Senior Thesis Information

Both senior thesis and senior seminar satisfy the Bates W3 writing requirement and highlight mathematical research, writing, presentation, and group collaboration. Senior thesis is a good choice for students wanting to improve all these, with special emphasis on mathematical research on a topic chosen by the student. Senior theses also involve significant amounts of writing, presentations, and check-ins with other math thesis writers.

To ensure that each senior thesis writer has an enriching experience, the math department limits how many theses each faculty member advises, typically to no more than two theses per semester per advisor. To help the department determine senior thesis advisors, each junior math major who would like to write a senior thesis completes a request form by NOON on the last day of Winter Semester classes of the junior year, that is, by 12:00pm (noon) on Friday, April 12, 2024. Some details:

  • The request form seeks background information on the student, the student’s preferences regarding senior thesis, the student’s reasoning behind their preferences, and a description of the proposed senior thesis project. The project description should include enough information to show that the student has given their topic serious thought and that the project is feasible, given the student’s background and given the amount of time the student has to do the research.
  • The math department strongly advises juniors to discuss senior thesis topics and ideas with faculty members before writing a request. The request form asks whether you have had such discussions.
  • Students should plan to work at least 12 hours per week on thesis, and at least 15 hours per week if pursuing an Honors thesis.
  • The math department meets to consider all senior thesis and senior seminar proposals. The department chair typically notifies students of the results of the meeting during Short Term.
  • The mathematics department keeps copies of past senior theses in our lounge in Hathorn 209. We encourage prospective senior thesis writers to look through these past theses as part of deciding whether to write a thesis: past theses provide topic ideas, writing structures, and a sense of the scope of a senior thesis.

Types of thesis

  • One-semester thesis: A one-semester thesis may be either in the fall (MATH 457) or winter (MATH 458). One-semester theses are due by the Friday of the final examination period of the semester in which the student is writing their thesis.
  • Two-semester thesis: Two-semester theses (MATH 457 and MATH 458) not in the Honors Program are due by the last day of classes of the winter semester.
  • Honors thesis: Honors theses (MATH 457 and MATH 458) are always two-semester theses and follow the procedures and deadlines of the Honors Program. While all capstone experiences expect students to demonstrate mathematical reading skills and ability to communicate mathematics, a thesis earning Honors in Mathematics is distinguished by an exceptional level of achievement in these areas. Students preferring to write an Honors thesis state this preference at the time of their senior thesis proposal. The Department then decides which students to nominate for the Honors Program, based on the thesis work presented at the end of the first semester.
  • Double thesis with another major: A double thesis is a single year-long project that satisfies the thesis requirements of both mathematics and another department, and as such, requires a significant amount of mathematics. A student writing a double thesis signs up for their math thesis in one semester (either MATH 457 or MATH 458) and the other department thesis in the other semester. The math department requires the student to present a talk or poster in the “math semester.” A student who applies thesis course credit to another major may not apply that same credit to the Mathematics Major. The Department will not approve a proposal for a one-semester double thesis.

Completing the thesis

  • Students turn in their thesis to their advisor, in a format determined by the advisor, and students give the department chair a final printed copy of the thesis to be placed on permanent display in the mathematics lounge.
  • Students completing a thesis give some form of presentation at the end of each semester of working on thesis. Typically:
    • one-semester thesis students present a poster or a talk;
    • two-semester non-honors thesis students present a talk in Fall Semester and a poster or a talk in Winter Semester;
    • Honors thesis students present a talk in Fall Semester and give their Honors defense during a College-designated Honors defense time period;
    • when there is a choice of a poster or a talk, this decision is to be made with the thesis advisor.