Planning for Thesis


Senior thesis is required of all EACS (and Geology) majors. Students may fulfill this requirement by doing either a 1-semester or a 2-semester thesis. A 1-semester thesis is the default experience for all students. A 2-semester thesis is possible for those students interested in digging deeper into a research project. For a 1 semester thesis, students register for EACS 457 in the fall. For a 2 semester thesis, students register for EACS 457 in the fall and EACS 458 in the winter.

Sometimes (but not always), students begin work on a research project the summer before their senior year. This research can be done a research assistant for a Bates faculty member, as an intern with a state/federal agency, as an intern with an NGO, or as a research fellow for a variety of programs/univerisities.

While planning for thesis may sound exciting to some, it can feel daunting to others. This is totally normal. We have broken down the process for thesis planning into a flow chart and three steps below. It may take a several weeks to complete all three steps. We recommend that students begin to plan for thesis in the fall of their junior year.

In short, you will need a thesis project, you may need some funding, and you will need a thesis advisor.

Consider the flow chart below. It is designed to have you think about the entire thesis planning process from start to finish and as you move through Steps 1-3 below. Enter the flow chart by deciding if you want a summer research experience or not. If you do, it may be possible to work with a Bates professor, or as a research intern at an another institution. In these cases, proposals and/or applications may have to be written by specific program deadlines. These deadlines may be in early January, but are usually sometime in February though March. Check all programs and do not delay in planning for thesis and getting feedback from the faculty on your ideas..

After spending some time with the flow chart and the details within Steps 1-3 below, go ahead and get started. Reach out to the EACS faculty either by email, in person or over ZOOM. Go through Steps 1-3 listed below, and be sure to complete STEP 3 (fill out the google form) no later than January 10 of your junior year.

To learn more about the department including an introduction to faculty and their research programs, please view the YouTube video.

Step 1. Thesis Project Ideas – Meet with EACS Faculty

The EACS faculty have research programs currently underway that might be right up your alley. Meet with each faculty member to learn about their research programs and brain storm ideas for projects, and funding, if needed, in the late fall of your junior year and by January 10.

There are plenty of exciting opportunities for thesis projects at Bates. EACS faculty available for advising thesis for AY 21-22 include, Bev Johnson, Mike Retelle, Shreya Arora, Raquel Portes, and Eshita Samajpati. Dyk Eusden and Genevieve Robert will not be available to advise theses next year (AY 21-22).

We list below our areas of expertise, but this does not necessarily mean you are limited to a project in those areas. Have a look at the List of Past Theses on the EACS website to get a sense of what is possible.

Bev Johnson: Professor in Low Temperature Geochemistry. Expertise in environmental geochemistry, salt marsh carbon dynamics and sedimentary archives of coastal processes, water quality of local watersheds, hydrogeology, GHG emissions.

Mike Retelle: Professor in Paleoclimatology and Paleolimnology. Available for thesis advising Winter 2022. Expertise in paleoclimate and current climate in high Arctic, lake sediment records, coastal erosion and beach monitoring.

Shreya Arora, starting August 2021. Visiting Assistant Professor in Geodynamics (AY 2021 through 2023). Expertise in active tectonics, field mapping, structural geology, paleoseismicity in the Himalayas.

Raquel Portes, starting August 2021. Visiting Assistant Professor in Landscape Evolution and Soils (AY 2021 through 2023). Expertise in landscape evolution, soil erosion, low temperature geochemistry and geochronology.

Eshita Samajpati, starting August 2021. Visiting Assistant Professor in Earth Materials and High Temperature Geochemistry (AY 2021-2022). Expertise in marine geology and geochemistry, subduction zone volcanism, and earth materials.

Step 2. Funding a Thesis – Write Proposals and Applications, if Needed

Research can be, but is not always costly. Money is needed to do field work, keep instruments running, and analyze samples, for example. Salaries are needed for summer internships, and can be provided by a professor with an external grant, or can be applied for by writing a proposal to one of the many grant opportunities internal to Bates. It is also possible to apply to a summer research program outside of Bates.

The Department of EACS provides each student with $200 to assist in covering the cost of thesis research. These funds can be used to pay for lab supplies, field supplies, and travel. To access these funds, fill out a Payment Request Form (to get reimbursement for lab or field supplies) or a Travel and Expense Report, (to get reimbursement for travel) and submit form and receipts to the Department Chair.

Other potential sources of funding to EACS students include the Bouley Fund. These funds are primarily designed to assist students in field work.

For more on Funding Opportunities (Internal and External), see Student Research Opportunities.

Some of these funding opportunities require grant proposals and applications to be submitted beginning as early as Jan 15. The grant proposals are usually written with input from the faculty advisor. Talk to the EACS faculty about funding needs and suggestions for thesis projects of interest.

Similarly, if you need a letter of recommendation, please ask your professors if they are willing and able to write on your behalf well in advance of the deadlines; 4 weeks advance notice is generally enough time for a letter of recommendation to be written.

Step 3. Thesis Advisor – Fill Out the Google Form

The key to a successful thesis experience is to find a project that interests you and a thesis advisor who has both the expertise and the time to work with you. Each faculty member can advise up to a maximum of four students. Once you meet with all of the faculty, fill out the thesis google form to let us know of your research interests by January 10. The EACS faculty will meet to review your answers and preferences and assign thesis advisors to the students. We try to accommodate student interests while distributing the thesis advising workload across the faculty. Please do NOT miss this deadline.