The Reed Thesis

During your final year, you will plunge headlong into an intellectual adventure—the senior thesis. Undertaken with support from a Reed professor, the thesis is your opportunity to explore a problem or answer a question that holds particular significance for you.

Reed College thesis stacks

Reed theses represent an incredible range of topics, from the Republic of Plato to the music videos of Beyoncé (See examples below). Students work in close consultation with their thesis adviser to meet deadlines throughout the year that ensure steady progress. Your thesis, which will be permanently housed in the Thesis Tower, may be the most challenging thing you have ever done—certainly it will be the most rewarding. You will never forget the experience, nor lose the confidence it builds.

Recent Theses

Meaza AbateJuggling algorithms Computer science major Meaza Abate ’18 explored how computers run multiple programs at once—and developed a language to demonstrate her ideas.

Battle of Kahlenberg paintingMoment of truth History major Rick Peterson ’15 examined how the Ottoman army’s fateful siege of Vienna in 1683 changed the course of history.

Katelyn BestBirth of a language Linguistics major Katelyn Best ’13 studied an emerging sign language for insight into a puzzle that has vexed philosophers for a thousand years.

ancient fresco of a young womanCasting new light on a forgotten poet Classics major Lina Neidhardt ’18 looked at the work of the Roman poet Sulpicia and realized that generations of scholars have misunderstood her.

Morgan VaguePlastic-eating germs Bio major Morgan Vague ’18 isolated three strains of bacteria that consume the plastic PET, opening up the possibility of using microorganisms to fight pollution.

Edgar PerezTrapping chaos in a jar Physics major Edgar Perez ’17 built a monopole ion trap and found that a charged particle inside it demonstrated chaotic behavior.

Mepa McLaughlinWhat is religion, exactly? Religion major Pema McLaughlin ’16 wrestled with this question in a thesis arguing that American Buddhism is as valid a religion as any other.

Orestis PapaioannouHow to “hear” shapes Psychology major Orestis Papaioannou ’15 explored the phenomenon of sensory substitution, in which the brain learns how to transfer information from one channel to another.

Alan TuanTake a deep breath Environmental studies-chemistry major Alan Tuan ’14 tracked “black carbon” emissions from a local railyard to see if newer diesel locomotives actually produced less pollution.

Aziza AfzalThe soul of witTheatre major Aziza Afzal ’17 examined the genre of the one-act play—and wrote 20 short plays in 20 days—to determine what made the format tick.

Kate HiltsWhy words matterPolitical science major Kate Hilts ’16 looked at how climate-change legislation was framed linguistically—and how that doomed its chances of being approved by Congress.

Torrey PayneShaq vs. KobeEconomics major Torrey Payne ’14 analyzed salaries in the NBA to figure out the premium the labor market places on the three-point shot.

Apply to Reed using the Common Application or the Coalition Application.