Thesis Deadlines Still Loom For Some

While all of the five largest concentrations at Harvard set their thesis deadline before spring break, seniors in a significant number of smaller concentrations are still hard at work on their cumulative academic papers.

Students in these concentrations face deadlines that fall from this week into April—although at least one concentration sets no official due date at all.

Some faculty members in concentrations with deadlines after spring break said that their departments tried to give seniors as much time to finish their theses as possible.

“Especially in a data-heavy subject like Applied Math, the extra time comes in handy,” said Michael P. Brenner, Area Dean of Applied Mathematics. The Applied Math thesis deadline is April 1.

Along with Applied Math, a number of other heavily quantative concentrations have later thesis deadlines. The Math and Statistics concentrations set their due dates after the break, as do several natural sciences departments, including Physics and Astronomy. But Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Visual and Environmental Studies also set their senior thesis deadline after the break.


Among seniors in concentrations with due dates after spring break, some said that they appreciated the extra time, while others said they enjoyed the flexibility offered by a later deadline.

Yuga J. Cohler ’11, a Computer Science concentrator, said that, unlike many of his friends in other concentrations, he will be able to finish his thesis without feeling too much pressure.

“The obvious disadvantage is that the vast majority of your friends in the senior class have already finished, and so have more time to hang out, but there’s also the advantage that you feel less rushed,” Cohler said.

Still, he added that he didn’t think deadlines before or after the break were clearly superior to the other.

Other seniors said they appreciated the freedom that comes with a later due date. Rebecca A. Resnick ’11, whose math thesis was due this past Monday, finished it before the break so that she could visit San Francisco without having it hanging over her head.

“[The later deadline] was nice for me, because if I hadn’t finished it, I had a buffer there,” Resnick said. “It gives you more flexibility, because you can finish it before, but if you want the extra time, you have a whole week.”

Chemistry concentrators have even more leeway—the department provides no official deadline for its theses.

Andrew M. Watkins ’11, a Chemistry concentrator, is planning to finish his thesis a week before the deadline for Hoopes Prize submissions. He chose that date for himself, in consultation with his adviser.

Watkins said that he was particularly grateful for the flexibility the department granted him because of the nature of his research. “Sometimes, I’ll spend an eight-hour day in the lab, and I won’t find out for another two days that nothing I did that day accomplished anything,” he said.

Renata C. Cummins ’11, an Earth and Planetary Sciences concentrator, said she was also generally positive toward her concentration’s late due date. She said she felt that it would let her have a relaxing post-thesis senior spring, but that the potential for things to go wrong in the lab made her appreciate the extra time.

Cummins spoke to the Crimson on Monday, however—before she had spent much time with friends who had finished their theses before break.

“If you were interviewing me one week later, I might have a different opinion,” she said. “Maybe next week I’ll be more resentful.”


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