Working together on a senior thesis

I enjoy working with students on undergraduate senior thesis projects! The thesis is a capstone, a culmination of your undergraduate studies. It’s a chance to share your enthusiasm and enjoyment of math, and pass on some inspiration to the next generation of math students. And it’s a chance to show what you’ve learned, and your growth as an independent learner.

What math topics do you love, what are questions you’ve enjoyed exploring? In your project you will get to choose one of those topics, dig in deeply, and explain it in your own words, so that future students will learn what makes the topic so exciting and inspiring for you.

Beyond learning more about your chosen topic and sharing your excitement, you’ll also get to flex your skills as a learner and as a writer. The senior thesis doesn’t just mark the end of your undergraduate studies. It also launches your post-college independence, demonstrating your readiness to self-teach, to independently tackle challenging math subjects, and to produce the highest quality writing that other people can learn from. This is it, this is what college has prepared you for!

Working with you on your senior thesis project, as you go through this fundamental transition from student to mathematician, is a profound honor for me.

If you think you might like to choose me as your senior thesis advisor, I encourage you to email me. But first, please look at the expectations and project ideas on this page and think about whether it would be a good fit for you.

What you can expect if we work together

  1. I direct my senor thesis students to write a thesis paper, a little bit like a term paper or a mini-article. Some examples are on my advising web page.

    You can see that the students wrote sort of mini-articles with introductions, explanations, theorems and proofs, and at the end a bibliography.

  2. The senior thesis is usually a chance for you to learn about something, and explain it in your own words. This could be based on readings (learning things that are already published) or it could be based on explorations.

    However the senior thesis topic gets chosen, it should be something that excites you, that you want to spend time with, and that you want to share with others. In your senior thesis you should share what you like about math, what makes it exciting for you. Hopefully a future student will see it and also get excited!

    It does not have to teach everything about the subject. The idea is more to get a student interested, so that they will be inspired to go and learn more for themselves.

  3. I meet with senior thesis students for 1 hour each week, to guide you in your project, give you feedback, and help with any questions you have. The meeting would be to answer questions, go over things, or I can explain some things if you are stuck.

    It will be your project to work on during the week between our meetings. But I will help you!

  4. I want my senior thesis students to type their thesis documents in LaTeX.

  5. Timeline:

    1. We will spend a few weeks at the beginning of the semester talking about project ideas, exploring possibilities, and planning what will be in the thesis.

    2. Then you’ll spend a few weeks reading and learning. We’ll talk about what you’re learning.

    3. Somewhere around mid-semester, you’ll start writing your thesis. This will probably start before you finish all your reading.

    4. You’ll write at least one draft before the final version, hopefully two drafts, with multiple rounds of feedback and revision.

Project ideas

The most important thing is to find a project idea that excites you, that you want to learn more about, and that you want to share with others.

What subjects in math do you enjoy? What made you want to be a math major? If your friends or family ask you what you like about math, what do you tell them? What have you enjoyed learning about, and what’s something you’d like to learn more about? This could be something from one of your classes, or something you read or saw in a video online, or just something you’re curious about.

You might like to look through some articles, e.g., Chalkdust Magazine which is written by students, Mathematics Magazine, or other sources that I can suggest. If you see anything there that interests you, it could be a starting point for a senior thesis.

Here are some project ideas that I can suggest:

  1. Möbius functions

  2. Billiard trajectories

(more to come)