As we approach the end of the quarter, senior undergraduates will submit their senior projects and theses, as the final assignment of their undergraduate career.
The National Survey of Student Engagement reported 87 percent of students participate in a capstone project, with a majority completing a project within their major. The 2009 report surveyed 640 universities.
At UCD, some colleges require a senior project, while others leave the choice to students. The College of Engineering requires students to create a senior project, said associate professor of biomedical engineering Angelique Louie, who also serves as the senior project class instructor.
“[The project] is big chance to show everything [students] have learned,” she said. “They won’t have had a lot of opportunities to do that before. Students have to take all the theoretical and put into realistic.”
Students from all majors each year participate in UC Davis’ Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), which allows students of any year or major to submit their projects. Last year, two-thirds of conference participants were seniors, said Undergraduate Research Center Senior Program Manager Tammy Hoyer. This year 300 students participated in the research event.
“[URC] is one of the most important experiences for seniors,” Hoyer said about the conference, which took place earlier this month. “They feel proud and accomplished. It’s a lot of work to get there.”
The Undergraduate Research Center also has a yearly publication, Explorations, in which students can submit their work to be published.
“[This is also] one of the most culminating experiences,” Hoyer added. “It’s a big deal for students.”
Some students choose to end their four years of study with in-depth research of their major. Seniors Justin Chan and Mo Torres are two students within the College of Letters and Science who elected to finish their undergraduate year with a thesis course.
Chan, a sociology major, focused on the sociology of religion in a yearlong project. Overall, it was a stressful year with plenty of mistakes, but excellent preparation for a graduate program, he said.
“I’m confident I’m going to [graduate] school with a sophistication in the entire [research] process,” he said. “[My thesis] was my culmination of training in social research.”
Torres, a Chicana/o studies and history double major, completed his thesis through the history department, researching the history of marriage law and gay/queer political activism. Though it took hours of work, Torres said it was successful in the end.
“It was an amazing experience. I was able to work closely with a professor I really admire,” Torres said in an e-mail interview. “You should only do a senior thesis or project if you have the time to.”
If time permits, a thesis is something to consider, Hoyer said, especially when applying to graduate school. The majority of UCD students eventually attend graduate school within 5 years of graduating. Plus, it pulls together all the classes, midterms and readings students have worked through since freshman year,” she said.
“I never actually knew what historians did until I started working on my senior thesis,” Torres said. “Before writing my thesis, I was just a college student interested in history. Now, I consider myself a student historian.”
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.