You’re Full of Theses

20 04 2010

I’m shamelessly borrowing the idea of thesis discussion from Elie Bilmes over at Fast Lane. It’s impressive that he put as much work as he has into his government honors thesis. I figured I could write a little from my end on doing an atmospheric science thesis.

The nature of the two works are entirely different. In comparing with friends of mine that have done theses in CAS, it’s nearly impossible to relate, except that a lot of work and research went into both. I started work on my thesis last August and only began formal writing at the start of March. I made it easier on myself by keeping an electronic log of progress, and my research adviser and I met for “progress reports” every week on Tuesday at 2 PM for months on end (and Heaven help me if I had nothing new to share). I came back early from Christmas because winter break and security access afforded me great deals of time to conduct research. My spring break involved many hours of churning out page after page of writing, computer outputs and mathematical analyses of heat transfer through lake ice. In retrospect, I probably should’ve used LaTEX.

In the end, it came out to 50 pages. That’s on the large side for a technical thesis. 20 figures with an average of two subfigures each, 31 citations, and 50 pages. It sounds pitiful when compared to an Arts and Sciences production. Yet, they’re expected to be eloquent, elucidate their ideas and produce theses that could very well be works of literary art. My work is direct, with little said beyond the point. A diagram is analyzed, discussed; a matlab graphical output is viewed for trends and diurnal effects.

I dunno to what extent Elie’s work will be used beyond satisfactory completion of his honors requirements. Maybe it will be cited and referenced in future works. As for mine, I presented it at a conference this past weekend, and the faculty and researchers in attendance held my work in high regard. Well, almost all of them. One professor from another upstate school complimented my work and asked me about my grad school plans. I explained I was being funded to do work in climatology. He became very disappointed, saying it was a shame my work was going to go to waste. What a charming way to conclude my research.

It’s amazing how the ideals are the same (independent thought and research) between schools and their theses, and yet the works churned out by their students can be so different in character. But, that is the nature of different fields of study.