THESISCRAZY PART 4: Almost (Kinda Sorta) Done

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Tomorrow’s the big day: at 4 p.m., a shit-ton of extremely stressed out, sleep-deprived (but certainly not sex-deprived) seniors who’ve been subsisting on Weshop food, bad coffee, and despair for the past year will finally see the light. We salute you.

Read on to see out latest installment of THESISCRAZY (featuring a certain Dear Leader…).

Chelsea Goldsmith ’13, AMST, carrel-less (working at home)Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 5.10.46 PM

Working title: “I knew you were gonna ask this because I’ve been reading the other [THESISCRAZY posts] and I thought I’d come up with one by now, but I haven’t…Um, possibly ‘Fiction as Identity: Cosplay in the Modern Era’, but I’m not sure.”

On her thesis: “My thesis is about the material culture and community which is formed through cosplay and the different types of transgression that fan communities are doing through the Internet and through physical conventions.”

On the inspiration for her thesis: “So over winter break junior year, I knew I wanted to write a thesis, so I was looking around through different journals online, looking for topics that interested me, and I was procrastinating by looking at pictures of cosplay online and so I finally had this realization like, ‘Wow, this is what I’d rather be doing…why don’t I just write about this?’ So it kinda started off as more of a performance concept asking, how do people embody identity through cosplay? But then once I saw the conventions and everything, it became more of an identity-focused and community-focused thesis. It was really fun.”

If her thesis was a film: “My thesis would be The Avengers because it’s visually-stunning, popular with nerds, and it’s a lot of different aspects and academic disciplines coming together to make one hopefully wonderful thing.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I convinced myself over winter break that I was going to have my first two chapters done and when I came back, I had a meeting with my advisor and he gave me my first chapter back and said, ‘This is not going…just no.’ So I had completely redo it all, and that put me back, but [my thesis] has happened…somehow…”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Looking at pictures of cats. My friend showed me a livestream of foster kittens called ‘The Cosmo Fosters’. I’ve watched them from when they were tiny and just wanted to sleep and eat all day to now when they can actually walk around and do kitten thing, just oh my gosh. I definitely empathize with those kittens too, like I want a lifestyle like that, or I just want to flop in my little cage and then have someone deliver food to me sometimes and waddle around and be cute and then go back to sleep.”

Plans for April 12: “It’s supposed to rain that day, but I’ve been calling that ‘a 70% chance of 24-hour champagne showers.”

Rebecca Vaadia ’13, BIO, carrel-lessIMG_2294

Working title: “Deafening Induced Changes in Song Stereotypy And the Dendritic Morphology of the Song System Due to Err-Corretion Mechanisms in Zebra Finch Adults”

On her thesis: “Dendrites are the connections between neurons, so I’m looking at the lengths of dendrites and those in certain areas of the brain that we know to be important for song production in zebra finches, and I’m trying to relate those lengths to the actual behavior of the birds because the birds have a complicated song structure that’s either more or less consistent and we’re trying to figure out what makes the song more or less consistent.”

“The reason I chose zebra finches is that they don’t know their songs when they’re born; they have to learn them. So they’re one of the only examples of vocal learning besides the human language in all animals. So it’s looking at how does the brain create this vocal learning, what changes occur in the brain as the bird is learning it?”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “It was definitely when I first started analyzing all my data because I convinced myself that I had to analyze it in every way possible because I wanted to get as much data as possible, and I was like, oh man this is going to take a really long time, I don’t really know a lot of about using data analysis software, so I was really, really overwhelmed going home for spring break. So that was really stressful. But then I got back to school and had a meeting with my professor and he was like, ‘Oh you really don’t need to do ALL of that.’ And then I felt A LOT better.”

On why she chose to be carrel-less: “I thought I didn’t really need one because I didn’t really start writing anything until February because mostly I was just in the lab doing hands-on research. Also, I didn’t feel like I needed one because I have a really big room at home with this ‘study’ in it, because I got really lucky when my friends and I drew numbers for rooms, I got the first pick. So I got kind of the ‘master bedroom’ of the house. Also, I don’t read book, I just read PDFs, but I do print them out and have a huge folder of them. I mean, I’m a little bit wasteful, but I really can’t read from the computer.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “You have to really enjoy doing it because everyone is slowly realizing that it doesn’t matter and no one’s gonna read it, so you have to do it for yourself. You should also partially enroll. I think some people get really anxious that they’re not gonna be taking classes anymore, but I feel like I get a lot more out of this project than any class, and it’s nice to be able to just focus on this.

Plans for April 12: “I don’t really have set plans. I’ll probably drink champagne on the steps like everyone else. I’ll probably go to bed early because I have a sailing regatta that I’m going to the next day, which is fine because I really love sailing and I haven’t gotten to go to a regatta yet because I’ve been so busy with my thesis. So yeah, that’s my plan.”

Zach Schonfeld ’13, ASMT, carrel-less (“Mention that my room is my carrel.”)IMG_2316

Working title: “The title is ‘Beyond Americana.’ I’ve had this title for quite a while now. It was the title of a chapter of the thesis I wrote before I even knew it was going to be part of a thesis, and I’m kind of having a crisis over whether or not I need to include a colon and include a real title after the colon because I don’t really want to but I feel pressured to.”

On his thesis: “My thesis is a collection of essays about historical tourism and presidential history. It’s in the form of creative nonfiction; it kind of merges travel writing with historical rambling and just general all-over-the-place-ness. It’s about a project that I did in the summer of 2011, funded by the Olin Fellowship and the History Channel where I traveled around the country visiting presidential sites, mostly presidential birthplaces. It’s a collection of reflections based on the people I met, the places I went, and the history I came into contact with during the course of that experience.”

On his current mental state: “Like, incapable of socializing with anyone who isn’t writing a thesis. I’ve become entirely nocturnal. Like, I’ve somehow become incapable of doing anything before 9 p.m., and then I’ll just stay up until 7 or 8 a.m. I’ve found that I’ve exclusively worked on my thesis between the hours of midnight at 7 p.m. because that’s when I can focus the best, since that’s when no one bothers me.”

Most traumatic thesis experience: “Ever since spring break, I’ve just been completely reclusive, and I can’t remember the last time I was in sunlight. I’ve had a generally vampire-like experience, and I’ve just been barricading myself in my room, desperately trying to focus at like, six in the morning. It’s been getting worse and worse and worse and I’m just so excited for Friday to just be a human being who smiles and goes into sunlight and is able to interact with people in a healthy way.”

The last sentence he wrote in his thesis: “What if I didn’t finish writing it when you walked in? Is that perfect? ‘Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb in Manhattan, for example, fell into disrepair–’”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Don’t try to write a thesis that encompasses the entirety of American history in the course of 160 pages, and don’t try and say insightful things about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln and topics that have been written about literally thousands of times before, so that there’s nothing left to be said about them. I mean, that’s a really futile thing to do… but I’m still trying to do it.”

On being the last person waitlisted for a carrel: “I didn’t mind that much, honestly. I mean, I’ve never experienced what it’s like to have a carrel, so I can’t really speak to it, but I feel like it’d be really claustrophobic. I kind of turned my room into a carrel. However, it may have been karma because I noted on Wesleying that I purposely didn’t post anything about applying for a thesis carrel thinking that doing so would help my chances, and then I was last, so that was funny. Could’ve been karma.”

Plans for April 12: “I’ve thought about this, and I’m going to give you a really realistic answer. I’m gonna get very slightly tipsy on the Olin steps but not drunk because I would probably just pass out from sleep deprivation. Then I’m gonna come home and probably edit, like, two Wesleying posts and respond to a few emails. Then I think I’m gonna call my grandpa, then I’m gonna lie down on my bed and listen to the new Flaming Lips album that I haven’t listened to yet, and then I’m just gonna go to sleep and take it from there.”

Catherine Doren ’13SOC, carrel #4130408132342

Working title: “’Unequal Equality,’ or something like that. There will be a colon and something after the colon that will include words and phrases like ‘education,’ ‘socioeconomic status,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘corruption,’ probably.”

On her topic: “I’m looking at the effect of socioeconomic status on academic achievement and how that varies internationally from a theoretical and quantitative perspective. Basically, I’m testing classical social theories like Marx and Weber empirically and seeing how they hold, and how the socioeconomic achievement gap varies by country.”

On how she arrived at the topic: “I knew that I wanted to study the achievement gap and I wasn’t entirely sure how, and then I read Schooling in Capitalist America by Bowles and Gintis, which is a Marxist examination of education in the U.S., how it stratifies people, and how it maintains the stratification that already exists. I was excited about that topic and wanted to do something that would support that sort of field, but also take it in a new direction. Going from there, I somehow got to where I am now.”

On her data: “I’m using a massive data set that includes data from 65 countries taken from 15 year olds. The data set mostly includes standardized test data and stuff about social background like their parents’ education level, occupation status, the number of books in their house, and so on. I’m also using measures of inequality, democracy, and corruption, which are all country-level variables.”

On the conclusion reached in her thesis: “I find that in countries that have less democratic systems that are more corrupt but also more unequal, there is a smaller socioeconomic achievement gap. Conversely, in more democratic, equal, and less corrupt countries there’s a massive socioeconomic achievement gap.  So in more corrupt countries, they are not using the education system to gain or maintain socioeconomic status like you might in the U.S.; that is, in more bureaucratic and less corrupt countries, you need to work through academic pathways because there’s no way to sneak into higher status without qualifications. In countries that don’t use academic methods of defining status, there’s no incentive to focus on academic achievement.  Parents don’t necessarily pressure their kids to succeed in school like they might in countries where the academic system has more of an impact on your socioeconomic status.”

On her progress: “My advisor said that everything looked pretty good! I just have to make the tables I’ve been avoiding making because making tables is miserable. He said yesterday [Sunday, April 7] at 3:00 PM that within the next 24 hours I should make all the tables, do my acknowledgements, write my abstract, finish my formatting, and make the table of contents. That’s all coming along pretty well. I’m obviously not going to do much else though.”

On her mental state: “I didn’t talk to anyone until 6 PM on Saturday, and even that was to find someone to order delivery with me since I couldn’t make the minimum price amount on my own. But aside from that I’m doing well and I’m sleeping a lot—well, not too much, but more than most people. I’ll be glad when this is over.”

On her most traumatic experience: “At the end of last semester, I submitted half my thesis with my grad school applications. Since I didn’t have that much time to get that in before the December 1 deadline, I was using a data set that had missing data that wasn’t dealt with particularly well. After winter break, I came back and reran the analyses again and the data just didn’t work. It spent three weeks at the beginning of this semester trying to make the data work and worrying that I would have to throw away everything I had done last semester. Also, the server on which I had stored my data kept running out of space, which was freaky too.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Start as early as you possibly can, and do not write a thesis to write a thesis. Make sure you really really love your topic and everything about it because it will be something you have to think about for a long time.”

Plans for April 12: “I am torn between going out and celebrating and having a lot of fun and just sitting and breathing for a minute, since I haven’t had a chance to do that for a really long time—like, since way before spring break. So it’ll be nice to have a day off, and I’m not sure if I want to spend it running around with everyone being kind of drunk.”

On her theme song: “So, I spent the weekend sitting at my kitchen table and not speaking to people. For whatever reason, I’d been listening to that Led Zeppelin song ‘Rock and Roll’ where they say ‘it’s been a long lonely lonely lonely time.’ I was sitting there not having spoken to anyone, and the whole album had been on repeat for a while. I realized what they were saying and kind of giggled.”

Jake Eichengreen ’13, CSS, carrel #258SAMSUNG

On his thesis topic: “I’m looking at the ways in which the Ugandan economy isn’t quite working, more or less. Looking at what micro-finance institutions do, what their current role is and what their role can become. Given the Ugandan institutional framework, Uganda is very much at a crossroads in development. There are some really successful projects and things going on, but at the same time, the way in which a capitalist economy and a sustainably growing economy has been cultivated has come to threaten social capital in global communities. Capitalist competition is such a tremendously different paradigm to what village life is like that you end up with a society that is materially wealthier but socially poorer, and you have people who are richer but less happy and so its difficult to say that it’s a thriving sustainably growing society.”

On how he arrived at his topic: “My freshman year I was involved in a trip to go to Haiti to help with the earthquake there and basically the organization we were with was run by one of our trip mate’s parents. And they just kind of threw us head first into it. And basically it was chuck yourself in the deep end and learn how to swim in this shitty fucked up world of aid, just like how convoluted and how many interests there are. The whole time we were there, Brazil was jockeying for a position in the United Nations and whole projects were held up because Brazil wanted a position in the UN and it was like…people are dying in the streets, why are we having these political battles? And the next summer I went to Uganda for a program that basically studied this more in depth. It was Uganda/Rwanda comparative post-conflict analysis looking at development after the war with the NRA.”

On his progress: “My advisor keeps telling me he’s not worried, which makes one of us.” [As of two weeks ago]

Plans for April 12: ”I don’t have plans. There will probably be drinking and there will probably be sleeping. And there will probably be… I dunno. I would like to say that there will probably be celebrations, but very honestly, after the celebrations in front of Olin, I will probably go take a nap.”

On his most traumatic experience: ”I haven’t really had any particularly bad experiences. I think right now is just crunch time. I have a chapter to finalize and 130 pages to edit. And an intro to write. In 15 days. So it’s doable. It’s going to be great.”

On his current mental state: “Frazzled. And confused.”

On what his thesis would be if it were a song: “‘All by myself’ by Celine Dion. I didn’t even have to think about that one.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Write a senior essay first semester. Or really just do as much as you can first semester, which no one will ever follow. Which is why you should just do a senior essay first semester and not write a thesis.”

Cory Meara-Bainbridge ’13, AMST/ANTH, carrel #4030407131415

Working title: “Explaining Away Inequality: The Normalization of Segregation and Protection of White Privilege in New York City Public High Schools”

On her topic: “My thesis looks at the way that racial segregation and inequality have been maintained in the public high school admission system in New York since Brown v. Board of Education despite a continued commitment to equality on the part of the city and the city government. I used historical analysis to analyze how white privilege has been maintained through the admissions system, and an anthropological analysis to understand the current views of race and inequality in the high schools and the department of education.”

On how she arrived at the topic: “I went to a New York City public high school, and in my senior year I was involved in an activist project about the school’s admissions. Basically, the administration and teachers were really adamant about silencing the discussion about race.  I became curious about why these people committed to equality and justice were so against examining our admissions process.”

On the conclusion reached in her thesis: “My conclusion is that in this era where color blindness is the norm, people’s notions of equality and race are based around ideas of diversity and individual equal opportunity. They understand the changing of a selective admissions process as going against their ideas and understandings of equality.  Also, people will recognize inequality and disadvantage because of race but won’t acknowledge advantage, and thus won’t dismantle white privilege.”

On her progress: “I had to completely rewrite one of my chapters and am finishing that now [Sunday, April 7]. I was in a state of panic for the past week, but I’m coming down from that slightly. Now I just have to revise my other two chapters and write my conclusion.”

On her mental state: “I literally can’t stop thinking about my thesis for one moment.  I have been trying to take naps but just end up writing parts of my thesis in my sleep, which is kind of useful. When people ask what I’m doing, I just say, ‘eat, sleep, write,’ until April 12.”

On her most traumatic experience: “My most traumatic experience was probably this past week when I started thinking that I wasn’t arguing anything and that my entire thesis made no sense. I was like, “What am I doing? Two years of work for nothing!” But luckily, two of my closest friends are writing theses and in similar mental states. I’m not sure if we help each other or end up just going into a spiral, but it’s nice to have other people and know you’re not alone.

Advice for future thesis writers: “Think about your entire argument starting in December, not April, and have a good support system.”

Plans for April 12: “I think I want to roll down Foss Hill after I turn in my thesis and then probably have one sip of champagne and be really drunk since I’ll be so sleep-deprived.”

Interviews and pictures by hermes, BZOD, and Samira.