The Thesis Process
During the first few days of classes in your senior year, you should visit several Biology faculty members to discuss your academic interests and learn about potential research projects available in their laboratories. We do not expect that you have designed your own thesis project at this point. Indeed, it is preferable for you to develop a thesis project in conjunction with your thesis adviser. The thesis can be one where data are generated in the laboratory or field; a model is developed as part of a theoretical approach; or literature is extensively utilized to generate a comprehensive analysis of a particular problem. If you are interested in doing a thesis project with someone off-campus (see below), you still need to discuss the project with a faculty member in the department who will serve as a co-advisor and the advisor of record.
Once you have met with faculty and discussed options, you must submit TWO short descriptions of potential research projects and LIST A THIRD area in which you would like to work, in the event that your other choices are unavailable. In each case, include the name of the faculty member with whom you've spoken who could serve as an adviser for the work. Faculty members on sabbatical/leave will take thesis students by special arrangement only. Rank the three potential project areas/faculty advisers in the order of your preference.
Proposals must be submitted to Kristy Gonyer, Administrative Coordinator, B-115, no later than noon on during the second week of classes. (The faculty will meet the following week to consider your proposals and assign advisers.)
We are receptive to your use of off-campus resources and advisers for your thesis work. While we may be able to provide leads to finding potential off-campus advisers, it is your responsibility to develop an agreement to use the time and resources of a scientist at another institution. An information sheet is available and must be given to any potential off-campus thesis adviser. The decision on the suitability of the project and the advisory relationship will be made by the department faculty. Regular meetings with a biology faculty member who will serve as the advisor of record is required for any thesis conducted off-campus. To learn more about the logistics of developing and completing an off-campus thesis, speak with your biology department academic adviser.
In general, thesis offices are assigned in accordance with the adviser and proximity to the research laboratory. If you have special requests, include them on the sheet with your thesis proposal. (Note: All rooms are designated non-smoking and non-pet, and all have network access.) Office assignments will be posted at the same time as the adviser list. Kristy Gonyer will submit key requests for thesis offices/adviser labs to Facilities who will e-mail you when keys are ready for pick up. Consult with your thesis adviser if additional keys are necessary and if so, obtain a key request form from Kristy. Please remember that your office space will be shared with other hard-working students. Consideration should be the watchword. Do not offer your workspace to another student on a permanent basis. Any rearrangements must be coordinated through Kristy.
Several possible sources of funding exist for thesis projects. Learn about how to apply for funding here.
Instructions from the Reed Guidebook.
Upon completion of the senior thesis, each student must take a comprehensive oral examination. Oral exams normally occur during the period between the end of classes and the beginning of final examinations. A schedule of oral exams is prepared by each division or department and is posted at the registrar’s office.
The oral exam, approximately two hours in length, is conducted by an examination board composed of Reed faculty members and, in some instances, other experts. This examination includes the thesis topic and should relate the thesis to the larger context of the student’s studies.
Any Reed faculty member may visit the examination. At least one faculty member of the division should be present. Some departments require at least one examiner from another department within the same division. One examiner from another division should be present. An examiner who has professional competence in the candidate’s field and is not a member of the Reed faculty may be present. Other guests who are not faculty members will be admitted only with permission of the examining board and the student.
If a student fails the oral exam, the student may be re-examined in a later semester. A student who fails a second time in the same field shall be ineligible for graduation in that field.
In Biology, your first reader will be your thesis adviser and your second reader will be another biology faculty member. If you have a preference for your second reader you should communicate this to them and your thesis adviser before the departments meets to set the orals schedule after spring break.
After spring break the department will meet to assign second readers and to schedule all major’s oral exams. Once available, the schedule will be posted outside of B115.