THESISCRAZY 2016 (Part 3): Just The Tip

“He makes a lot of noises and slaps his butt.”

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Congrats, you’ve made it to part 3 of THESISCRAZY 2016, the annual Wesleying series where we force thesis-writing seniors to come out of their anti-social snake people caves carrels and talk to us about what they’re working on. You can read the other THESISCRAZY 2016 interviews here and here, and you can check out the THESISCRAZY archives here.

Let’s talk theses and shit after the jump.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.22.22 PMLily Kong ’16, ENGL, No carrel (“I don’t do work outside my room usually, so I got a carrel and then gave it up to someone else”)

Working title: “So I’ve been stressing out about this for the past week or so, and I still don’t know. So yeah, I don’t know [laughs].”

On her topic: “I’m writing about James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s hard to explain without going through the entire book, but what I’m doing essentially is using objects in the book to understand and describe the main relationship in the book, which is between this guy named Leopold Bloom and this woman Molly Bloom. They’re married and have this strange relationship where they’ve been married for a while and they have a daughter, but they haven’t been able to have sex for 11 years after their son died. So Molly’s having an affair with someone else, and they’re both just very strange characters in this world of 1904 Dublin. I’m using the objects that crop up in both of their daily lives to help me figure out what’s happening in their relationship.”

On how she came up with her topic: “I knew I wanted to write a thesis about Ulysses, and what initially interested me was gender and sexuality in the novel. Bloom is described as a ‘womanly man,’ so he’s not really masculine; he has some feminine qualities, and they work in this very weird way. Some people describe both him and Molly as androgynous, which is really interesting. There’s a whole scene in which he becomes a woman and there’s some cross-dressing going on, so that was interesting to me as well. But as I went on, what started popping up to me were these objects that do say a lot about both of their sexualities. It allowed me to explore their relationship in a way where I didn’t have to engage very much with feminist and gender theory because I don’t have a strong background in that.”

On her progress: “I think it’s going okay. I have three chapters, and I finished revising most of my second chapter, so I’m just doing grammar edits for most of it. I’m waiting for comments on my third chapter. I still have to write a conclusion, but that’s fine.”

On her current mental state: “Pretty good. Today was one of my laziest days of writing my thesis because I left my bedroom only for not even an hour to go get dinner. I woke up and didn’t even change out of my pajamas; I just jumped right into thesis writing and didn’t leave the house until very recently [laughs].”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I’m partially enrolled, so I’ve had a lot of time to spend on [my thesis], but one of the most traumatic experiences was when I left early for spring break and sent my advisor [Joe Fitzpatrick] the draft of my second chapter because he told me he wanted it, then I just didn’t hear back from him for three weeks [laughs]. I was less worried about my thesis than I was about him because I wasn’t sure if anything had happened to him. So I went to see him after break during our regular meeting time, not knowing what to expect, and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m really sorry, my break was more hectic than I expected,’ and I was like, ‘Greaaaat.'”

Favorite form of procrastination: “I’ve been playing a lot of Neko Atsume. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s this cat collecting game that’s Japanese. It’s so pointless but so addicting. Basically you buy all these toys for cats to play with and put out food and wait for them to come. And that’s all you do [laughs]. There are a finite number of cats and you try to collect them. Literally nothing happens if you [collect all of them]. But every time they update the app, they add new cats, so it’s a never-ending game. Other than that, I’ve been watching a lot of The Office. I’ve also recently been into the Smithsonian Channel on YouTube, so I’ve been watching a lot of animal videos, specifically cheetahs because they’re really cool [laughs].”

Advice for future thesis writers: “I think a lot of people have said this, but just be passionate about what you’re writing about, but also, it’s really okay not to do a thesis. I remember the first question my advisor was asking me when I said I wanted to do this was, ‘Why do you want to write a thesis?’ After I told him, he was like, ‘If your response was ‘just to write a thesis,’ then that’s not a good reason to do it.’ Also, if it’s an option for you, partial enrollment is a great way to spend your time writing your thesis. It saves you money, of course, but it’s great for your mental health. You have a lot of time to do other things you enjoy outside of school.”

Plans for April 12th: “Since I never do work outside my room, I’m planning to go specifically to Olin and sit down there and act like I’ve been there the whole time so I can hang out with everyone. It’s also Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, so I think I’m gonna go there with a friend and get a free ice cream cone. I probably won’t drive because I might not be sober, but that’s the plan.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.19.10 PMMelanie Parziale ’16: MB&B/THEA (MB&B thesis), Hall-Atwater #240

Working title: “Don’t currently have one. I’m still up in the air if I’m gonna make a ‘tip’ joke because I work at the very start of a protein; I did a deletion in there. My professor [Amy MacQueen] refers to it as the ‘zip 1 tip,’ so we have a lot of lab meetings where she’ll say ‘just the tip’ over and over again while I’m sitting there giggling. So there might be a tip pun…there’s one kid in my lab who’s really, really good at puns, so I’ve told him that I’m going to make him sit down and come up with a bunch of puns that could apply to my thesis. But it’ll have something about ‘small deletions in the terminus of zip 1.'”

On her topic: “The five-second description to my theater friends or people who very much don’t do science is that I made a deletion in a protein, and I’m trying to see what that does to the cell and what happens if it’s missing these amino acids. In meiosis, when making sperm, there’s a protein structure that forms between homologous chromosomes, which is the chromosome from your mom and the chromosome from your dad, because they have to find each other to make sure those chromosomes separate from one another. So they find each other and have to stay together for [a long period of time], and this protein structure forms. My protein [that my thesis studies] is the main backbone of that protein structure.”

On if her thesis has a theatrical component since she’s a theater major: “I had one particular professor in the theater department who really wanted me to do a [theater] thesis, but I’ve spent so long in lab that it’d have to be a double thesis, and it would’ve been absolutely insane and only my MB&B professor would’ve enjoyed it. But she would’ve been there every night on the edge of her seat.”

On her progress: “I have full drafts of two of my four chapters and a wonky half draft of another one, and I have notes everywhere about what I want to do for the last chapter, but I haven’t tackled it and I won’t tackle it until Friday according to the outline I made with my professor, which is a little daunting. I would’ve liked to have been way further in the process, but I didn’t ever stay for a summer to do research, so I think if I had, my research would be further along. I’ve been having these big thoughts about what my discussion section is going to be, but I have my intro and methods done because they’re pretty easy to write. I’m just getting a handle on the results section now. It’ll probably end up around 60 pages. I’m at 27 [pages] right now.”

On her current mental state: “I’ve been telling everyone ‘functioning,’ but there will definitely come a point where I won’t be functioning. But we’re not there yet.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I’ve gotten really, really lucky and haven’t lost everything. My computer was just going dark when I was working on my thesis the other day, so I flipped out and immediately put everything in Dropbox, so I feel pretty confident that I’m not gonna lose anything. But there were some days where I’d have to enter these huge tables of zeroes and ones that [transcribes] my results, and I lost [the transcribed data for] about four or five stacks of ten plates. I had to do it over, but it wasn’t the end of the world.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Probably bugging Linsin Smith ’16. She’s also writing a thesis and works in the lab down the hall, so I just go in there and we commiserate. I also play iPhone games, but that’s dangerous. I only play one, and anyone who knows me has definitely seen me play it. It’s called ‘Cradle of Empires.’ I’ve never spent a cent on it, which I’m proud of.”

On who would star in her thesis if it was a movie: “Anna Kendrick. I’ve been told that I look like Anna Kendrick, so that’s very, very easy. I also feel a connection to her on a sass level, so she’d understand the role.”

On her dreams: “I keep having really, really vivid dreams. Not a lot of people remember their dreams, but I have a good track record for that. But also, when I get more stressed, they become more daily life-oriented. So my dream last night was me sleeping with five people in a king-sized bed and then finally laid down and realized that every light in the room was on. I spent three hours of REM [sleep] trying to turn off every light and then it just didn’t work. So I finally gave up and pulled the covers over my head, and then my alarm went off. It was very depressing…”

Advice for future thesis writers: “It’s pretty specific to sciences, but definitely stay a summer [to do research]. And every time you send a section to your advisor, make sure they know. I sent [my advisor] two chapters at the end of spring break and she came in last Monday and was like, ‘Did you ever send me anything of your thesis yet?’ That was my panic moment. I was like, ‘Yep…’ I’ve started being like, ‘So I’ve sent you two new drafts of everything. Just checking in on that…let me know!’ If you have an absent-minded advisor, just pop your head in, especially at crunch time.”

Plans for April 12th: “I have two hours of Pippin rehearsal. There’s someone else in my cast who’s also writing a thesis, Sarah Greizer ’16, and we have planned to obviously [drink] champagne, and then drink champagne some more, and then go to this rehearsal not sober. Then go out and celebrate after. I’m hoping to put in a word with Swings and get them to put a pail in at lunch [the day after theses are due], just to help us on Wednesday.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.22.16 PMJustin Greene ’16, ENGL/ANTH (thesis in both), carrel #441

Working title: “So it’s a real title, it’s official. It’s called, ‘Unyielding Love.'”

On his topic: “My topic is I’m exploring how masculinities function in Irish metal subcultures. People think of metal as this really angry, aggressive, hyper-crazy thing, but my thesis seeks to explore the more affinity- and relationally-based things that come with it. It’s not just all the anger; there are these moments of unyielding love between the men (because they’re mostly men) in the Irish metal communities, like moshing is an intimate practice because you’re hitting each other, sweat and affect, stuff of that nature.”

On how he came up with his topic: “I was accepted to study abroad in Ireland over the summer through the University of Iowa. I got the Annie Sonnenblick grant, and it turns out you have to come up with a project, and I said, ‘Hm, what do I like?’ I hadn’t touched metal [music] since high school, so I thought I might as well do that. Originally my project was going to be about political valences in metal and how affects are mobilized against a turbulent political economic climate. But when I asked people about it, they said, ‘Oh fuck politics, we don’t do that. If someone showed up in a suit, they’d get the shit beat out of them.’ So it didn’t work that way. Then I had this epiphanic moment where me and one of my ‘informants’ were drunk in a place and he just got really confessional with me and I thought, ‘Wait, this is weird. Random men don’t get confessional with me.’ That confessional aspect was really interesting to me, and I thought, ‘Hm, he’s being very emotionally clear with me right now, which goes against this stoic, archetypal, hegemonic masculinity.’ I thought that if I pushed this further, people think metal is always angry White men anyway, what if I seek to complicate that a bit? That’s how it was born.”

On his progress: “I have a draft, so I’m not screwed, which is nice. That doesn’t mean I’m not anxious about this. My advisor, who’s Brando Skyhorse, is the best advisor ever. I handed a 50-page story and he was like, ‘I really don’t have edits for you,’ and I’m like, ‘Yaaaas.’ I handed my intro to my informal anthro advisor Daniella Gandolfo and she didn’t really have edits, so I’m like, ‘Yaaaas.’ So I’m just imposing my own edits at this point, cleaning things up, and finishing this first story I’m working on. Then I’m going to go back to the 50-pager and touch it up. But I’m good!”

On his current mental state: “It oscillates a lot. I’ll feel fine one moment and then it’ll be like, ‘Wow I have so much to do right now and the world is crashing.’ But overall I’m fine; I know that it’s mostly me hyperbolizing things because it’s a stressful time.”

Nicole Ruiz ’16 (Justin’s housemate): “He just makes a lot of noises.”

J: “I do make a lot of noises, that’s true.”

N: “And slaps his butt.”

J: *laughs hysterically*

N: “I think that’s how he deals with it.”

On his most traumatic thesis experience: “I think traumatic is a bit of an overstatement for this, but it was when shortly after I met with Brando after I sent him a really early draft of the story. He was like, ‘Oh Justin, here are my comments,’ and I open it and it’s on track changes and it’s just purple everywhere all along the right margin. I think I almost cried or something and was like, ‘Wow, okay, I’m really fucked right now.’ But then I actually read through them and [realized] that I had work to do, but it’s not unsalvageable. And then Brando and I ended up working really well together, and he gives really meticulous edits, which I appreciate, because he clearly really cares about my work and is really encouraging. If it weren’t for him, my project wouldn’t be what it would be. How’s that for a tender moment?”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Pokemon is a big one. ‘Pokemans’ is how it’s pronounced, but there’s this battle emulator called Pokemon Showdown where you just get into Pokemon battles with strangers. And I’m just a really big nerd about Pokemon—”

Nicole: “—he constantly plays it all the time! Even on April Fool’s Day, he was like, ‘Hey, there’s April Fool’s jokes on here!”

J: “Yeah they turned it into Yu-Gi-Oh and Digimon characters, it was great. So that’s my main thing. Also watching The Wire because I have to watch it for a class, so it’s productive procrastination.”

On his theses feces: “Unyielding but not very loving.”

On what his thesis would be if it were a song: “It would be Tame Impala’s ‘Cause I’m a Man’ lyrically, but of course it’d be the metal version.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Don’t be afraid to be interdisciplinary. I didn’t think I’d be able to get away with doing a fiction thesis and count it as anthro, but the department’s been really accommodating, so jump in and see what you can do. Also, if you could get a thesis-writing students group together to suffer with, that’s a good move. The anthropology department has been great with that. There are six other thesis writers in anthro, and we all took ANTH 400, which was a fall seminar where we all just critiqued and workshopped our theses together, and we became really close through it. We’re having a thing on Thursday where we all read our theses cover to cover to ourselves, but we’re all in the same room and feel safe and okay. So find a group that you can feel safe and okay with.”

Nicole: “Also, not doing a thesis is a good piece of advice, too!”

Matthew Catron ’16 (Justin’s other housemate): “Highly recommend! No thesis!”

N: “It’s been going great for me!”

On living with two non-thesis writing housemates: “They’ve been encouraging me in all the wrong ways [laughs]. It’ll be Friday night and I’m trying to go the fishbowl and Matthew and Nicole will be playing pong, because that’s all they do with their lives. And then they try and draft me into their games, and usually I’ll give in and play a round or two. Or last Saturday, we were all on Matthew’s bed and Nicole was like, ‘Justinnnn, drink with ussss.'”

Plans for April 12th: *points to champagne bottle on table*

On his tricked-out Olin steps champagne bottle: “So the plan is that [the neck of the bottle] will have a spiked collar. No one really wears those in Irish metal though; I saw one person with one, but whatever. [The bottom of the bottle] is going to have a t-shirt with scrawl-y, aggressive font saying, ‘Unyielding Love,’ which is how I got the title; it was the band I worked with in Ireland.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.27.32 PMSadichchha Adhikari ’16: GOVT/CEAS (thesis in both), SciLi (“I have a carrel, but I’ve only been in it twice”)

Working title: “I actually think I have a final title. It’s ‘David Amongst Goliaths: The Far-Reaching Effects of Regime Change in Nepal on Aid and International Politics.'”

On her topic: “My thesis is about regime change in Nepal and how that affected China, Japan, and the United States and what that says about international politics.”

On how she decided on her topic: “So I knew that I wanted to write about foreign aid to Nepal because the way foreign aid works is so interesting, and for a Politics in Japan class, I wrote about the fact that Japanese aid increased in 2008 after regime change happened in Nepal; the political structure went from a monarchy to a federal republic. That’s what my thesis studies: Why did the aid increase and how can we explain that using regime change? I wrote a snippet of my thesis for the final paper for that class and then it kind of just developed into including China and the United States.”

On her progress: “Very good, actually. I finished my first draft the first week of spring break, sent it to my professor, didn’t think about it the second week, and then came back to make edits and fix things. So I’m in the middle of my first edit right now, and I should be finished by either tonight or tomorrow. Then I won’t look at it for two days, and then I’ll read the whole thing again. I still need to write acknowledgements and also still need to make a list of abbreviated words I use and fix formatting and stuff.”

On her current mental state: “Pretty okay. I’ve gotten used to accepting that I’ll have to go to SciLi every day, rain, shine, or snow. But other than that, because I’m in pretty good shape and because my advisor’s really on top of responding to emails, I’m pretty good.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I changed my topic in December when I wrote my final paper [for Politics in Japan], and it wasn’t a small change; I had to re-write the chapters I’d already written. I had to think about restructuring my thesis to include [discussion of] the United States, which I wasn’t originally going to do. I had to play catch-up, especially since I started writing in October. It was hard to do, but I worked a lot over winter break. My original topic looked at motivations for Chinese aid-giving and wasn’t specifically looking at 2008 and regime change, and it was studying general patterns. It would’ve been too much information for a 100-page thesis, and it wouldn’t have been interesting, quite frankly. This is a lot better.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “The list is really endless. Hannah Maniates ’16 showed me a website called Guess The Correlation where they give you a graph and you have to guess the correlation, so I’ve been using that a lot. Cooking is definitely a big form of procrastination for me. Facebook. Netflix. Texting. Shopping. Doing other homework has become a form of procrastination.”

On her favorite procrastination shows: “My favorite show in the world is Mad Men, but I just finished re-watching that for the third time. Right now I’m watching snippets of sitcoms like New Girl and Friends and things that only last 20 minutes so that I’m not procrastinating for too long.”

On who would star in her thesis if it was made into a movie: “I think because my thesis is more descriptive and research-based rather than creative, I’m thinking about the fact that it’d have to be a documentary, so I’d have to go with the classic Morgan Freeman. Or Neil deGrasse Tyson. But probably Morgan Freeman.”

On acknowledgements: “I’d like to give a shout out to Teresa Paterson ’16 for being integral to my sanity!”

Advice for future thesis writers: “I’ve definitely read this and heard this before, but I think it needs to be said again: You have to have something you’re interested in. I’m writing about a topic that’s personal to me and I’m really interested in, and I’m already kind of getting sick of it. If you don’t love it and you’re going to get sick of it right away, don’t write a thesis. But also in my particular situation where I switched my topic late into the writing process, it was definitely worth it. Don’t be afraid to change your thesis or tweak things, no matter how late it is. Unless it’s the day before it’s due, in which case maybe you should just leave it as it is.”

Plans for April 12th: “Definitely Olin steps. Mostly try to figure out what to do with my free time, because I’ll have too much free time after theses are due.”