Beginning in early to mid winter term of your junior year, you should be thinking about possible thesis projects and meeting with the neuroscience faculty to talk through ideas. Although you are encouraged to generate your own ideas for thesis work, you must be mindful that your thesis topics will be naturally circumscribed by the expertise of the faculty and the availability of laboratory and fiscal resources. Theses that are closely related to the faculty’s own area of research are inevitably more successful in the long run than projects whose scope is far afield from that of your adviser. Being practical and realistic is essential to conducting successful work. Here are some questions to ask yourself in the early planning stages: How long will the project take? Some hypotheses may take years to test. What equipment is needed? Some hypotheses are best tested with methodologies that we do not have at Bates. Who are my subjects? Some hypotheses require such specialized human or non-human animal subjects that you may not be able to gather sufficient data in the time frame of the academic calendar year. It is best to begin planning early and to raise these questions with your potential thesis adviser early so that you can create a meaningful study that you can execute here on campus in a reasonable time frame.
As part of the thesis pre-proposal process, we ask all juniors to complete a form. The form asks the student to pose two different areas of study that would be supervised by two different advisers. An example of this form is here. Note that signatures by the two different faculty members are required as part of this form; these signatures attest that you have met with these faculty members to talk about specific ideas. The faculty signature does not indicate that s/he will ultimately be your thesis adviser. The pre-proposal form is due to the Chair by 4:00 pm of the first Friday of April.
Assignment of the Thesis Adviser
The Chair, in consultation with the other neuroscience faculty, uses these forms to match you with a thesis adviser for your senior year. We strongly take into account your preferences, but we also need to make sure that the thesis supervision load per faculty member is manageable. We cannot guarantee that you will have your first choice in a match to a thesis adviser, but we make every effort to do so. The Chair will notify you of your thesis adviser assignment in mid to late April and will confirm whether you will be doing a one- or two-semester thesis.
Note: Failure to submit the pre-proposal form by the deadline may mean that you will have little control over who your thesis adviser will be, what kind of project you will work on, and the semester in senior year during which you will complete thesis.
Steps toward the Formal Thesis Proposal
After you have been matched with a thesis adviser, it is good practice to check in with your adviser to talk about next steps. If you are on campus during short term of your junior year, your thesis adviser may wish for you to begin some early research steps such as conducting a literature review and ordering any articles you will need through Interlibrary Loan. In addition or alternatively, your thesis adviser may expect you to maintain email contact over the summer months to continue planning your project. This advanced planning will make for a smoother and more manageable first few weeks of the senior fall semester for both you and your adviser.