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I have mentioned in previous posts that I have been spending a lot of time this semester working on my senior thesis (!)  I am happy to report that I turned it in last Monday and am excited for the rest of senior spring! Because I am a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator, the bulk of my thesis involved experiments in lab that I performed during my junior and senior years, and during the summer before senior year. This past semester, I then spent most of my time writing up my experiments and making figures (and doing a lot of editing!)

One of the things I realized as I finished up my thesis during Spring Break is that things generally take longer than you expect—which makes time management crucial to college (and most periods in life!). For example, on Sunday afternoon, I sat down to do a final read-through of my thesis. I expected it to take about an hour since I was just looking for spelling errors. Six hours later, I finally converted my Word document to a PDF and headed to Kinko’s to print out five copies. Two hours later, I had printed out five black and white copies, reprinted and inserted all the color figures, and had the copies spiral bound. It was awesome to see my thesis put together and ready to turn in!

The next morning, I headed to the MCB office to officially hand my copies to Tom Torello, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for MCB and CPB. Every concentration generally has a celebration when seniors turn in their thesis. MCB/CPB had lots of yummy drinks (including mimosas!) and homebaked cookies!

Although I forgot to take a picture with Tom, Eric ’11, and I (with Eric and I looking a bit tired…) here are somewhat representative pictures of the final stages of the senior thesis:

(1) Printing and binding the thesis!!! (My thesis!)

(2) Turning in the thesis!!! (Kevin ’11 with the Neurobiology Advisors Tamily and Ryan)

(3) The aftermath – my roommate Emma ’11 surrounded by (some of) the books she used in her thesis

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Although most of Harvard College was off campus during JTerm, some of us were braving the blizzards for our senior theses. Whether that meant hours in Widener with a stack of books and a laptop or hours in a lab with a pipette and a PCR machine, seniors could be seen eating in Annenburg inbetween doing experiments or writing another chapter.

Not everyone at Harvard does a senior thesis – it depends a lot on your concentration and whether you are interested in research. Theses can also take very different forms—my thesis, for example, is a write-up of the experiments I have been doing for the past several years in my lab, while for two of my roommates, their theses in Government and History of Science are based on their ideas about a piece of literature, a period of history, or a political philosophy. For me, I was excited to do a thesis since I have been working in a neurobiology lab since freshman year and I think it will be good practice for my actual PhD. It is also useful to think critically through my results and the reasoning that went into my experiments and learn to write effectively to convey my story to my audience.

Right now, I am spending a lot of time in lab wrapping up my experiments and interpreting my results, and I will soon transition to writing and figure-making mode. Luckily, a lot of my friends work in the same building as me, so we can visit each other and take breaks from our bench or computer screen. Here, for example, is Jeremy ’11  analyzing monarch butterfly migration and in his lab!

It was also pretty nostalgic to eat lunch and dinner in Annenburg during January. The dining hall is perfect for freshman year because your whole class is together and you get to meet lots of people you otherwise might not see if you were already divided into house dining halls. I got to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while who were all on campus for Jterm like me! I really enjoyed hearing people summarize their theses-which were in so many different fields-and hear how excited they were about their work.

P.S. Upperclassmen are also allowed to eat at Annenburg during reading period, and we can eat breakfast there anytime 🙂

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