THESISCRAZY 2017 (PART 9): Triple Double Trouble

“Like, fuck academic excellence. Honestly.”

This afternoon we’ve got a triple double-feature for you: three great interviews, each with two great thesis-writers in their final stages of bewilderment, stress, and manic laughter! You can also read back on parts 1-8  here, here, hereherehereherehere, and here and you can find the entire archive here.

Enjoy the triple double-feature after the jump!

Lizzie Shackney ‘17 GOV major, thesis in GOV, carrel #436 and Annie Ferreira ‘17 HIST major, thesis in HIST, open carrel on Olin 3rd floor

Working Titles:

LS: “I came up with one the other day! It’s ‘From Multiculturalism to Maquillage: Integration and Inequities in Marseilles.’”

AF: “My working title, I think is gonna be something like, ‘Gender, Space, and Money’–it might be ‘Gender, Money, Space,’ I might flip them, I’m not sure. Like, ‘: On Campus,’ ‘: A Story About Wesleyan University’ or something… It’s gonna include those words in some combination!”

LS: “It’s like ‘Death, Sex, and Money!’

AF: “Yeah, my advisor came up with it, I didn’t actually come up with it. I was like, I’m gonna keep working on that, but I haven’t given it any more thought, I’ve just been using that.”

On their topics:

LS: “I’m writing about social welfare in France, particularly as it plays out in urban areas. And particularly as it relates to the treatment of immigrant populations in those urban areas. So I’m looking at Marseilles and Lyon in particular.”

AF: “That was very concise!”

LS: “I just figured it out!”

AF: “I’m looking at Wesleyan’s decision to co-educate in the late 1960s and the effect that had on the physical campus. Basically why for like, primarily financial reasons, but there were some other factors, like, co-education lingered on as this kind of subtle issue that played out in different campus spaces, primarily fraternities.”

On how they thought of their topics:

LS: “I studied abroad in Marseilles and worked at a nonprofit organization that did employment training work for immigrant women. And then from my time there, and from some of my courses, and from some papers that I read, I was under the impression that Marseilles was a very accepting and tolerant place for North African immigrant populations and other minority immigrant populations. So I thought that was what I was going to write about, like, why it was so exceptional. And then I found out that it wasn’t necessarily true, and it led me to investigate how it’s local institution has made decisions that disproportionately affect minority populations.”

AF: “I wanted to do a thesis about Wesleyan’s history just because a) it’s very easy with the archives right here, it just makes the research a little easier, and b) I think that it’s really interesting to do histories about places that you actually have experienced. So that led me to thinking about Wesleyan, and what were some of the defining points in its history. And really during the 1960s is when it transitioned into becoming the school that we think of it today, with all of its emphasis on diversity and things like that. And so specifically looking at the role that co-education played in that, how it balanced all these different types of diversity. That’s kind of where I went in, and then my question became more specific as I did more research.”

On their progress:

LS: “Well, first semester I thought I was writing about something else, and then I went to France over winter break to conduct interviews, and then I was wrong about everything. So I really got to work in like, February. And at this point, I’m close, and I’m just trying to write about why this matters, which is really hard because it feels very clear to me, but it’s so much harder to put into words. And it means bringing it to a close, which is also kind of sad. But I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent since I decided that I had to do it. *laughs*

AF: “The question was about progress? Sorry, my brain is not fully functioning… It’s been interesting. I originally thought that I was going to write a senior essay about the topic, and then I changed it into a thesis because it was so interesting and I felt like there was a lot of stuff there. So I think for a while I was feeling kind of smug, like, I made fun of everyone else because I was like, ahead, but that kind of quickly didn’t work. The progress I would describe as slow and steady. I did a lot of research in the fall. Yeah, it’s coming, it’ll be done soon, I don’t know! *laughs*”

On their current mental states:

LS: “Calm. I’m calm. I don’t know if this fits into this question, but I really wanted to say it. First I was thinking that Wednesday will be like giving birth to a child–

AF: “I’ve thought about that too, as that metaphor–”

LS: “But then I changed my mind. Like, I already gave birth because giving birth would mean that I was going to be then, like, engaged with this child and shaping it’s life. I think I’ve been shaping its live and interacting with it, so now I’m sending it off to college! I think I’m sending my child off to college, and that’s what’s going to happen on Wednesday.”

AF: “Do you think then, like, along this metaphor, that you gave birth to the idea when you actually came up with–cause I remember the moment when I actually came up with my thesis, like, the actual idea that was like, the thesis–”

LS: “Or was that the conception of the child?”

AF: “No, I think the conception is when you decide that you’re gonna embark on this journey. The birth is like when you’ve come up with the idea.”

LS: “I think that’s really right *laughs*”

AF: “But it’s nice because you do it kind of by yourself–”

LS: “Yeah, you don’t need a man! *laughs*”

AF: “You don’t need no man.. except an advisor, but like… now the metaphor’s getting kind of creepy. That took a weird turn!”

michelle: “No, that’s really funny, but back to the question for Annie… current mental state?”

AF: “It just goes up and down. Currently I’m feeling very good being in the sun, this is very nice. Yeah, It seems like I can get everything done that I need to get done if I just get no sleep, but we’ll see if that happens.”

LS: “But it’s nice because you’ve had sleep up until this point. It’s not like you’ve been spending all semester pulling all-nighters.”

On their most upsetting thesis experiences:

LS: “Well… so I had a Davenport to go to France to conduct these interviews, and I was planning on doing it over winter break. I knew that when I went there it was going to be very hard because it was like this quick transition to another language and another place, and to putting myself in really scary situations where I had to talk to people about this thing that they definitely knew way more about that I did. Like, Day 2, I met this man through a blog, and he basically told me that everything I thought was wrong, and he was right! Everything I thought was wrong. And he was down to help me figure it out and was the most generous and helpful person. He set up all these interviews with his friends who were like, the top politicians and activists and all these things. He was like, ‘These are my friends, but like, I hate the politicians.’ But anyway, as Annie knows, I spent a lot of time crying during my trip, and taking very long walks outside because I was so confused and so unsure of what I was doing and so alone in the world. But I also had lots of help, so thank you!”

AF: “I don’t know if this was the most upsetting, but definitely I think the most nervous I’ve been is when I walked into my advisor’s office after I had given him the last chapter that I’d written. And I’d gotten feedback on the other two, and he was like, ‘You’re on the right track,’ and blah blah blah… And I was worried that with the last one, he’d be like, ‘You’ve taken a left turn! You veered!’ And this was quite recently, so I was worried that I was going to need to redo it, but he was like, ‘No, it’s okay, you’re good.’ I didn’t realize how nervous I was until he said that it was okay. And I was like ‘Okay!’ I was done with the writing, which was really a relief.”

On their favorite forms of procrastination:

LS: “So Annie and I are both partially enrolled, so my social involvement during the day… you don’t realize how going to class and being around people in that way is like a social experience. So sometimes I long for human interaction. I’ll do things like: I’ll be working on the fourth floor, and I’ll walk in the most visible areas down to the first floor to get a drink of water from the water fountain. And I’ll just like, put myself in public situations where I might encounter another person.”

AF: “I’ve definitely also done that. It’s very lonely.”

LS: “It’s very lonely!

AF: “Yeah, I think a lot of my procrastination is very boring. I’ll like, stare into space for a while, or lying horizontal on pieces of furniture… it’s not very interesting, I just try to give my mind a rest. Usually it’s also making lists, like when I’m doing other things, making lists of things I still need to do… That’s a really boring answer.”

LS: “Also doing handstands. I’ve been going to the basement and doing a cartwheel and a handstand and then going back up!”

AF: “That’s good. Walking through the stacks is also definitely good. I always think I’m going to encounter people who are hooking up, but I have yet to do that.”

On their advice for future thesis writers:

LS: “This kind of applies to anyone, but I think at this point, and by your senior year, I think it’s helpful and good to figure out what experiences at Wesleyan have really mattered to you, and what deserves a central place in your life. And when you can decide on the few things you really want to pour your heart into, it really makes it a lot easier to do those things well. Paring your life down to the things that matter most, I think is important. So I think it was very useful to partially enroll, like, I’m lucky that I was able to partially enroll and dedicate myself to the things that really mattered this semester.”

AF: “I think it’s been really fulfilling to have a capstone-type project to work on, and it really reveals something that, in my mind has been germinating, like the themes for my entire Wesleyan experience. And I know my friends have all sort of found that experience in other projects that they’ve been doing, or other kind of cumulative things, both inside and outside of the classroom. So this isn’t like advice for thesis writers, but advice for everyone, which is: Try to find something within your senior year that will feel representative of your time and your growth as a person.”

On their favorite parts of their theses:

LS: “I these projects, sometimes you focus on something very specific that ends up feeling kind of representative of–well, for me, the thing that I focused on that was very specific ended up feeling representative of the world and helped me understand Western civilization…”

AF: “You don’t know, but this is the ‘Lizzie-est’ answer ever *laughs*”

LS: “My favorite part has been using this one city to understand so much more. And being able to really talk to people, and understand people, and understand a place, and really feel connected to it, in order to extrapolate from there.”

AF: “The part of the process that has brought me the most literal joy has been digging through the archives and finding weird Wesleyan things that have existed in the past. Like, old editions of The Argus are super funny, and they came up with a lot of joke editions. And I found this thing written by Michael Roth ‘78 when he was an undergraduate, which is this weird experimental poetry that was published. It’s amazing.”

                                  The poem by Mike Roth ’98 himself!

LS: “But this wasn’t part of a joke issue!”

AF: “No, it’s very serious, it’s about like… it’s really weird. And it’s fun because I get to share what I’ve discovered with other people cause everyone’s just kind of interested in Wesleyan as a universal topic. I’ll send funny pictures I find to friends, like, I sent this thing to Lizzie. And they get joy out of it too, so that’s been a really fun part.

On if their theses were songs/movies/TV shows:

LS: “Oh, there’s a TV show–”

AF: “I was just gonna say, do you think it’s that failed TV show called Marseilles?”

LS: “Yeah, there’s this TV show on Netflix called Marseilles, and I only watched the first episode. I think it’s trying to be House of Cards, Marseilles edition. It’s super weird, and it involves politicians putting on masks. So in some ways, I think that really accurately describes my thesis, in like a weird thing that’s trying to be something else, and everything is fake.”

AF: “I was thinking about this question, and I don’t know, mine’s so specific to Wesleyan that it’s kind of hard to think about it. But I was thinking about the movie that I’ve never seen, PCU, that’s based on Wesleyan. I’ve never seen it, so I don’t know if it’s actually similar or not, but it’s probably a combination of that and like, Greek, because Greek deals with fraternity houses, which is also something that I’ve thought a lot about. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, though.”

On their plans for April 19th:

LS: “We bought our champagne together, so there will be champagne. And maybe at some point in the evening I’ll start being able to think about fun things I can do–well, we’ve been thinking about this for a while–but I will concretely list all the fun things that I will do for the next month of my life!”

AF: “Sleep. And drink a lot of champagne. Hopefully. The two things.”


Iryelis Lopez ‘17 AMST major, thesis in AMST, and Taina Quiñones ‘17 AMST major, thesis in AMST

On their working titles:

IL: “A Simple Thank You: Debt, Gifts, and Gratitude in the University”

TQ: “You’re Being Too Emotional: An Analysis of Emotions, Politics, and Affect Negotiations Through Black Lives Matter”

On their topics:

IL: “My thesis is centered in critical university studies, so I’m looking at the indebted student, both financially and through this other kind of debt that I’m calling ‘gratitude debt’ that low-income, racialized, gendered, scholarship recipients enter through being managed by stewardship offices and departments. It’s geared towards maintaining donor relations and maintaining institutional futurity through students making contact, and establishing contact, with donors.”

TQ: “Well, the whole project kind of came out of reactions to Black Lives Matter on campus, and how a lot of reactions I saw towards black students and students of color were that they were being too emotional, and that they had to sort of present their ideas in a way that didn’t make people uncomfortable, because they were too angry, or sad, or something like that. So, with my thesis, I’m arguing that that act of the dismissal of emotions is very normalized means of maintaining a white supremacist regime, because I’m arguing that emotions are how we identify each other as human, and in order to recognize someone as human, you have to understand how they’re feeling, and how their felt experience is. And so, by telling someone they’re too emotional, you’re sort of severing that possibility of seeing them as human in the first place. And how, Black Lives Matter, with its rejection of respectability politics and tone-policing, is sort of putting the country and the world face-to-face with these felt experiences, so that the process of humanization can actually happen.”

On how they thought of their topics:

IL: “I thought of my topic as I was reading Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, and I came across this passage that talked about diversity work, and getting funding for diversity work, and then white management, and white enthusiasm, and white commitments as creating an indebted subject. And that was what my thesis was kind of going to be about at first. And then, I got my annual scholar update email, that requested that I fill out my profile, and send my thank-you note, or whatever, and I was like, ‘This feels very indebted,’ and then I kind of just from there. I started going back through my email archive and finding all of these very structured emails, that were worded in a way that was very intentional, to elicit debt, or gratitude, from students. And then, I was like, ‘I’m just not going to respond, and see where it goes’. And now, I have my thesis. It wrote itself through responses that I wrote in the past, email archives, stewardship stuff.”

TQ: “I feel like I sort of explained how I got my idea in the last question… But, it came specifically out of also being involved with a co-ed Greek society on campus, and their reactions to everything, which led to us then having to have a ‘race conversation’ with the members. And this was all also in light of Bryan Stascavage ’18‘s article in The Argus, and stuff like that. So, it was definitely inspired by my life at Wesleyan, and just realizing how the treatment of emotions is this widespread issue in discussing race.”

On their progress:

IL: “So, I just came from a thesis meeting with my advisor, where we were going over my introduction. So, right now I have a draft of everything. I have to edit my introduction, edit parts of Chapter 4, and make it really pretty and sentences read better, and write my acknowledgements, and table of contents, fix my bibliography… So, like, I kind of have a draft, but I also have a lot to do. And title page, figuring out where I’m going to print this, yeah. Still a lot of work to do in the next 48 hours.”

TQ: “48 hours! They’re due Wednesday, wow! I have to finish my conclusion, but I’ve been editing as I’ve been going, so my intro’s in its last draft, and all my chapters are in their last drafts, dependending on my advisor. But, similarly, I need to fix my bibliography, and fix all the margins – because apparently that’s a very time consuming process, the formatting. And then you turn it in, and then you get drunk! So, that’s where I’m at.”

On their current mental states:

IL: “I feel, um, energized. I’m trying to do like 2-3 cups of caffeinated drink a day, which is, like, I’m trying to wean off of it. I feel kind of calm, I’m trying to remain calm, and just go really slow with the editing. I’m just trying to slow down and be calm, because if I think about it too much, I start to get paralyzed with fear.”

TQ: “That’s so real, I need to do that also. Mental state is an interesting question… I’ve been fine. It’s been a lot of work! It’s really emotionally taxing a lot of the time. But, good support systems make it okay. Like, I had a friend who made me write ‘breathe’ on my hand while I was working on my thesis, because I kept forgetting to, and then just started panicking. So, ask that again after…”

On their most upsetting thesis experiences:

IL: “I was rereading Chapter 1, and I was just like, ‘Wow, this doesn’t make any sense,’ so I cut so much of it, and then rearranged it, so now it’s like a little preface. So, I lost a chapter, which was kind of sad. Upsetting that I’m hoping that it comes across as how I want it to come across, instead of people not really knowing what it’s about, or not really knowing what it’s like to be a scholarship recipient. And, just trying to be easy on myself, because I’m often too hard on myself – that’s a little upsetting.”

TQ: “I think the most upsetting experience comes at like three in the morning, when you still have so much to do before you’re able to go to bed, and it just stops making sense, and you become so saturated with the stuff that you’re reading, and with all of your theory, that at a certain point you start doubting that you make sense, or you feel like you’re saying things everybody already knows, which isn’t necessarily true, but you just work with things for such a long time that it’s your whole world, and it’s nauseating to look at after a while, and still feel a purpose. It’s been an existential process, I think.”

On their favorite forms of procrastination:

IL: “I just downloaded this game, called Dawn of Titans on my phone – it took, like, hours to download – and it’s, just, not even a good game. You just download titans and then you fight battles, but, yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s just a lot of phone games and, yeah, that’s where I’m at.”

TQ: “I watch a lot of TV. Right now I’m watching Catfish, I’m watching The Office – for like the fourth time through – I’m watching Survivor, which I just found an excuse to write about for one of my other classes, so I don’t think that counts as procrastination anymore. Yeah, I watch a ton of TV. And I also just play stupid phone games, like ‘Ballz’ with a ‘z’ is an amazing game, that you can just play for hours. It’s great. This is my plug for ‘Ballz.’”

On their advice for future thesis writers:

IL: “I would say, really, really, care about your project, and really love it. Because, eventually it will just start to feel so heavy and not worth it, but just really love so that you can remember you love it, in the darkest of times. And, only do it if it you really want to. Don’t feel like you have to for, like, academic excellence. Like, fuck academic excellence. Honestly.”

TQ: “I completely agree. It needs to definitely be something that is sort of a self-motivated project. Because, if you’re doing it for other reasons, it might get done, but it just won’t be fulfilling, and you won’t have a good time doing it. And, also, community is so important. Like, I don’t know what I would’ve done had I not had people who were supporting me through the ‘dark times’, as Iry just said. Because, it does get really taxing, and things do feel really dark sometimes, just because it is such a massive project, that you’re working on for so long. So, definitely find people who understand that, and will tell you that they’re proud of you, and who believe in you. Because, just hearing that helps so, so much.”

On their favorite parts of their theses:

IL: “I found my responses from freshman, sophomore, and junior year, by Googling, in my inbox, this random word. But, yeah, that’s been my favorite part, my responses from those years, because they’re so cringe, it’s wild. Like, sometimes I reread them, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I hate this place’. But, yeah, that’s my favorite part. The cringe of the thesis. I want people to cringe.”

TQ: “I think my favorite parts are where I feel like my argument has the most impact. Like, just really pushing the reader to re-conceptualize, or consider how they deal with other people’s emotions. Because, I make the point in my thesis, that, no matter who is reading it, we can all be better about how we engage with how other people are feeling, and the seriousness with which we treat those feelings. And, feelings are really important to me, so it’s been nice to be able to bring that into my academic work, and just basically say: ‘Be nice to each other, guys, listen!’”

If their theses were songs/movies/TV shows:

IL: “Hm, wow, that’s so hard! I’ve been listening to a lot of Rocky Horror… Pass.”

TQ: “Now I literally can’t get ‘All Star’ out of my head. One time my friend made me a work playlist, like, to write to, and it was just ‘All Star,’ like twelve times. Um, I’m going to stick with that.”

On questions that they wish we’d asked:

IL: “Where’s your carrel? I have a carrel with a window. I’m never in there. It’s like pimp my carrel. It’s on the third floor. Fun fact, actually, I’m very upset about this. I opened the window, it’s a wind tunnel, and then I had a baby picture of myself, like, on the window, and then it flew out! And, now it’s just, like, on a platform outside of Olin, a baby picture of me. So, that’s really upsetting. There’s no way for me to get it. It’s on this elevated platform outside of Olin. I’m so mad! It’s such a cute picture of me.”

TQ: “How’s your day going? Or, how are you?”

On their most used words/phrases:

IL: “I wish I could search and see. Maybe ‘debt’, probably debt, definitely debt.”

TQ: “I really like ‘aforementioned’. I use that so much! ‘In the aforementioned quote…’ Yeah, I do it a lot, so, I’ll go with that.”

On their plans for April 19th:

IL: “Two days from now, I will… Well, I want to turn it in early, then go to my gym class, do a little gym work, and then just hold my bottles of champagne, and just be sitting on the steps before everyone else arrives. And then, probably, like, pop a little champagne, but drink most of it. And then, I have to leave, because I have an interview the next day, so I can only party for a few hours, because then I have to go to New Haven, and Boston… But, yeah, just get drunk, and then have a drunk and euphoric train ride.”

TQ: “So, yeah, I have class that morning. Hopefully going to turn it in right after class. Similarly, going to grab my many bottles, and then, I’ve been debating whether I want to drink, versus being, like, drenched in champagne. It’s a hard thing to decided, but… So, yeah, a lot of my friends are having parties right after Olin steps, so just going directly to their houses and partying more. So, I think I’m going to partake in that. And, then, the next day is 4/20, so, uh, who knows what’ll happen?”


Emily Black ‘17 ENGL/MATH/COMP majors, thesis in COMP, no carrel, and Thienthanh Trinh ‘17 BIO/NS&B majors, thesis in BIO, no carrel

Working Title:

EB: “My title is ‘A Formal Verification of Courcelle’s Theorem’”

TT: “So mine is ‘Morphological Variation Among and Between Atherinomorus stipes’ which is a fish. It’s the harhead silverside.”

On their topics:

EB: “Mine is…well, it depends how much background you have and how long you have, but I’ll try to be as quick as possible. Basically, it’s like: graphs are hard, and we don’t have fast algorithms on them so…let’s make faster algorithms. In a little bit more detail, a graph is a flight map, picture that. And all datasets can be represented as graphs, so if you want to find something out about a dataset you’re usually asking a question about a graph. But because there’s no inherent structure to a graph–it’s just dots and lines like a flight map–it’s really hard to find a way to get an algorithm to be like ‘Okay, here’s a graph and here’s the question I want to answer, now give me an answer to the question.’ What my thesis does, it imposes a structure on graphs and says ‘We’re only going to look at graphs of this type,’ and then you can get a fast algorithm for a graph of that type, and I show that that’s true.”

TT: “Mine is kind of going off of a thesis from last year. So last year, a student wrote her thesis on the genetic variation in these fish between and among Florida and Belize populations. And she found these statistically significant genetic differences between the two populations and within each population. Even though they were really close together, there were still large genetic differences. So she got to go out to Belize and Florida, which I’m really jealous about.

EB: “And you got to stay here!!”

TT: “And I got to stay here! On the third floor of Exley! Beautiful scenery. And mine is going off of that and is looking at morphological variation between these fish and is seeing there are similar patterns.”

EB: “Can I just clarify one thing? Because it takes a long time to explain my thesis. I didn’t discover the theorem that I mentioned. Someone else discovered the theorem and what my thesis is about is re-proving the theorem with a computer instead of a human doing math.”

On how they came into/up with their topics:

TT: “All throughout high school, all throughout college, I knew that I wanted to pursue the marine sciences and that’s not really something that you can get here. There’s not even a marine science course. I went away to different places for internships and I also studied abroad and got my marine background from there. But, at Wesleyan, I also wanted to bring that in, so I looked for a lab that worked specifically on fish, and so this [the Chernoff Lab] was perfect because it’s one of the few labs. And from there, I was already talking to Barry [Chernoff], who’s my adviser, and we were talking about different directions that we wanted to go. I’m not really a genetics person and I really wanted to work on morphology instead. And so from there, we found a way to connect work from last year.”

EB: “I didn’t really think I was going to do computer science when I came here at all. I picked it up late in my junior year. I was at this math REU, which is like a summer program for people who want to do math and this woman, this computer scientist, came and gave a talk about graph theory and some really tough algorithms on graphs, and I thought it was really cool. And so I came back to Wesleyan and my favorite computer science professor is Dan Licata, who is now my adviser, and I was like ‘I think this is awesome, I want to do something like this.’ And his research is in a completely different area, like not related at all. So he was like ‘Okay,’ and I was like ‘But I also only want to work with you,’ and he was like ‘Okay.’ And we spent a long time thinking and came up with a way to merge the two areas. So the tools that I’m using are from his area but the thing that I’m using them for is from the area that I was interested in. And so we met in the middle. It was a beautiful situation.”

On their progress:

TT: *laughs*

EB: “My progress?”

TT: “You go first.”

EB: “I go first? Okay, so I finished my rough draft yesterday [April 16th], which is pretty late. I’m editing my first draft right now, and I also wrote my entire first draft in like a week and two days. Because the way science theses work is you do research up until the last possible second, and then you write really quickly, which I think is really different than other theses.”

TT: “Yeah, for sure because I know from talking to other people and English majors and other people outside of science are like ‘Oh yeah, I have like a million pages,’ and you’re just like ‘I didn’t even start writing. I’m still analyzing data.’ I started collecting my data summer after Junior year. I stayed here the entire summer and then I finished collecting data last semester and started running a bunch of tests and teaching myself how to use R, which took a lot. I had to go to the QAC a lot. One graph would take me 10 hours whereas, at the QAC, they could do it in like 5 minutes. Now, I’ve been writing a lot and I got my edits today off of my first draft and there’s a lot of editing to be done.”

On their current mental states:

EB: “I feel like this is a dual thing. It’s us together.”

 TT: “Yeah, it’s us together. That’s why we wanted to do an interview together because I feel like we went through similar waves of emotions.”

EB: “So this is a little backstory. I was doing my thesis pretty much alone and I hate working alone, so much. And then last week, we see each other in Exley and Thienthanh says hi to me and I was in a big rush, but you took out your headphone, so I was like ‘Okay’”

TT: “Like oh wow! You have to talk to this girl!”

EB: “I was just kidding. I was in a huge rush, but I was like ‘I love Thienthanh, no I’m gonna talk to her.’ We talked and I was like ‘Dude, I’m just so sad, I’m just doing this thesis by myself and all of my other thesis friends are doing theses in their room at this point because they can’t handle it anymore and I’m just like, so alone.’ And she was like ‘You should work with me. And so, since that day, we spent like every single waking hour together.”

TT: “And I feel like, because we both had each other, our mental states are a little better off than they would have been with us individually, just because we keep each other in check. We’ll say ‘Let’s work for the next three hours and then take a long walk and not talk about thesis and talk about cool things’ because we’re not our thesis. We’re cooler people outside of our thesis.”

EB: “For example, Thienthanh, when we were really starting to go insane, made a portrait of me.”

TT: “So I think our mental state has not been too bad. But you could ask me again in 24 hours and I’ll probably be like dying. I feel like because we’ve been taking breaks and because we’ve been doing leisure activities outside of thesis like going outside, making art, etc, I think it’s kept our mental state in check.”

EB: “If I could summarize our mental state in one word, it would be ‘merged.’ That’s the synopsis.”

TT: “Yeah yeah yeah. We get hungry at the same time.”

EB: “We do get hungry at the same time.”

TT: “That’s weird.”

EB: “It is weird.”

On their most upsetting thesis experiences:

TT: “It’s been more frazzled, I wouldn’t say upsetting.”

EB: “I lost my thesis notebook for a full 3 months and then I found it underneath my record player in my room.”

Favorite forms of procrastination:

EB: “Thienthanh is so fucking functional.”

TT: “No I’m not.”

EB: “Listen to this.”

TT: “No, I don’t think it’s that great. I feel like I’ve been so much more artsy and creative now that I’m writing a thesis because I’ll be like ‘Oh yeah, I need to write this thesis, some results are due tomorrow. Let me just spend the next 5 hours teaching myself how to play the guitar. And I never had those 5 hours but all of the sudden, now that it’s gonna be due, I’m just like ‘Let’s just due this. I hiked. And then I played with lots of puppies. That’s my form of procrastination. I have a lot of grad friends on campus that have puppies.”

EB: “I eat, sleep, and watch YouTube videos.”

Plans for April 19th:

EB: “So much champagne.”

TT: “Lots of champagne. And I’m supposed to give a talk at 6.”

EB: “You’re not giving that talk.”

TT: “I don’t think I’m gonna give that talk. But yeah, lots of champagne and then see where that goes. And if I end up not talking, then that’s fine.”

EB: “Yeah, I think champagne and then–oh man, I had eloquent things to say for this before but now I can’t think of any of them. I haven’t taken advantage of my porch. I have a beautiful porch on Home Ave and I’m so excited to just sit there and drink continuously on my porch like an old man.”

Advice for future thesis writers:

TT: “Should we talk about food??”

EB: “Oh my god! Stock up on food! We had this night where we felt like we couldn’t leave because we were basically on a roll. But we were so hungry. We would have starved typing on our keyboards. We need food.”

TT: “It was a Saturday night.”

EB: “We were like, how do we get food? And I had stolen an entire pizza from the math department the day before–not stolen, they gave it to me. But I had an entire pizza in my freezer. But we were like ‘We literally can’t leave our posts to get the freezer pizza that’s like 15 seconds away because we just can’t leave. We were like ‘We can’t order food because that would be bad’ and then we were like ‘Um, who can bring us food.’ So we came this close to posting on WesAdmits *holds two fingers up very close to one another, but not quite touching* for food. And then we were like ‘We can’t do that because if we got rejected that would be too sad.’ And so then we brought up Tinder.”

TT: *laughs* “We were gonna find someone who could bring us grilled cheese. Also, this was an idea that was coming from a very sleep deprived state.”

EB: “We’re actually kinda not as desperate as that, but we felt very desperate at the moment.”

TT: “We were so hungry, but you know we just…”

EB: “But there um..”

TT: “We couldn’t find anyone to swipe right on. And so we were just like, let’s just go get our own pizza.”

EB: “And then we bolted to my house and got the pizza.”

TT: “So yeah, advice: stock up on food. And coffee. I guess you don’t really need to shower…”

EB: “Bring a stick of deodorant with you everywhere.”

TT: “And just do things outside of your thesis because that stuff is so important. Do leisurely things. You don’t want to just be stuck in a room.”

EB: “Get a buddy! That is the main thing. Get a fuckin buddy. This has been so much better with Thienthanh”

On their favorite parts of their thesis:

TT: “I love the photos that I took and the graphs and the plots. Like I said, it took me like 10 hours to make one graph. It’s very colorful.”

EB: “I like my whole thesis in that I tried really hard to make it very accessible, which is not a quality that I think scientific literature has. This is my thesis and hopefully I will publish this and write more papers in the future. But this is my first big thing that I’ve written; I haven’t been published before. And so I’m just trying so hard to make it readable.”

Most used word/phrase:

TT: “It’s really not that interesting, but I think ‘statistically significant.’”

EB: “I think I have a most used word. It’s probably ‘game’ because game theory. Or maybe ‘treaty compositions’ or ‘trees.’”

Questions they wish we’d asked:

EB: “I wish you had asked ‘what’s the craziest thing that’s happened as a result of your thesis. And I got a free trip to Norway. I was going through the literature last summer and I emailed this guy who wrote one of the background notions for my thesis and I was like ‘Hey, I’m sorry, I don’t understand your proof. Here’s what I don’t understand.’ And he was like ‘Do you want to come to Norway?’”

TT: “I didn’t even get to go to Belize or Florida to get my fish. And you went to Norway.

EB: “He’s an older man, he is this dude who created some field called ‘parameterized complexity.’ We were talking over email and he said ‘You know, this would be a lot easier to discuss in person. It would be great to meet you. You seem like you would be a cool person who’s doing some cool research. So why don’t you come down to Norway and the university can pay for it and we’ll just hang out and talk about math.’ So July of last year, I was in Norway for a week.”

TT: “I would have loved for you to ask ‘Were you really good friends before this thesis?’ Well, actually, Emily and I met the first week of Freshman year. We were on Foss Hill and we just started talking.”

EB: “We were watching the fire spinners. Prometheus.”

TT: “And we were just striking up a conversation, as freshmen do. But it was in the dark so I didn’t really recognize Emily the next couple of times that I saw her. And we just didn’t really talk for the rest of Wesleyan and because we have such different friend groups and niches at Wesleyan. But then we ran into each other and started talking and were like ‘Do you want to write our theses together?’

EB: “But we didn’t even say that, we just said ‘Do you want to work with me tonight?’ And then we just never stopped.

Interviews by michellek8, and wilk.

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