Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Undergraduate Capstone

The capstone is designed to provide an opportunity for students to integrate many aspects of their course of study, while introducing the opportunity to conduct independent or collaborative work oriented towards the discovery of new information and, or solving environmental challenges.

The capstone requirement must be fulfilled during the student's senior year. This requirement can be met with a two-semester thesis (ENVS 1970 & ENVS 1971), one-semester research project (ENVS 1970 or ENVS 1971), or an approved capstone course.

Thesis

The thesis is an in-depth, original work of scholarship. This scholarship can take many forms, from basic discovery that fuels future advances, to applied problem solving that meets the challenges facing our environment, but also to engaged work that involves a reciprocal, collaborative relationship between our scholars and an organization outside Brown.

The thesis is conducted during the senior year, over the course of two semesters and under the supervision of a faculty member. Typically the faculty member serving as a student’s thesis advisor is a Core Faculty member of IBES, however additional Brown faculty (such as Elected Fellows & Affiliates or non-affiliated Professors) can also serve in this role. Non-core faculty members must confirm with the Academic Program Manager (jeannel@brown.edu) that they have agreed to be the concentrator's thesis advisor. Students pursuing honors may be asked to secure a 'second reader' (to the discretion of the advisor) who can provide additional input on the direction of the work, and will help evaluate the quality of the final product. The second reader is often a Brown faculty member, but can also be an environmental practitioner or professor based outside of Brown, who has significant expertise in the concentrator’s area of research. For students conducting an engaged project with a community partner, their supervisor from the organization can be recognized as their ‘second reader’.

All students conducting a thesis are required to contribute a poster presentation of their work to be displayed at the annual research symposium (held during spring reading period). Students graduating in December must submit their poster by late November. Completing a thesis is one of the requirements for graduating with honors.

Thesis Requirements and Deadlines

Independent Research

An independent research project investigates a topic, tests a hypothesis or addresses a question that can advance our understanding of natural or social systems. The project is conducted over the course of one semester under the supervision of a faculty member. Typically the faculty member is a Fellow of IBES, however a non-IBES faculty member can advise your capstone if they are the best fist for the type of research you are conducting.  Make sure the professor confirms their advising commitment to both your concentration advisor and the IBES Academic Program Manager.

All students conducting independent research are required to contribute a poster presentation of their work to be displayed at the annual research symposium (held during spring reading period). Students graduating in December must either present their research to a lab group, or produce a 5 minute recorded slide presentation about their research.

Independent Research Proposal Form

Approved Capstone Course

Any ENVS Senior Seminar course automatically fulfills this requirement. Additionally, students taking an approved Capstone course are not required to create and present a poster at the symposium during spring reading period. Capstone course offerings for 2024-2025 are:

Fall 2024 Semester

  • ENVS 1615 - Climate Change, Human Rights, and the Policy Process
  • ENVS 1820 - Chinese Environmental History
  • ENVS 1825 - Commodity Natures
  • ENVS 1911 - Narrating the Anthropocene

Spring 2025 Semester

  • ENVS 1805 - Ocean Governance and Policy
  • ENVS 1823 - Climate Media, Discourse, and Power
  • ENVS 1925 - Energy Policy and Politics
  • ENVS 1926 - Wasted: Rethinking Chemical Environments
  • STS 1700D - Gathering Hope: Stories for Earthly Survival

Students wanting to take a upper level course from another department for capstone credit must submit a Capstone Course Substitution Request Form.   Students should email the completed form to their concentration advisor during the first week of shopping period of their 7th Semester (fall) or 8th semester (spring). They also need to attach the completed form and a copy of the syllabus to the course in ASK.  Please note - in order for the course to qualify, it must have an environmental focus and entail a substantive final paper.