9th-20th. Your committee members have to be given your thesis a week prior to your presentation day. Completed form must be submitted to Tyler Lee April 20th
  • Poster Presentation – date: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019, 4:30pm (set up at 4:00pm) LSRC; DIBS
  • Final Distinction paper due: Wednesday, April 24th, 2018, by 9pm, emailed to

Fall/December graduates must submit their application in the spring semester prior, by 4:00pm on Friday during the first week of classes.

Frequently asked questions

What is the criteria for the selection of GwD students?

Neuroscience majors with a GPA of 3.5 or above in neuroscience courses may apply for Graduation with Distinction in Neuroscience. They must also maintain at least this level of performance in their neuroscience coursework (Gateway, Core, Statistics, and Electives) throughout the remainder of their studies at Duke. The written application form must include a summary of the student’s research topic, be endorsed by the student’s faculty mentor, and be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

What is the evaluative body?

You and your mentor should choose 2 committee members for your oral defense. One member of your committee (either your mentor or one of your two additional committee members) must be a neuroscience faculty member from an Arts and Sciences department, or be a faculty member who teaches regularly in the undergraduate neuroscience program. One member of your committee can be a postdoctoral fellow or an advanced graduate student who has completed their preliminary exam. Dr. Len White may be able to be the third person on your committee, but you must ask ahead of time so he can plan. You should form your committee as soon as possible but no later than March 15th, 2019. Contact Tyler Lee to give her the names of your committee members along with the date, time and location for your defense.

Is there another program that could help with my GwD research?

Yes, Summer Neuroscience Program is an undergraduate summer program that allows students to strengthen their research and portfolio.

Are there special courses, other activities required, or other comments?

The thesis is usually based on at least two semesters of independent studies in neuroscience (NEUROSCI 493 and 494) with the same faculty mentor.

Students aspiring to graduate with distinction will register for NEUROSCI 499 Current Research in Neuroscience. This spring-term lecture course includes review of directed reading and research in both theoretical and experimental neuroscience, as well as discussion of the students’ independent study projects. Emphasis is placed on the development of the ability to critically evaluate empirical research and to construct mathematical or deductive/inductive models. The final project in this course includes preparation of a formal research proposal and a review of the role of ethics in science.

Graduation with Distinction in Neuroscience research projects will be presented as scientific posters in April during celebration of senior undergraduate research in neuroscience, Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019, 4:30 pm, (arrive at 4:00 pm to set up your poster) LSRC; DIBS. The student will need to arrange poster printing of their work. Please contact Tyler Lee ( ) for more information.