Frequently Asked Questions

Compiled here are answers to questions frequently asked by GES students. If you have a question not addressed in any of the tabs below, email the GES Student Services Specialist, Ms. Lentina Villa.

1. When should I start on my research project?

As early as possible! The earlier you begin, the more time you have to explore options, interview with prospective faculty members to ensure a good fit, and fine-tune your topic. It is better to work on your research and/or write your thesis without the added pressure of deadlines.

2. What is a thesis memo and when should I turn one in?

A thesis memo is your project proposal that details a rationale for your research, resources required to carry out the project, and a realistic timeline. This memo also serves as a contract between you and your mentor.

Submit your thesis memo as soon as you and your mentor have agreed on the parameters of your project. Do not start on your research project until your research proposal has been approved.

3. I don’t yet know what I want to research. What should I do?

Explore, explore, explore! Start by considering your reasons for choosing GES as your major. Did you have topics or issues that you wanted to investigate or address? You can start with the big ideas and narrow it down to a more specific topic or question. You may also find a topic from one of your classes very interesting (like nutrient cycling in the deep ocean, or economic inequality brought on by climate change). Apply for internships or research jobs, volunteer at a lab, attend SOEST seminars if the topics pique your interest.

4. I am curious about students’ research projects. Where do I go?

You may peruse the theses that past GES students have produced for ideas and inspiration and also read about GES students’ research experiences. You can also reach out to the GES Peers and ask them about their research!

5. Do I receive a grade for my research?

If you choose to enroll in GES 399 (repeatable up to six (6) credits) to receive credit for your research with your project mentor serving as your instructor on record, you will receive a grade. Just like for any course, assessment will be based on your mentor’s expectations and your performance.

Otherwise, you will not receive a grade.

6. I have an idea for a project. What should I do?

You need to find a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) faculty member who is an expert in that field of study to be your project mentor. If you are having a hard time identifying one, seek help from your GES major advisor.

7. How much time and effort is required for a research project?

Since no two projects are exactly the same, the time and effort required depends on the project. Some projects are more intensive than others, some require fieldwork, and others require specific equipment. Some graduates have also had the work they did for their thesis published in an academic journal, so what you put into it will be reflected in your final product.

Having said that, you will be expected to put in a specific number of semester hours for each credit you register in GES 399 or 499.

8. What topics can I research?

Most topics that are environmentally-related are acceptable (but do not assume and start on a project without first getting approval!) Peruse the theses that past GES students have produced for ideas and inspiration.

9. How do I find a project mentor?

You can ask the professor whose class you enjoyed or the faculty member who mentored a past GES student in a project that interests you. They can be faculty members in other UHM departments/units as well. Reach out to them to see if they have a current project for you to tackle. You may also pitch your idea to them to see if they would be willing to develop a project together with you. If you volunteer or are employed at a research lab, you could ask your employer if they have any projects for you. You may also ask your GES advisor to suggest and/or introduce you to potential mentors.

There are prospective project mentors everywhere; you just have to be actively looking and be proactive in your search.

10. A faculty member agreed to be my mentor. What is my next step?

Together with your mentor, you have to submit a proposal for your project in the form of a detailed thesis memo, which includes a rationale for your research, resources required to carry out the project, and a realistic timeline.

11. I found a mentor but he/she is not a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa faculty member. What should I do?

You need to find a UHM faculty to be your co-mentor.

12. Can I have more than one mentor?

Yes, you can, as long as all mentors are in agreement of the responsibilities and expectations.

13. If I end up not liking my mentor and/or project anymore, can I switch to a different mentor and/or project?

Yes, you can. However, understand that switching mentor/project in the later stage of your thesis could cause a delay in completion and graduation. Switching early on before either you or you mentor have invested considerable time and effort would be better and less stressful for everyone involved. The GES program will do its best to support you. If you are having troubles with your project mentor, you should seek help from your GES major advisor. If your project mentor is also your major advisor, reach out to Dr. Guidry.

Tip: When searching for prospective mentor(s), allow a trial period to get to know them and their mentoring style, which can play a key role in your thesis journey. And start as early as you can!

14. Where can I go to get my presentation poster printed?

The HP DesignJet Z9 plotter in POST 840 is available for printing posters. The plotter is 42″ wide. Costs for printing, per linear foot: $4 for uncoated bond paper, $7 for satin/semi-gloss/photo gloss paper. There is no discount for students. These charges pay for paper and ink.

View printer setup instructions here: Windows | Mac If you have questions about poster printing, contact SOEST Research Computing Facility (RCF).

1. When should I start writing my thesis?

As early as possible! It is better to begin writing your thesis without the added pressure of deadlines. The complete and fully-formatted draft that has been approved by your mentor is due on approximately week 12 of the semester. If you are enrolled in 12 credits and are just starting to write it at the start of your final semester, it is highly likely that you will not be able to complete it in time and may have to defer your graduation.

2. What is a thesis memo? When should I turn it in?

A thesis memo is essentially a project proposal document that details the rationale for your research, resources required to carry out the project, and a realistic timeline. This memo also serves as a contract between you and your mentor.

Submit your thesis memo via email to the GES Student Services Specialist as soon as you and your mentor have agreed on the parameters of your project. Note that the review and approval process takes time, and you may need to clarify and/or modify parts of your thesis memo. Be mindful of registration deadline and plan ahead.

Do not start on your research project until your research proposal has been approved.

3. I cannot find the GES/OCN 499 course on STAR. What should I do?

499 CRNs are not published, which means you cannot find them on STAR. You need to request a CRN from the GES Student Services Specialist. Your thesis memo and a confirmation from your mentor are also required.

4. Do I receive a grade for my thesis?

Yes. You are required to complete at least three (3) credits of GES/OCN 499. Just like for any course, assessment will be based on your mentor’s expectations and your performance.

5. My mentor wants me to enroll in BIOL/BOT/GEOG 499. Is this OK?

Yes, that is OK! Your mentor will have to give you the CRN to register. (The GES Student Services Specialist can only issue GES and OCN CRNs.)

6. Can I fulfill Writing Intensive (WI) requirement with my thesis?

Yes, you can! The GES Student Services Specialist will assist in applying for a WI focus designation for you and your mentor. A detailed thesis memo is required for the application to demonstrate that your thesis meets all the WI hallmarks.

7. What format/guidelines should I follow to write my thesis?

To make the thesis writing process less challenging, the GES program has created a GES Thesis Template as well as a GES Thesis Style and Policy Guide. Both of these documents are accessible via Laulima (GES Research Development).

8. Who is an external reviewer? What is the purpose of sending my thesis draft to an external reviewer?

An external reviewer is someone who will be critiquing your thesis without any bias. They may provide suggestions on improving your thesis.

Note: the reviewer is not a proofreader. Make sure you proofread your draft, and your mentor must approve before it is sent for review.

9. Can my mentor be my reviewer? Do I need to find my own reviewer?

No. Your mentor cannot be your external reviewer. The GES program will solicit a reviewer based on your mentor’s recommendations.

Note: Your thesis reviewer and your oral presentation reviewer are most likely not the same person.

10. Should I send my thesis revisions to my reviewer?

No, that is not necessary.

11. My mentor approved my thesis, so I am done, right?

No. Your thesis must also meet GES thesis requirements, which are laid out in detail in the GES Thesis Style and Policy Guide. Until all noted issues have been addressed, your thesis is not accepted, which means you have not yet fulfilled all GES degree requirements.

12. I cannot finish my thesis on time but I have completed all my coursework. Can I still graduate?

No. Both the thesis and presentation are required elements of the GES degree. Until you submit your thesis and it has been accepted by the Program, and you have presented at the GES Symposium, you cannot graduate.

However, you can participate in the Commencement ceremonies (May or December) even if you have not submitted your thesis and/or presented at the GES Symposium.

13. Can I substitute a final year project for the thesis requirement?

No, not at this time.

1. When is the Symposium held?

There are three GES Symposiums every year – Fall, Spring, and Summer. The Semester Symposium is usually held on the Friday Study Day before final exams. The Summer Symposium is usually held on the last day of the Summer term. You can see these dates on the Academic Calendar.

2. How do I sign up to present at the Symposium?

Students planning to submit their thesis and present at the Symposium must have completed all coursework and meet all deadlines prescribed by the Program. Students will not be allowed to present at the Symposium unless they submit a complete, fully-formatted, and mentor-approved thesis draft. Additionally, they must participate in a practice presentation that is scheduled by GES and which will be assessed by an external reviewer.

3. How much time do I have for my presentation? Will I be penalized for going over time?

Your presentation should be about 10 minutes, no more than 12 minutes.

You may be cut off if you go over time.

4. Who is an external reviewer? What is the purpose of a reviewer assessing my presentation? Can my mentor be my reviewer?

A reviewer is someone who will be critiquing your presentation without any bias. The GES Program will solicit a reviewer for you, and they will provide suggestions on improving your presentation, including the layout of your slides, your talking speed, etc.

Your mentor may and should review your presentation but they cannot be the only person who has reviewed/critiqued your presentation.

Note: Your thesis reviewer and your oral presentation reviewer are most likely not the same person.

6. May I invite my mentor to my practice presentation?

Yes, of course!

7. Who is my audience at the practice presentation?

Your audience at the practice presentation will be your reviewer(s) and your mentor, if they can attend.

8. May I invite guests to the Symposium?

Yes, of course!

9. I don’t know where to start with my presentation. May I see past slides for ideas?

Reach out to the GES Student Services Specialist.

10. I will be presenting at UROP. Do I still have to present at the Symposium?

Yes, you do. A UROP presentation does not fulfill GES degree requirements.

11. Will my final presentation be graded?

No, it will not be graded.

1. I want to apply/transfer to GES. Who should I talk to for advising?

Prospective students first apply for general admission to UH Mānoa through the Office of Admissions; current UH students should contact SOEST Student Academic Services (SAS) for advising. Go to Admission Procedures for more details.

2. I want to transfer to another major. Who should I talk to for advising?

If you wish to transfer to another SOEST major, contact SOEST SAS for advising. For other majors within UH Mānoa, locate the prospective academic advisor at Directory of Advisors.

3. What is the difference between SOEST SAS advising and GES advising?

SOEST SAS helps students transition to UH Mānoa campus, refers campus resources, and advises on matters related to UH Mānoa degree requirements including general education and focus requirements. SAS also assists students in declaring a double major or a minor, filing for graduation, and other related paperwork. Advising for new GES students are done mostly by SOEST SAS first before transitioning to major advising, where GES faculty advisors advise on course selection, internships and research opportunities, as well as advice on career pathways.

SOEST SAS and GES collaborate to ensure that students receive the advising and information they need. Students are encouraged to reach out to either or both offices if they have questions or need advising!

4. Is it possible to be advised by a different GES advisor than the one I was assigned?

Email your concern(s) to the Student Services Specialist and the Program will do its best to accommodate your request.

1. Where can I go to get my presentation poster printed?

The HP DesignJet Z9 plotter in POST 840 is available for printing posters. The plotter is 42″ wide. Costs for printing, per linear foot: $4 for uncoated bond paper, $7 for satin/semi-gloss/photo gloss paper. There is no discount for students. These charges pay for paper and ink.

View printer setup instructions here: Windows | Mac If you have questions about poster printing, contact SOEST Research Computing Facility (RCF).

Updated November 8, 2022.