Since before many of us even arrived at Bates, we have anticipated the largest project of our college careers: the senior thesis. It’s one aspect of our education that all Batesies—past, present, and future—can share, discuss, bond over, and lament together. Undoubtedly, thesis requires significant effort, large volumes of work, and the dedication of some long nights; many students surely complete the experience with memories mostly of the difficulty involved. However, thesis is not simply a requirement dreamed up to keep seniors busy and away from the Goose, or used as an opportunity to torture students one last time before they graduate. With a good attitude and adequate dedication, this can be the ultimate “purposeful work” project.
As I begin my senior thesis, I have already identified a number of ways that the project has allowed me to improve, both as a student and as a future candidate for employment. On a practical note, thesis work often mimics that which will be expected of many of us in entry-level jobs. As a biological chemistry major, I have begun to improve a number of my laboratory skills that will be required of me in a lab tech position in a hospital, pharmaceutical company, or biotechnology setting. Not only are these marketable skills that will make me a more desirable candidate, but they will also contribute to my effectiveness as an employee should I be hired.
In addition to these practical improvements, I have also been able to develop skills that can be applied to other aspects of my life. Thesis requires significant amounts of independent work, problem solving, and research. Students learn when to ask questions, what questions to ask, and how to frame them. Every day we are required to make decisions that we would have previously delegated to professors or TAs. The ability to effectively manage free time becomes more critical than ever before, and we adjust to the challenges of accomplishing a long-term goal. In this way, thesis prepares us for post-college life in a way that other classes cannot.
Finally, if students hold genuine interest in their areas of study, thesis can actually be fun. In any discipline, this project often requires the formulation and investigation of a novel research question. Searching for undiscovered answers can elicit interest that simply can’t be piqued when attempting to replicate someone else’s results. The work we do at Bates for thesis—whether as a member of a professor’s research team or independently—can contribute to relevant knowledge and real change, an opportunity not offered to all undergraduates at other colleges. The forefront of academic knowledge is an exciting place to be; indeed, some students find that it’s exactly where they belong.
I am among a great number of Bates seniors and graduates who have utilized their senior thesis experiences to build their resumes as well as their character. Keeping in mind the many ways in which you can benefit from this opportunity, I hope that you can do so, as well. Enjoy it!