A picture of Lila counting cells (her “favorite activity”)
It has been a wild ride. Reading through all these THESISCRAZY2018 interviews has been a privilege, and I can’t wait to see what next year’s class brings. But today we have reached the end of our time together. Part 14 is the last part of thesiscrazy this year. I am sad. You are sad. But today at 4pm, the seniors are gonna stand on the Olin steps and they’re gonna pop their bottles of champagne, have a drink or two (or ten) with friends, and celebrate their momentous achievement of writing a thesis. But let’s not forget they’re probably a little sad too, and they don’t quite know why. It’s gonna nag them a little, and they’ll be left wondering. And then next week (not tomorrow or this weekend ’cause they’ll be celebrating), they’ll realize. Their thesis, this thing that was on their mind 22/7 for the last year, is finished. Their baby is gone.
We’ve got some great ones by Ali Arminio ’18, Khephren Spigner ‘18, Caroline Deimer ‘18, Lila Levinson ‘18, Jackson Barnett ‘18, Grace Wong ‘18, Allegra Ayida ‘18, Emily Kessler ‘18, and Amélie Clémot ‘18. Don’t skimp on these theses.
Read after the jump to catch up on this final installment of THESISCRAZY2018. And if you really need something for some ultra-last-minute procrastination, check out all of this year’s interviews here! We’ll see you on the steps at 4!
Ali Arminio ’18, English and Film Studies double major, French minor
Thesis title: “After Abby”
What’s your topic?: It’s a production thesis, so it’s a digital film. It’s about 8 minutes. It’s about a nine-year-old girl whose best friend just suddenly died and the film follows her dealing with that sudden loss and remembering their complicated relationship through softball.
How you thought of your topic?: Over the summer, I don’t know, I guess I wanted to make a movie that would be important to me right now in this time of my life because that kind of felt like the appropriate—like as much as I could handle write now. I didn’t want to do something crazy ambitious, I just wanted to do something small and important to me, so when I can look back, I can be like, “Oh, that was my thesis. That really summed up this pointing my life.” So when I started thinking about topics, I kind of immediately decided I wanted to make a movie about female friendship and then, kind of narrow that down into a kids’ perspective]…and I grew up playing sports so that’s always been a fun thing for me. The death thing just kind of happened as a sort of side note—in the film, not to me!! So I really kind of approached this like I want to tell a story about best friends, and their complicated friendship, and how this one friend deals with the loss of her best friend who is her world but also wasn’t always the best to her.
What’s your progress like?: It’s been good. It was kind of like a weird…everything was sort of packed into the first semester. So from September to October, it was really crunch time of finishing the script, shot listing, figuring out all the logistics of making the film happen— like casting, finding locations, and then shooting. It all happened so far, it was like a crazy blur. And now, I’ve been chilling. I took a long break before editing, starting in January. (I worked on other people’s theses…so I guess I didn’t get that much of a break). Then I really jumped into editing in the spring and that was a weird experience of kind of jumping back into the film and seeing the footage having turned out exactly how I planned it in the script. but then realizing that something wasn’t working when editing. So I really kind of re-edited the whole movie and re-ordered everything and kind of re-wrote it in the editing room. So in the past month, it’s become a completely different project than what it was in October, so it’s really exciting. It’s a lot better now. *laughs*
Current mental state?: I feel good. *laughs* Thinking about all the little things I wasn’t thinking about while shooting, like building the soundscape and taking out all the sound and kind of adding in all the background noises—and its really exciting because it really sounds like a real movie and this whole world has been built up around it. It takes it from this very isolated project that’s been just like me and my laptop for so many months and stepping back and seeing it on a bigger screen and feeling it.
Most upsetting thesis experience?: I don’t think I’ve had anything too upsetting, I think I’ve had close calls in pre-production and production and that I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to get things together: like in casting, was I going to be able to get the one kid that I want, or during my first week of shooting, we shot the first day and it was great and then the second day there was a monsoon warning scheduled for the next day and half of my movie is shot outside on a softball field so that’s horrible planning for fall Connecticut weather. SO that was really scary, but we were able to reschedule the shoot and the kids were able to skip school to come and everyone really helped me out, and some of my crew members that couldn’t be there, my other friends stepped in, so it all worked out.
Fave form of procrastination?: Whenever I get bored editing, I would just start designing my credits—which is really not a good use of my time because it’s so unimportant and kind of basically easy. I started designing them pretty early, I went through six different font changes. Credits are really important to me. When you get off the movie, it’s the moment where everyone’s really sitting with the film. It’s a combination of wanting to be a really exciting, celebratory moment in the Goldsmith where it’s screening to be able to recognize everyone that helped you make the film, but also coming off of the emotional experience, because my last scene is pretty intense.
Plans for April 17/after you hand thesis in?: Me and all of my film thesis friends are going to be in class at 4 pm because film classes are crazy long and go until 4:40 pm. So we’re, if not celebrating in class, then we want to celebrate after class…maybe 4:45 on the steps of the film building. And then after that, sleep and hanging out with my friends and not feeling bad about it.
Advice for future thesis writers: Specifically for people making a film: for me, it was super important to have a team of peopleI really trusted and really could work well with. So the people working closest with me on the set—like my producers and my DP— were some of my closest friends who I knew I could get along with on set and problem-solve with and not get angry at and spend so many hours, days, and weeks together. They were people who I knew would understand my creative vision, what I was trying to dow with the project, and were excited about it and would kind of make it their own too, but also the people I wanted by my side when I was having a breakdown and would be able to calm me down and handle the situation.
Favorite part of your thesis?: Favorite part of my film: So my film is partly told in flashbacks of the protagonist remembering her and her best friend playing, but there was this one day that we took like thirty minutes and let the kids improve and run around, and we just followed them around with a camera. That was really exciting. I was shocked by how these nine-year-old girls could both stay in character and would yell at each other in character, but how much life they brought to it—they weren’t these flat characters that I just wrote on a piece of paper. There’s this moment where my film opens with thirty second of them just playing totally improvised, and it’s one of my favorite scenes and its something I wouldn’t have been able to write and make it happen. It was super organic and exciting.
If your thesis was a song/movie/tv show: Oo. Like E.T. if E.T. was a bossy nine-year-old girl.
Most used word/phrase?: “Action!”
Khephren Spigner ‘18, FILM and SOC Majors, Thesis in SOC
Working Title: “The title of my thesis is definitely in the works right now, but it’s definitely gonna have a colon in it, like something witty and then a colon, and then it’s probably gonna be somewhere along the lines of, ‘The Racial Stratification of the NFL.’”
On his topic: “My topic is basically on the racial stratification of the NFL, looking at how African American players are treated within the NFL, in regards to things such as playing time, or media commentary, and if they’re treated differently than their white counterparts. More specifically, it’s looking at the quarterback position because that’s the voice of authority on the field and those are the people who have clear leadership within the football field. Also off the field, there’s different cultural norms around the quarterback that most people assign to that player, even when they’re not playing, and usually African Americans are not assigned those, so it’s tough to be in that position.”
On how he came up with his topic: “If you asked me a year ago, I wasn’t gonna write a thesis at all, and then I saw them standing on the steps and celebrating and started thinking about why I wanted to write a thesis. I wanted to explore, rather than take a class and pass that class as my senior capstone, I would rather spend a year (or two semesters) studying something that I wanted to study rather than something that a professor wanted me to study. I knew I wanted to combine something about sports, and maybe with film. I thought about doing film, sports movies, and looking at athletes in the sports movies, and then it kinda strayed away from that topic. And then I looked into Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, and that kind of sparked me rolling into this idea of why Colin is now outcasted from the NFL and can’t get a job. Like, who makes those decisions, and overall what is the black athlete’s state in the NFL? So it kind of just got rolling from there once I started talking about Colin Kaepernick.”
On his progress: “I think I got lucky with my topic in the sense that every week it’s something new is going up, and something relevant even in the real world is coming up. Like there’s the 2018 draft that’s coming up, and there’s a lot of racial comments around black quarterbacks there as well. So there was something new every week to explore, something new that I could talk with my advisor about. It truly didn’t hit any roadblocks, which is maybe lucky for a thesis, other than just me writing it down and getting my thoughts down on paper. The progress has been really good, it’s just down to crunch time now to finish it. And there’s too much, it’s like a rabbit hole of things. I keep writing things, and then I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I should look into that,’ and then there’s more things and it’s just a deep, dark hole of quarterbacks. It’s like no problem, and I’m in it deeply. Like the night before last night, I was up til 4 am cause I just wanted to write, and last night I was up til 5 am cause I just couldn’t really stop writing. I would say I’m at about 87%, almost 90. I know where I’m going, and I’m almost done with my last chapter. I just have to write the conclusion and then just kind of format and edit from there. Editing is probably gonna be the worst part because I’m a terrible writer.”
On his current mental state: “I have a mind, it’s not really there… I’m okay, it gets a little busy. It’s tough writing a thesis and having some of your friends who are seniors not write a thesis, and then they;re doing things and they kind of pull you in different directions because you want to do it with them. And then things such as we’re all busy people on this campus, like I’m doing things at work, or next week I have WesFest coming up, which is gonna be a huge, huge time consumer for me to give those kids that experience. It’s just a little tough saying no to things right now and not being able to help with other projects that you want to help on. But I just know that I need to get this done if I’m gonna graduate, so I’m not falling apart, but I’m not together either. It’s fine. I don’t have time to think about my mental state that’s how my mental state is.”
On his most upsetting thesis experience: “I’m trying to think back to all those mornings… Well, in fall semester I had to wake up at 6 am every day to go to a thesis meeting. And that was nice of my advisor to do that, because that was the only time I could do it along with football, so that was a little discouraging, but I think our conversations were always really good. A roadblock we hit once, which wasn’t really a roadblock was we discovered this sociologist who also has researched the intersection of race and sports, and this whole discourse on it basically saying the things we were saying in different ways. We were maybe going a little bit deeper, and his side was more based on racial protests within sports, however it came off to me for like one second like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m not really doing anything new.’ But then I went back and started reading it and started thinking about how I could integrate it into my thesis. His work was from a long time ago, like from the 1970s and 1960s, which may not be a long time ago to my parents, but now it’s a different climate, and football is always changing every year, so I think I can bring a new modern perspective to it.”
On his favorite form of procrastination: “Playing Catan. 100%. I have a Catan tournament in New York this weekend, which is lame and nerdy—it’s not lame and nerdy. Yeah, my friends, we all love it, and it’s also a huge time consumer because it takes like 2 and a half hours, and I lose my train of thought, but if I see the board, I’m gonna sit down and play.”
On his plans for April 17: “I am going to turn in my thesis. I am going to stand on the steps and pop champagne, and then I’m going to have a large gathering at my house, hopefully with everyone who has a thesis. I think it would be fun to have a nice 5 PM kinda thing. And then we get to go to bed on time, too, because we all haven’t slept.”
His advice for future thesis writers: “I would say you have to find a topic that you truly love. I mean, there’s different ways to go about writing a thesis. You may know that you want to write a thesis, and you don’t know the topic that it’s on, but through your work, through things that you like to do, just sit down with your advisor and just talk about things that you like, and you’ll find something that you want to uncover or dive deeper into. Or maybe it’s the other way, maybe you have a topic, and you may not want to write a thesis. Also just don’t be scared by it. It’s a year worth of work, and if you really plan out your time well, it’s a lot of time to do things, and there’s winter break and spring break. Don’t be scared to write a thesis and discover something on your own.”
On his favorite part of his thesis: “It’s so great, it’s the best writing ever! Something I love about my thesis is that I think a lot of people can relate to it because they can see it. Other people write about politics in these different towns, or communism, or something like that, and like, yes, there’s a lot of discourse on that, but there’s also practical discourse on quarterbacks as well. People can see it, and people can relate to it, and people have questions about it. Once you dive into it you just start thinking about it more and more, and it just goes deeper and deeper. Like I said, it’s like the rabbit hole. I think that fleshing out all those ideas and fleshing those out with people is something I really love about it.”
On if his thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “It would be a really good documentary, like on a good modern ESPN, like E-60 documentary where they actually use the data to dive into it, and actually back up my sources. Or maybe a dramatic Law and Order episode that spans over two seasons… I don’t know.”
On his most used word or phrase: “Oh my gosh, it’s terrible! I can’t stop writing the word ‘moreover.’ It sounds so good in my mind when I’m writing it, and then I go back and there’s like 20+ ‘moreovers’ in this 20-page pape, and I don’t know how they are getting there! I just keep writing, and I’m like, ‘Oh! Yeah, this relates to the last sentence! “Moreover, blah blah blah,”’ and then I go back and I’m like, ‘That relates nothing to the last sentence that I wrote about.’ And I write a conscious stream of writing, and it’s gonna be terrible to edit, but ‘moreover’ needs to get out of there.”
On his thesisfeces: “It’s definitely been good. It’s a nice break. Nothing’s abnormal about it, nothing’s wrong with it. I think my body feels like it’s a nice little break from writing, and then I get to play Catan on my phone. Everything’s good down there!”
Caroline Deimer ‘18, She/her, Archeology and College of Letters double major
Thesis title: “Our Warp Bloodred, Our Weft Corseblue: An Exploration of Use and Mythology in Norse Greenland and Ancient Greece”
What’s your topic? I built a warp-weighted loom that’s based off of archeological evidence—so I’m performing experimental archeology to weave two different types of cloth. One type of cloth is indicative of Norse Greenland, and using the ethnographic knowledge from other scholars and my own experience weaving the Greenlandic cloth, and I [also] wove an ancient Greece cloth. All of this is done is so that I can try and see if I can read better into mythology in both Norse and Ancient Greek mythology through different ways of reading because both societies have this really amazing female figures who are both connected with war and weaving (like the Valkyries and they’re later called the Nornir, and they’re the Norse version of the Three Fates, and in Greek mythology, there’s the three spinners but there’s also Athena who’s explicitly the goddess of weaving and war). So I’m looking at the Odyssey and Penelope, and all of those cool things. So it’s experimental archeology to understand the experience to then read the mythology. So, it’s big.
The part before the colon in the title is from this badass Norse poem where this man looks into a window and he sees these women—who people see are Valkyries (the choosers of the slain/who are going to die in battle…so like Oprah-ing it up on a battlefield)—weaving on a warp-weighted loom (that’s my thesis right over there) with the intestines of the men who are going to die in battle and whose heads are the loom-weights that are tensioning the thread. It’s just this amazing poem.
How you thought of your topic? So my thesis advisor came up to me the second day of junior year and went, “come and talk to me in my office about what your thesis is going to be” and I was like, “What? No! Don’t make me do this.” So I went in and was like, “I have no clue” and she said “well, what’re you interested in?” and I had just worked for the Smithsonian and I worked at this festival where we had this weaver, but someone at some point had brought her a loom and she said, “Thank you but I can’t bring this with me”. Because I wasn’t there that day, they threw the loom away and I was like, “Argh, why would you do that?” and was telling my advisor this story, and she said, “You know, Caroline, if you go further back enough in time, you can make a loom that’s cheaper than the thousands of looms that fancy looms cost. This could be your thesis.” And then it got towards the end of the year, and she just sprung on me, “Hey, you need to turn in your thesis proposal in like a week”; so I was just like, I’ve been slowly reading through this book she recommended to me, “Women’s Work” by Elizabeth Whelan Barber, and I was like, “I don’t know, man, I guess I’m building a loom?”
What’s your progress like? Writing the intro right now [4/9/18…sorry, I procrastinated transcribing this] and then it’s a bunch of edits and…yeah….I don’t know. *laughs*
Current mental state? *laughs* So I’ve been doing well as of two weeks ago, but then I started going to bed at 5 AM every day, which I do not recommend. I this definitely got tweeted out because I hung out with Jackson Barnett ’18 while I was writing this—but yesterday, I was hanging out with my friend Katie Barnes ’18—she’s doing archeology stuff about East Crete, it’s super cool—but I don’t know what I said to her, but I just kind of started sobbing? Like, uncontrolled tears going down my face. But I wanted to keep myself in control, so I kept trying to have a conversation with everyone at the table. And my throat was also kinda hurting so I was also eating honey. So all my friends started laughing because I was just sobbing but just trying to be like, “So how is your work going right now?” while also just eating honey out of a shitty tiny container. It’s just strange image of someone trying to be completely composed but huge tears running down my face. So I think I’m okay? *laughs* But I’ve cried while eating honey. So I think that’s my most iconic breakdown…you know.
Most upsetting thesis experience? One of the pieces of cloth, I had worked all night to get this beautiful pattern in it and it looked beautiful and great. I just had to finish the rest of it, so just like a foot longer, and I started to do it more quickly and one end just started to get all weird and messed up and gross and I just got so angry that I was like furious at myself. I had to bring it to my thesis advisor and I was like, “I’m so sorry” and she didn’t understand why I was so angry because I still made a cool thing. But like, to me, it was like I just ruined this lovely block of beautiful weaving. So overall, I think that’s pretty good if it’s my worst experience, but it was still so frustrating to me whereas like everything else was going perfectly and then like, an aggressive downhill, and I was like, “ugh fuck everything”.
Fave form of procrastination? My thesis is long sought that sometimes I’ll just scroll up and down my document. I also listen to podcasts and distract the hell out of my friends, because I work with my friends, but scrolling is a great way to look like you’re doing work while also doing no work, but it feels like work because you’re like, “Wow! Look at all these words I’ve written!” and then you’re like, “Why have I written these many words?” but it’s great because it’s like forty pages, it just keeps going. It’s not my favorite form of procrastination, but it’s a pretty good one.
Plans for April 17/after you hand thesis in? Oh, I’m just going to get drunk.
Advice for future thesis writers: Besides the obvious ‘make sure you like your thesis advisor and your topic’, the thing that I find most helpful is that I handwrite a lot of things. because sometimes, when you’re looking at a bank screen, you know you have to write. You have all of these ideas, and it’s sometimes hard to get past that barrier of “this is so final!” even though it’s not, so I find that writing down my ideas—which sometimes turns into me writing pages upon pages—of my thesis very helpful because it feels like writing down in a notebook, it doesn’t actually matter. And then I have to transcribe what I’ve written, but I’ve actually written the stuff I wanted to say. So even though it adds extra time, it definitely helps when you’re just stuck.
Favorite part of your thesis? I mean, I obviously like the physical aspect of it—so I love doing the stuff with actually creating the cloth. But for the written part, I do really love my conclusion because that’s when I’m actually working on the myths. So it’s just really exciting to then finally use all of this knowledge that I’ve just been building up for this entire year, to be like, when reading a passage and be like, “Is translation of this word actually ‘wand’ or is it actually a weaving implement? Do we see Circe and Athena actually changing people’s physical appearances not with the wand but with a sword-beater—which is one of the tools of the loom?” and being able to see that and make those connections that I really would not have noticed even halfway through this project. That, and being like, “I made cloth! That’s cool!”
If your thesis was a song/movie/tv show: It’s this party mix that’s on YouTube that’s called Medieval Music Hardcore Party Mix. That’s kind of what the reaction to my thesis is though, like, “Oh that’s weird and esoteric” and then you listen to the music and then it’s actually (okay, I’m also a huge ass nerd, obviously) secretly a banger. It’s not like church music, it’s like ‘of the people’ and very exciting and has all of this cool music. So like my thesis, when you first hear it, you’re like “aw, this is weird” and then you listen to it for a bit and you’re like, “oh, never mind, this is interesting and I can understand why some people are interested in this random shit”. And that’s why it’s Medieval Music Hardcore Party Mix. And my best friend told me that without prompting.
Questions you wish Wesleying asked: My poops are good, I guess.
Most used word/phrase?: Probably “loom”…I made a world of my thesis of my thesis and it was like “LOOM!”, and there was a small one in all caps though and it was just “ADD” because I just keep putting in all caps notes to myself because I know I won’t ignore all caps notes when I’m scrolling through. So it’s always like “ADD SHIT HERE CAROLINE” but yeah, it’s loom.*sighs* yup.
Lila Levinson ‘18, NS&B Major, HIST Minor, Thesis in NS&B
Working Title: “Oh, it’s something super-boring, it’s like, ‘A Comparison of Habituation Rates in the Caudomedial Nidopallium of Zebra Finches in New and General Population Neurons.’ It has a lot of room to improve… I need something fun!”
On her topic: “Basically we know that in the brains of some mammals, there are new neurons added after you finish developing, and for a long time people thought that wasn’t possible because neurons can’t divide, but it turns out that there are new neurons in brains. In addition to being in mammals’ brains, there are a lot in birds’ brains. Birds are especially exciting to study because birds, like humans, learn via vocal imitation. So we think that these new neurons might have some kind of role in learning and memory, but we really don’t know what that could be. So I’m basically looking at one specific neuronal behavior that’s thought to be correlated to learning and memory, and I’m comparing that behavior in the new neurons and the old neurons that are just in the general population, so presumably they’ve been around since the bird was born or was very young, and basically seeing if they’re doing the same thing or not to try and figure out if these new neurons have a different role in learning, if they’re specialized. It seems like possibly they might be, but really everything’s inconclusive.”
On how she came up with her topic: “I basically just read a ton of papers, and I thought it was missing from the literature, so I pitched it and my advisor was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been wanting to do that.’ So that was useful.”
On her progress: “It’s a little funky cause it’s a lab thesis. I spent all of first semester just in lab all the time, and then a lot of second semester too. I really didn’t start writing until three weeks ago. It’s a little stressful to have to balance two different types of work like that, but it’s nice that I’m not just writing and reading all the time.”
On her current mental state: “A little scattered. I turned in a draft yesterday so I feel a little better, but I have a lot more data that I’d like to add. So there’s a lot more work to do.”
On her most upsetting thesis experience: “There’ve been a lot. Last Wednesday I spent the entire day thinking that my entire experiment had failed, so that was a little traumatic. And then before that I found out… so on March 15 there was an article published that basically said that there is no adult neurogenesis in humans, which kind of invalidates the translatability of my thesis, so that was scary, cause it’s brand new, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And then literally six days ago, someone published another article saying that there is adult neurogenesis in the human hippocampus, so I don’t know what to do about that either, but anyway that’s going on. Once early on—this is my fun thesis story—I have to play one song on loop to these birds over and over again, which is awful, it’s a two second bird song and it sounds terrible, to humans at least, I’m sure it sounds nice to the birds. But it has to play on loop, so I came back at the end of the day to take my computer back from the birds, and it turns out that it was still playing music, but it wasn’t the bird song. It had just played my entire iTunes library, so there’s this one bird that listened to multiple Fleet Foxes albums, multiple Tchaikovsky concerti, the entire Hamilton Mixtape, so much crazy stuff, it was like 11 hours of my musicI I named him Alex the Hamilton Finch and he’s my practice brain. Also, crucially, I once went to the emergency room for my thesis! I was trying to slice a brain but I nicked my elbow and had to get stitches! I have a fun, very tiny elbow scar. Blood, sweat, and tears for this thing!!”
Her favorite form of procrastination: “I mean a lot of the stuff I’m doing, I can do while I listen to podcasts, or even watch TV, which is weird, so it feels like I’m procrastinating, but I’m actually getting a little bit done. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts while slicing brains…”
On her plans for April 17: “Yeah, I have a lot of plans. From 4-4:15, I’m going to celebrate, and then from 4:30-7:30 I’m going to sleep, and then at 7:30 I’m going to wake up, and I think I’m gonna play Horse-opoly (which is the horse version of Monopoly) with my housemates!”
Her advice for future thesis writers: “If you’re writing a science thesis, just really go over timeline with your advisors. I mean, I think maybe this happens in the humanities too, but just certain things for me took more time than I was expecting them to, and I feel like I’m behind now in ways I could have avoided if I’d only known. I don’t know, I wish I’d had—like I had a plan, but I wish I’d had somebody to help me with my plan more.”
On her favorite part of her thesis: “I mean, I know it’s been crazy to have to update my introduction with articles that are coming out, like, as it happens, but that’s also kind of exciting, and I feel like, I mean, my thesis is, like I said, super inconclusive and not high-impact at all, but I feel like in my tiny little way I’m contributing to this ongoing discussion, which is exciting!”
On if her thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “It’d definitely be that 2-second song on loop!”
Her most used word/phrase: “Probably ‘habituation,’ or ‘neuron.’”
Jackson Barnett ‘18, Classics Major
Thesis Carell: 434, but it’s incredibly depressing
Current Thesis Title: From Democracy In Name To Democracy in Action: Contextualizing the Athenian Oligarchic Transition in 411 B.C.
On what his thesis is about: The Peloponnesian War was a war between Athens and Sparta, which are two superpowers in the ancient Greek word. Athens was a democracy and Sparta was an oligarchy; the war lasted for 27 years, from 431 BC to 404 BC. This dude, Thucydides, wrote this book, and he died in the middle of writing it, which is kind of annoying. In the last book of his history, he wrote about the transition from democracy to oligarchy in Athens. But it failed…after the major defeat in Sicily, they became an oligarchy because they didn’t have any money. I’m looking, specifically, at the decision to become an oligarchy. A lot of people who have written about this have assumed that there was a lot of terrorism and violence during the transition from the oligarchs. But Thucydides doesn’t really show that; initially, the people supporting transitioning to an oligarchy before any violence happened. I want to ask that––why it was not capable of not being a democracy anymore, and giving up their own rights. I’m approaching it from a different perspective: they were hopeless. Many don’t study this book because it’s really undefined, because he died. It’s a messy thing to study.
How he came up with the topic: Originally, I wanted to study some of the questions that I had about the 2016 election and antiquity. The first thing I thought of was to look at general inequality in Athens. There’s this thesaurus, the Thesaurus Linguae Gracae, where you can look up one word and it will show you all the occurrences of the word in the Greek corpus. And I expanded my question to the overall system and its weaknesses. There was two periods where they lost democracy: one, when they lost the Peloponnesian War, which I didn’t care about, and two, during the major, major bad time when they didn’t have any money.
On how its going: My thesis is two parts. The first part is decision making during the war, and the second part is explicitly looking at 411. I’m done with the second part. I’m giving my advisor my better version of part I. I feel like it’s terrible, but it’s probably fine.
On his current mental state: The entire row of keys below qwerty (asdfghjkl;), just permanently. A low hum. And a lot of coffee.
On his most upsetting experience: One time, I was home during winter break, and my advisor wanted a part of my thesis on December 29th. And I was, like, Cool, Merry Christmas, I want to die. And I kept writing it, and she told me that there was so much I haven’t done. She told me I had to read this book, and I didn’t have this book. I was in rural Alabama––so I had to go all over the Internet to find it. I did some sneakies and after 5 hours, I found a PDF.
On his favorite form of procrastination: I watched all of Will & Grace during winter break. I have learned 5 classical pieces over the past month, and I’m, like, with what time? I learned a Mendelssohn Fugue––I sound like such a pretentious dick––but it’s such a nice Fugue. I play the piano, I may not be able to do anything else, but I know how to write a fugue. I keep posting screenshots of my garbage thesis on Twitter.
On advice for future thesis makers, err, writers: Don’t ask a current thesis writer in the last month. I don’t want to talk about writing it. But for those on financial aid, organize better. Wesleyan makes you pay so much to print your thesis, and I should have been able to partially enroll, but I may have lost my aid. Some theses cost $500, and Wesleyan gives $47.
On his favorite part of his thesis: I talk a lot about hope, and I have to find my own theories about hope. It makes me think a lot about hopelessly and despair can negatively impact a democratic society. It’s made me think about the 2016 election; and my thesis has a way to justify Trump supporters, which I don’t want, and I’m moving back to Alabama.
If his thesis was a song/TV Show: The Man in the High Castle.
On theses feces: They’ve been better. (NOTE: He says they’re better now.)
On where theses feces: My bathroom at home.
On plans for April 17: I’m going to see “Love, Simon” for the third time, because it’s gay and innocent, and I feel gay and innocent. The most reckless thing I’ve done is drink beer from my WesWings mug in Scili. I’m going to do my laundry, and I’m not even going to tell you when the last time I washed my sheets were.
Control-A-Delete: I’m starting a new thesis. It’s the script of “Love, Simon” and Katie Musgrave’s new album. Submitting to the Classics department for honors.
On anything else? You’re going to make a lot of imaginary friends with all of the scholars you will be reading. You’re going to be like, I hate you, I hate you, Donald Kagan. It’s all fine. Everything is fine. I literally just started talking about some dude with ALS. And Stephen Hawking, and this is from this year, and I’m writing about something 2500 years ago. I’m truly manic, but it’s all chill. I am in a state.
Grace Wong ‘18, AFAM and GOV major with a thesis in both AFAM and GOV
Working Title: I don’t have one yet. That’s probably the last thing that I’m going to think of. This is how i’ve usually been thinking of my thesis—i’ll go to bed thinking about it and i’ll let myself dream about it and wake up with something.
On their topic: I’m looking at urban renewal projects in Hartford CT since the 1940s, and then in all of these projects they’ve removed black, brown, and impoverished people. So connecting how they were able to do this with an established legacy of settler colonialism in Hartford. So basically the precedent has been established in America for justifying the elimination of Native Americans, and this serves as a legacy which Hartford can draw upon and say “this has been done before so why can’t we do it?” and then they draw upon this federal power to do it.
On how they came up with their topic: Oh my gosh it’s such a long story. So this was not the topic that I had settled on, this was not the topic that I had written as a proposal last year either. So the AFAM department had gone through a lot of changes over the summer, and people were trying to find topics that they could get support on, and so this topic was kind of bred out of inspiration from the GOV department. I was like “okay how can I find ways to incorporate what I’m interested in from AFAM,” because that kind of stuff is what really drove me to do the longer projects. And it was like how can I make what I’m interested in in AFAM applicable to some general project about urban renewal? So reading through a lot of urban renewal policies and books like that, it was really stressful because it wasn’t the lens that I was trying to take.
On their progress: Right now I’m trying to right my conclusion, and everyone thinks that’s the easiest part because you kind of just—you wrote what you needed to write already and you’ve argued what you need to argue—but I don’t know, after a year someone asking you why this project matters… you’ve got to dig down deep and think about who this is actually for. And you have through the barriers of—I’d never ask anyone in the communities that I’m writing to, to have to read this stack of a hundred papers. So the conclusion is where I am and it’s the hardest part because I have to explain why this matters, and why I care about this. It really just comes down to the people that I’m writing for and about. It’s just the cognitive dissonance between the mode in which I’m writing this and the things that I’m trying to articulate.
On their current mental state: Currently I feel kind of calm. Not because I’m on schedule or anything, but you just gotta realize that it’s never going to be finished and it’s never going to be perfect. It’s about kind of getting to the point where you’re okay with where you’re at and then being proud of yourself for what you have accomplished. It’s a calm, but it’s like the calm before the storm you know? Because we don’t know, like probably Monday I’ll be flipping out.
On their favorite form of procrastination: Oh dude this is… god damn. I knew you were going to ask this and I was like “I can’t hide.” So because I’m doing a thesis there’s not a lot of time to play video games, so what I’ve been doing is in my carrel I’ve been pulling up YouTube videos of other people playing video games, and watching them play video games as like, a way to get that same thrill. It’s kind of embarrassing because I don’t have earphones so it’s just like video games being broadcast throughout the carrels.
On their plans for April 17th: Probably after the steps, there’s a talk on the Beman triangle. So there’s like no break, just going right to other talks and other things and trying to make other events happen at Wesleyan.
Advice for future thesis writers: Call your mom! That’s a joke but also true. I think one thing that’s good advice is to set boundaries with your thesis like it’s a relationship. Set the terms for what you’re going to prioritize, and things that you won’t prioritize your thesis over like family, friends, some of your schoolwork, and some of your campus activities. Just set some boundaries so that your thesis doesn’t take over your life, because then you can get really sad over time.
On their favorite part of their thesis: I think the process of doing a thesis is fun. All of your friends are kind of in the same vicinity as you with their carrel, and then you can go into each other’s carrels and share snacks. It’s a really good bonding experience. As for the content, probably the best part is the fact that you can go to a random talk, and then that gets incorporated into your thesis and becomes a huge part of it. It’s an unexpected learning opportunity everywhere.
Most used word/phrase: Probably “geography”
Allegra Ayida ‘18, History and French, thesis in History
Thesis title: Kingdom in the Creeks, An Early History of the Warri Kingdom
On her topic: I’m writing about a pre-colonial history of the Warri kingdom which is located in the Niger-delta region in modern-day Nigeria. It’s an ancient kingdom that’s been around for 5 centuries, and what I’m doing is writing its pre-colonial history, a lot of African history is focused on the colonial period less so on the early period because there are less sources! I’m rewriting this early history using lots of different types of sources. I’m not only using documents, I’m also using old objects (material culture)—like the king’s swords and his crowns—and using interviews I had carried out over the summer.
On how she came up with her topic: I’ve always been interested in Africa because I’m from Nigeria. Originally, I was going to do something from French West Africa because I speak French. But my mom said I should do Nigerian history I think she just wanted me to spend more time at home (in Nigeria) with her doing research. I am away most of the year.
On her process: Still writing and still editing. :(
On her current mental state: I’d say light-headed because I have been taking so much medicine because I’ve been on and off sick for the last 2 weeks but then I’d sound like a druggie, so don’t put that in.
On her most upsetting thesis experience: I woke up last week with a rash on my hands. So it’s now very uncomfortable to type. And it was upsetting because I need my hands to write my thesis. (I think I’m allergic to my thesis.)
On her fave form of procrastination: I started an instagram account for my Labrador Retrievers because my mom sends me pictures of them all the time. So I have so many pictures of them that I thought I should share them with the world.The dog side of instagram is so fun. Follow them @lovelabslagos
On her plans for April 17: Sleep. Sorry—go to all of my doctors’ appointments (which I had to push until after my thesis), and sleep.
Advice for future thesis writers: Make sure you eat fruit and drink water. And hang out with friends who write theses and with those who don’t, you need both.
On her favorite part of her thesis: I’m actually from Warri (Delta State) where the Warri kingdom is located. My parents are both Itsekiri (the ethnic group), so it was great to learn more about my identity and culture doing this project because I have spent a lot of my life going to school abroad far from home.
If her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: Black Panther, even though it’s Afrofuturism and I’m doing pre-colonial history, but they’re both stories about African kingdoms that came out this year.
Questions she wishes Wesleying asked: Maybe like what drinks pair well with your thesis? If your thesis was a drink? ( That’s a good one, don’t put that in, I’ll sound like an alcoholic.) Wait, a better question would be like, on a scale of 1 to 10, how hard did you work on your thesis? Because some people put, like, not much effort in but other people put in a whole amount.
Most used word/phrase: I say “kingdom” like every page, or maybe “pre-colonial”.
Amélie Clémot ‘18, GOV and HISP Majors, Thesis in GOV
Emily Kessler ’18, MB&B and CHEM Majors, Concentration in Biophysics, Thesis in MB&B
Amélie: “Preying on the Marginalized: US Policies Affecting Mexican Reproduction”
Emily: “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
On their topics:
A: “Mine, as I said, is a gov topic. I was going to try to do it in both at first, but I then ended up just doing it in gov. It’s about US domestic and foreign policy and how it affects and controls Mexican reproduction.”
E: “Mine is in Manju Higorani’s lab and it’s a research project looking at several mutations in the MutS DNA repair protein. We’re looking at kinetics-based assays to see if there are any differences in the mechanism of these proteins that could be contributing to Lynch Syndrome, which is a cancer predisposition.”
On how they came up with their topics:
A: “When I was thinking of my topic, Trump had just reinstated the Mexico City policy, which basically bans US funds to any foreign nonprofit or clinic that either supports, promotes, or performs abortions. So that was pretty upsetting, and then at the same time, I was visiting friends who live in Mexico, and they were talking about all the different hoops that the US makes them go through and things like that. So that’s how it came together, just circumstantial.”
E: “I’ve been working in this lab for a while, and my project is based off of a project that some other grad students were working on. Helena who was a master’s student last year started this project looking at some of these proteins, and then I sort of took over and had been just kind of carrying out the project in the lab.”
On their progress:
A: “I wish I could say I was done, so maybe Amélie can say that. But my advisor just told me on Saturday night that I had to do a lit review, so I’m still writing that. But otherwise, I’m pretty much done with the edits for the other sections and just trying to finish up.”
E: “I’m pretty much done, but I’m kind of an obsessive person, so I keep reading it and checking it and reading it and checking it. And it turns out that making a PDF is a whole lot harder than you would think it is, so that’s kind of where I’m at right now, just trying to make sure everything looks good.”
On their current mental states:
A: “Wow, um, sleep-deprived, ready to be done, a little frustrated that I’m not done…”
E: “I would say tired, also ready to be done. This whole process has been very much a rollercoaster, up and down emotionally. Right now I’m feeling like I’m on an up, I think cause it’s almost over.”
On their most upsetting thesis experiences:
E: “I got feedback from my advisor, she’s a very honest person, and one of her comments was, ‘This sentence is such trash, I don’t know how to start editing it. How about you delete it instead?’ That was good. That was a little upsetting”
A: “I thought you were gonna share the story where you spilled your tea all over your computer!”
E: “Oh, I also broke my computer by spilling an entire cup of hot, hot tea all over it. This was maybe a week-and-a-half ago, so that was really rough, I thought I lost everything, but luckily I didn’t. I did have to get a new computer, so that sucked.”
A: “I don’t know, I don’t really have anything to top that. Just high work, but nothing too crazy. I think this Saturday lit review was a bit of an unplanned, miserable, miserable comment that happened, but that’s about it.”
On their favorite forms of procrastination:
A: “Ooh I like the snapchat stories, not stories, but like, you know how they have all those soft-news, and like, E! Entertainment, and just generally gossip? I’m into that, I spend too much time reading those.”
E: “I like going to Pi. I walk to Pi probably 3-4 times a day. Anyone who will come with me, I make them come to Pi with me.”
On their plans for April 17:
E: “So much champagne!”
A: “Yeah, so much! We bought a bunch of bottles. We were planning on [having] a get together but we’ll see how that goes.”
E: “Yeah, some champagne. And sleep, a lot of sleep. After that, I don’t know? I have to find some activities to do, something different to do with my life.”
Their advice for future thesis writers:
E: “Everything will take twice as long at least as you think it will.”
A: “Yeah, say ‘Okay this is how long this is gonna take me, then I’m just gonna double that time.’”
E: “Maybe triple it!”
A: “Yeah, honestly, not a joke. That was good advice, I’d agree with that.”
On their favorite parts of their theses:
E: “I have a favorite figure, I don’t know about you. I have this one figure that I just really like the way it looks. It’s my favorite data that I got, and I think the figure’s kind of cute, and I really like it.”
A: “I have a favorite chapter, just because I’m so proud of it. Not so much the content, but like, getting the case. I spent so many months contacting different people in order to access this one document, and I finally got it and based this chapter on it. I’m just proud that I was able to actually get that.”
On if their theses were a song/movie/TV show:
A: “I don’t know so much about that, but my friends serenaded me the other night with ‘A Whole New World,’ but I think that was more like a, ‘Ooh, when you submit, it’ll be a whole new world.’”
E: “I feel like this is a terrible answer, but I would say Grey’s Anatomy just because it’s about science. I don’t know, I also love watching Grey’s Anatomy and am probably still the only person that continues to watch it, so I feel like it’s relevant to my life.”
On their most used words/phrases:
A: “‘Indeed.’ Whenever two sentences are not really quite connecting, I’m just like, ‘Indeed.’”
E: “I do a lot of ‘however.’ I mean, my whole thesis is about this MutS protein, and I looked it up and I think I had the word ‘MutS’ like 200 times in my thesis or something.”
On their go-to thesis snacks:
E: “Bagels. I ate a lot of bagels while writing this thesis.”
A: “What do I eat? Oh, gum! I actually go through one packet of gum every two days. Not a joke. I just bought two today.”
Interviews by un meli-melo, sdz, Meli, michelle, and wilk!