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.

photo of rows of theses from the thesis tower balcony

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

photo of Meaza Abate

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

photo of ancient paiting of battle scene

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

photo of Katelyn Best

Birth 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.

image of ancient Roman fresco of a woman with a book

Casting 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.

photo of Morgan Vague

Plastic-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.

photo of Edgar Perez

Trapping 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.

photo of Pema McLaughlin

What 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 Papaioannou

How 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.

photo of Alan Tuan

Take 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.

photo of Aziza Afzal

The soul of wit
Theatre 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.

photo of Kate Hilts

Why words matter
Political 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.

photo of Torrey Payne

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