THESISCRAZY 2018 (Part 4): The Droids Are Coming

Sahil smiling because he’s on the final stretch of his thesis woohoo!

Let’s talk about ThesisCrazy, baby.

In this here post we’ve got some CSS and we’ve got some Econ. We’re talking about androids and we’re talking about healthcare in America, two very hot topics right now. @Zach Lambros BA ’17 MA ’18 road to the ‘cacs bb.

Check out Part 3 here.

Thesising after the jump.

Sahil Singhvi ‘18, CSS, SOC, and ECON major; Thesis in CSS

Working title: “I don’t have one. It is untitled.”

On his topic: “Every time I try to tell somebody about my project I change the blurb a little bit so I want to try to be as faithful as possible. Essentially, I’m writing a creative thesis about a society in which humans no longer work because entry technology has developed to the point where they serve as the primary source of labor in this city. And it’s about the androids coming to consciousness and demanding rights as well as humans learning to live in a world where no society is organized according to labor hierarchies.”

On how he came up with his topic: “I floated a bunch of ideas about what I wanted to write. I knew I wanted race to be a big part of whatever I tackled and initially wanted to do something a little bit closer to India. And specifically [I wanted to] talk about the postcolonial influence on the diaspora or maybe a profile of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. What ended up happening was I applied the postcolonial structure to these Androids and made them colonial subjects. It was a pretty interesting thought experiment and everything else kind of spiraled from there. I had to pick a few particular thinkers to work with. Initially that was one of my thesis adviser’s demands. Narrowing it helped me hone in on what particular problem I wanted to talk about. But the universe building was something that I wanted to do from the beginning. Since I was a little kid I really wanted to write a novel and tried several times to varying degrees of failure. So this was kind of an attempt to force myself to finish a project for the first time.”

On his progress: “It’s a little bit behind where I’d like it to be at the moment. I finished a draft before spring break which was about 100 pages. It was a little bit longer than I want the final draft to be. The body of the creative text I want to be around 90 pages. And then I also have to have a character list and like some maps and some images and then a little theoretical explanation or afterword at the at the end of it. I have a draft of my character list and a skeleton of the theoretical piece but what’s actually fleshed out the five chapters of the actual novel. And those need considerable work. I spent most of break rewriting the first chapter and I need to really overhaul the second one and the third, fourth, and fifth are a little bit better. So I’m very much the editing stage.”

On his current mental state: “What it’s been since the beginning, which has been deeply doubtful about my actual intellectual capability to do this. But I’ve retained a good deal of excitement about the project which has been pretty cool. At the moment, I’d rather poke my eyes out with a fork than look at my project but unfortunately that’s not an option so I have been…pushing through.”

On his most upsetting thesis experience: “It’s a toss up between two. The one that comes to mind is pretty early on in the process. My thesis adviser asked for five pages and an outline of the whole project and I’ve never actually had her before. She’s the head of the CSS and a professor who I had never taken a class with but I’d heard really good things about her. She focuses on political fiction so that’s why I asked to be my adviser. So I went in and I hadn’t done what she’d asked me to do I didn’t like some semblance of something but not at all what she’d asked me to do. And she wasn’t angry or anything she just said ‘Okay I’m gonna sit here while you do it in front of me right now.’ And I had to do like the entire outline of the project in 15 minutes. And that was like a really horrible nerve wracking experience but it ended up being really constructive. The other time was when she needed me to turn in like 20 pages of my chapter and I hadn’t started it. And so I did the entire thing the night before. And so I was at 4 am working on it from 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. just typing and it was a piece of poop when I turned it in but it was done.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “I’m teaching a student forum on the West Wing and so I can pass off watching the West Wing during large swaths of time as ‘research for the class.’ So that’s probably it. I started watching the show last year in May thanks to the Sammi Aibinder ’18 and I’m now on my fifth cycle through the show. I’m on the third season.”

Plans for April 17th: “I’m going to drink a lot of champagne and then if past history with alcohol is any indicator I’m going to throw up into a trash can and go to bed by 5:00 p.m.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Listen to your advisers when they tell you to start planning early. It’s never a good idea to try to write something a few days before it’s due. Even if it really really really feels horrible, making the time to write every day—which is a separate process from the research portion of it—is very helpful. This is all advice that I didn’t follow. So like all of thesis advice you should probably ignore it.”

On his favorite part of his thesis: “I want to give a joke answer to this but a genuine one comes to mind and it’s that the main character of my story initially began as a character that I would like. I think he was just generic in a lot of different ways and—in the way that he plays into the story—he’s ended up being somebody who I actually don’t really like and somebody who I wouldn’t want to spend time with. He’s kind of cowardly and easily convinced of things and weak willed in general. It’s way more interesting to write a character who is flawed and very evidently flawed than somebody who’s  just a nice template for the reader or the author.”

If his thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “Probably be an episode of Black Mirror because that’s what everybody I’ve ever talked to about it says. Or Blade Runner 2049.”

Most used word/phrase: “Probably mechanical or android but that feels like a cop out answer given that the book is about androids.”

 

Steve McCarthy ‘18, ECON Major

Working title: I was asked before and I kinda came up with it on the spot, I think it’s Efficiency Consequences of Hospital Physician Integration or something like that, there might be a colon in there somewhere

On his topic: My topic is basically if hospitals that have acquired, merged, or basically bought a physician practice such that they are now directly employing them with their salaried employees if these hospitals now have lower costs as a result of that. Mergers have certain thresholds that triggers an automatic federal review and in these reviews one of the merging firms will argue that one of the reasons you should approve this merger is cause we’re saving all these costs that would otherwise get passed onto the consumer, and so I’m basically investigating if that’s true for this very particular case of hospitals acquiring physician practices.

On his progress so far: Progress is looking pretty good, it’s coming together.  I did all the writing over the spring break, I just sat down with all my data that I had ready to go and I just wrote, so that was interesting.  Right now I’m doing some specifications, considering a few more points of data, looking at what points are good and what points are bad. It’s gotten done on time, it’s going to be good.  Is it going to be fun getting there? No, of course not.

On his current mental state: Have you seen Muppet treasure island? The cabin fever song.

On his most upsetting thesis experience: Oh god. They’re mostly data related.  I’m using a very large empirical data set of survey data.  I started out with 43,000 observations but once you prune it down it becomes 33,000 and after my latest iterations I might be at 29,000. So there’s been a lot of problems and hiccups along the way, things like you’re running your regression and then you realize afterwards there was a problem with one of your variables that’s systemically wrong and you have to stop and fix it and do it again. That pretty much summarizes it, there’s far too many of those to count.

On his favorite form of procrastination: I watch a lot of Fortnite, a lot of Fortnite on Twitch.  It’s basically that or generally youtube. I’ve actually been going through a lot of “Whose Line is it Anyway”, like the new iteration on The CW.  I’ve just been watching a lot of those clips and whatnot. It’s a good way of procrastinating but I keep running out of clips.

On his plans for April 17th: When I’m done, you know, I’ll be out there enjoying the champagne for all of ten of fifteen minutes and then, then I’ll have to think about my math midterm the next day, yep… multivariable calculus midterm.  But that weekend I intend to finally go out and see my friends, emerge from my thesis cave, you know really just finally enjoy second semester of senior year.

His advice for future thesis writers: If you are working with survey data good luck.  That’s a very narrow one, but really you gotta be really into it, you gotta know you want to do it.  Especially for economics you have to really want it. You have to be really into your topic, otherwise you’re going to burn out you’re not going to like it, you’re going to hate it.  So you have to pick a topic you like and you’ll stick with and won’t lose interest in.

On his favorite part of his thesis: My favorite part is seeing it all together, because I have been so deep in the weeds, with so many trees and it’s like, “Oh look! There’s a forest!”.  Like this actually exists, you have this and this and then it just all comes right together so that has to be the best part of it so far. I’m at the point where I’m not losing my mind, where it’s like oh wow I have it now.  Of course I’ll be even happier when it’s done.

On if his thesis were a movie/song/tv show: If you looking for a movie answer, this is really more of my procrastinator movie but it’s definitely “The Great Gatsby”, the one with DiCaprio.

Questions he wished he had asked: Whyyy? Why did I decide to do this to myself? I mean I know exactly why, I guess I just knew what I was getting into data-wise.  I knew I would have data difficulties, but I did not know they would be quite as extensive. I don’t think that would have deterred me, but it would have set some expectations.

On his most used word/phrase:It’s probably ISM.  It stands for Integrated Salary Model, and that is basically the dummy variable.  Like if you’re a 1, are you integrated or are you not. Basically, that’s what’s been talked about the most, if you just look at sheer count of the number of times I’ve referenced that variable.  That and statistically significant, that was used a lot too.

Theses feces!: Because I’m on Wesleying staff I did actually see the thesis feces question, so I knew this question was coming around. Um… generally pretty normal, nothing fancy, but also at the same time they just kinda sneak up on you.  You’re just writing and you’re thinking maybe soon, but then it’s like no you gotta go right now.

 

Zach Lambros B.A. ’17 MA ’18 is doing a thesis in astronomy. Catch him in the Van Vleck Observatory Basement, probably watching golf and only marginally working on his thesis.

interviews by fern and wilk.