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senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:57 am
by irockhard
If I can choose whether or not I want to take a thesis class which will culminate in a senior thesis and a oral presentation, should I do it? At my school, if you want to write a senior thesis, you have to take this class. Do grad schools really look favorably upon doing undergraduate thesis? If I can get a publication out of my research, is it still worth doing a senior thesis over it? If I have to choose between this thesis class or a grad course, which one will benefit me more?

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:16 am
by cato88
Usually I would say not really except for the fact it forces you to be involved in research but
irockhard wrote:If I have to choose between this thesis class or a grad course, which one will benefit me more?

given this choice. senior thesis >> grad course because both in and of themselves dont give any real advantage but the research experience gained in the process for thesis is a positive for grad admissions.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 9:46 pm
by grae313
I think it is highly unlikely that doing a thesis will effect your admissions outcomes. The important thing is that you do research, and publishing results is way, way more important that an undergrad thesis. If you are doing research and have the chance to publish, do that and take a grad class. Doing well in a grad class looks great on an application and gives you a head start in grad school. It can impress your letter writers, too. However, if you are already doing research with a publication potentially in the works, then a thesis won't really require much extra effort so you might consider doing both.

I'm saying the opposite of cato88 because I think he was assuming that you wouldn't do any research unless you were writing a thesis. I'm assuming you are already doing research.

Research >> grad courses >> undergrad thesis.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:17 pm
by irockhard
grae313 wrote:I think it is highly unlikely that doing a thesis will effect your admissions outcomes. The important thing is that you do research, and publishing results is way, way more important that an undergrad thesis. If you are doing research and have the chance to publish, do that and take a grad class. Doing well in a grad class looks great on an application and gives you a head start in grad school. It can impress your letter writers, too. However, if you are already doing research with a publication potentially in the works, then a thesis won't really require much extra effort so you might consider doing both.

I'm saying the opposite of cato88 because I think he was assuming that you wouldn't do any research unless you were writing a thesis. I'm assuming you are already doing research.

Research >> grad courses >> undergrad thesis.


grae313, I am indeed already doing research with potential for a publication. So grad corses >> thesis, and best case scenario do both?

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:51 pm
by grae313
irockhard wrote:grae313, I am indeed already doing research with potential for a publication. So grad courses >> thesis, and best case scenario do both?


Yep, that's my opinion on the matter.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:12 am
by cato88
thesis~research

they are pretty much the same thing. I think more research is better than grad courses. Instead of taking grad courses use the time to work on your research (finish your paper and present it then present it again ) and when presenting get to know professors at schools youre interested in. The extra time gained by using the thesis units and time presenting/networking and devote more time to your research >> grad courses. Essentially if youre taking grad courses realize they dont matter at all for grad admissions (ie. you are taking them for your own pleasure) since they really never more than a passing thought for admission committees like you being treasurer of SPS but getting to know the professors at APS meets >>>>>>>>>> grad courses.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:49 pm
by grae313
cato88 wrote:thesis~research

they are pretty much the same thing. I think more research is better than grad courses. Instead of taking grad courses use the time to work on your research (finish your paper and present it then present it again ) and when presenting get to know professors at schools youre interested in. The extra time gained by using the thesis units and time presenting/networking and devote more time to your research >> grad courses. Essentially if youre taking grad courses realize they dont matter at all for grad admissions (ie. you are taking them for your own pleasure) since they really never more than a passing thought for admission committees like you being treasurer of SPS but getting to know the professors at APS meets >>>>>>>>>> grad courses.


I think you are misunderstanding what the nature of a thesis course as part of an undergraduate degree is about. It is for student who are already doing research--there is no research that you do as part of the course credit--it's only a vehicle for students who have already done or are in the midst of doing research to submit a thesis and get credit for it. You write a thesis, submit it to your adviser/department chair or whatever, and it then goes down in the records that you wrote a senior thesis. It does not entail presenting at meetings, meeting people from outside the school, or anything like that. It doesn't entail any more research. It sounds like he's doing research, may be publishing, may be going to conferences and meeting people and presenting, all independent of whether he submits a thesis to his university for credit. And I disagree, taking grad classes is not at all comparable to being a club president. First of all, even if the committee didn't care about grad classes, you are still going to benefit hugely in your grad school career from having been exposed to some of the material, or you may not even have to retake the class. Second, if you do well, you impress your instructor greatly and demonstrate that you are capable of besting people that are older and more experienced then you and that you are capable of excelling in high level physics.

The only thing he would gain by writing a thesis is having it say on his transcript that he wrote a thesis. Or sometimes, like at my school, you can graduate with the words "with honors" printed on your degree if you get a certain gpa and submit a thesis.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 5:09 pm
by cato88
grae313 wrote:I think you are misunderstanding what the nature of a thesis course as part of an undergraduate degree is about. It is for student who are already doing research--there is no research that you do as part of the course credit--it's only a vehicle for students who have already done or are in the midst of doing research to submit a thesis and get credit for it. You write a thesis, submit it to your adviser/department chair or whatever, and it then goes down in the records that you wrote a senior thesis. It does not entail presenting at meetings, meeting people from outside the school, or anything like that. It doesn't entail any more research. It sounds like he's doing research, may be publishing, may be going to conferences and meeting people and presenting, all independent of whether he submits a thesis to his university for credit. And I disagree, taking grad classes is not at all comparable to being a club president. First of all, even if the committee didn't care about grad classes, you are still going to benefit hugely in your grad school career from having been exposed to some of the material, or you may not even have to retake the class. Second, if you do well, you impress your instructor greatly and demonstrate that you are capable of besting people that are older and more experienced then you and that you are capable of excelling in high level physics.

The only thing he would gain by writing a thesis is having it say on his transcript that he wrote a thesis. Or sometimes, like at my school, you can graduate with the words "with honors" printed on your degree if you get a certain gpa and submit a thesis.

I wrote a thesis as an undergrad so I fully know what it entails and I know that the actual writing of your thesis paper does not take a full semester therefore those thesis units mean that one has extra time which although it doesnt necessarily mean
grae313 wrote:It does not entail presenting at meetings, meeting people from outside the school, or anything like that. It doesn't entail any more research.

since you could just as easily use that time to drink your ass off till next year or who knows what but I am assuming that he will use that time for research/presenting (a less time demanding assumption than assuming that he can do everything at once, its hard to take your exam at one institution while presenting at another) since those thesis units fulfill credit requirements that would otherwise be a course with associated non-research responsibilities he is much less likely to have any time/scheduling conflicts with research (I cant go to APS meeting A because I already missed my course/test last week at APS Meeting B).

grae313 wrote: Second, if you do well, you impress your instructor greatly and demonstrate that you are capable of besting people that are older and more experienced then you and that you are capable of excelling in high level physics.

With the inflation common in letters of recommendation this doesnt mean much other than making one feel good inside which is independent of grad school admissions.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:51 pm
by irockhard
On a unrelated question (I hate to start a new thread), say on my application I say condensed matter experiment is my top interest. Will grad school force me to pursue that interest once I get in or do I get chance to change my mind, for example, switching to experiment AMO? And if the latter is true, meaning people can pursue fields different from what they listed on their applications, why is that certain field, such as HEP theory is more competitve to get into than others?

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:32 pm
by nathan12343
As long as you're in, it doesn't matter.

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:02 am
by cato88
that force you to do anything other than phd reqs

Re: senior thesis? is it worth it?

Posted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:54 am
by nathan12343
I should qualify what I said. You don't want to game the system. The freedom to change your mind about specialty is there because you might not enjoy what you first pick. You want to apply to grad school in good faith.

That being said, I doubt anyone will read your Statement of Purpose later and decide that you gamed the system somehow.