Senior Reflections: How Barnard Prepared Me to Write a Thesis

Happy (almost) spring! Welcome to the newest addition to the blog, where I, a senior, reminisce on my time at Barnard. I’m feeling particular scholarly this time of year because my senior thesis is coming together, so I figured why not write a post about how Barnard prepared me for this moment.

While Barnard does not have a college-wide senior thesis requirement like some other institutions, many departments do require their students to conduct a semester or year-long research project. This typically includes coming up with a unique (i.e. not well researched) topic related to a subject within your major, gathering sources, and reporting this information in a really long paper. The nitty-gritty details of writing a thesis is different from major to major and between the humanities and sciences, but no matter your area of expertise, you can be rest assured that Barnard will adequately prepare you to independently conduct research.

I’m majoring in environmental science, and have particularly focused my degree on data analysis and informatics. This is just a really fancy way of saying that I like working with computers, so I became really good at analyzing environmental data with different software programs and coding. For my thesis, I am working with a group at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the earth science research wing of the Columbia Earth Institute, that maps the ocean floor at volcanically active regions in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. This is something I’m really excited about because it combines my love of maps, geology, and computers all into one neat little box.

In order to get this position though, it took a lot of networking and seeking possible opportunities. Typically in the sciences, we identify a specific lab or scientist who is working on a project that interests us, and if they have opportunities for undergraduates, they’ll bring you onto their team to do research. Reaching out to esteemed scientists is really intimidating though! But, my time at Barnard had prepared me to be confident in my skills and appropriately assertive, so while reaching out to perspective thesis mentors was daunting, I knew my skills and passions for these subjects was what I needed to get me the job. And sure enough, it was!

My classes at Barnard had definitely prepared me for the researching and writing I’ve done this year. Throughout the past 3 years, I had to learn a lot of technical software programs and about the specific geology of the region we’re studying in order to actually understand the data I’m working with. Throughout college, I’ve taken a lot of computer classes where I spent hours struggling with the software and understanding concepts, so when it came to this new task I was very prepared. Similarly, I had taken a lot of science classes with labs where I needed to learn really specific concepts. When I was researching for my thesis, I had taken all the information and skills I had gathered over the past three years and applied it to this project. Now, as I’m writing my thesis and putting all the parts together, I feel really comfortable applying all my knowledge to this one project.

Before beginning this process a year ago, I had no idea what to expect and was very overwhelmed with the thought of putting together a real-world, academic paper. I quickly learned that my Barnard classes were structured to prepare me for this real-world, critical type of thinking. Every Barnard woman is capable of achieving this, and I’m so happy I took on the challenge!

If you have any questions about writing a senior thesis or just about Barnard in general, feel free to send me an email at hes2142@barnard.edu!

-Hannah

Senior Reflections: Going to College in New York City

Senior Reflections: Going to College in New York City

Texan Diaries: My First Winter

Texan Diaries: My First Winter