On Senior Theses

All Princetonians know that our last few months of college are also some of our busiest, thanks to the senior thesis.  But the nation’s smartest and preppiest students have found ways to make this graduation requirement more bearable.  One tradition – that the Band hopes to take part in this year – is the incorporation of a random phrase into students’ theses.

According to Band alums, the Band never officially participated in this tradition.  This practice was, though, pretty popular among student groups, especially eating clubs.  For instance, Campus Club, which used to contain many Band upperclassmen, used the phrase “beaten like a rented mule” in 2004.  Other Campus Club phrases included “bees can smell fear,” “so you don’t confuse them with mountains” (lyrics from the 2002 Shakira song “Whenever, Wherever”), and “and as a result, the sharks got smarter.”  Campus Club seniors also posted the relevant page of their thesis, with the phrase highlighted, on the walls of the club.

Though the Band never officially partook this tradition, there have been attempts to.  In 2009, Alex Barnard really pushed for a certain thesis phrase that pertained to the Citadel.  Members of the Band’s class of 2012 have said that they would like to do a thesis phrase this year.  They haven’t settled on a phrase yet, though they have brainstormed some possibilities:

–          “an aura of quiet desperation”

–          “dovahkiin”

–          “fus roh dah” (I’m told these last two have to do with some video game or something)

–           “took an arrow to the knee”

–          “good night, thesis”

–          “fry an egg on the sidewalk”

Coming up with these phrases is probably the easiest part.  Embedding one of them into their theses will probably be less easy, as the 2012’s theses cover a huge range of topics, most of which have little to do with video games.  Topics include:

–          Nicole Rafidi (Electrical Engineering) – a program that interfaces with an electroencephalography (EEG) headset in order to optimize studying using neural feedback.

–          Bobby Klein (Mechanical/ Aerospace Engineering) – building an autonomous Manta Ray Robot.

–          Alec Slatky (Politics) – whether the later-no-harm criterion of instant runoff voting should be considered a legitimate benefit and if so, how big the effect would be based on real-world data.

–          Robert Timpe (Computer Science) – implementing a machine learning algorithm from a paper and using it to make a machine learn to play a video game.  The machine will learn by watching a human play the game first.

–          Lucy Reeder (History) – the effect of cultural ideas about race on interpersonal Anglo-American relations during WWI.

–          Madiba Dennie (Politics) – the modern transformation of rape from an undesirable ‘consequence’ of war to a political tool, used to accomplish military and political objectives.

–          Jacquelyn Nestor (Molecular Biology) – the role of cellular cytoskeleton components on collective cell migration.

–          Anna Condella (English) – a collection of short stories based in the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York.

To investigate just how difficult incorporating one of the suggested phrases into all of these theses might be, Matt and I decided to randomly select one of the phrases and try inserting them into each thesis.  And it turned out to be not too hard after all.Here’s what we came up with:

–          Nicole Rafidi (Electrical Engineering) – Though the device heats up while in use, it never reaches a temperature where one could fry an egg on the sidewalk.

–          Bobby Klein (Mechanical/ Aerospace Engineering) – The autonomous manta ray robot that I have constructed can do literally anything.  Including crawling out of the water and taking an arrow to the… belly?

–          Alec Slatky (Politics) –Hi my name is Alec and I am so obsessed with the topic of voting that my thesis is going to say good night! Ha!

–          Robert Timpe (Computer Science) –

1 For i = human player

2          set machine to “take an arrow to the knee”

3          if i = “take an arrow to the knee”

–          Lucy Reeder (History) – Though cultural ideas on race affected these Anglo-Saxons’ experiences of the war differently, they were all united by their longing for previously simple comforts: a warm bed, a quite night, good night, thesis.

  •          Madiba Dennie (Politics) – The resulting despair was similar to what might be inspired by attempts to write one’s thesis at night.

–          Jacquelyn Nestor (Molecular Biology) – The components of the cellular cytoskeleton are quite useful and can do many things, including taking an arrow to the knee.

–          Anna Condella (English) – Sienna woke up and looked out her window, out at the barren landscape, out over the frozen waters of the Finger Lakes.  Today, like every other day, was frigid.  As Sienna reached down to slowly slide on her wool socks, she realized she had but one goal in life: to one day escape the cold monotony that was her life and move to a sunnier place, where she would be able to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Seniors, you guys are welcome to take our suggestions, though we won’t be offended if you think you’re able to come up with something better in the next two months.  And Band member/ alum/ stalker, If you have (better) suggestions for how the seniors can incorporate any of their phrases into their theses, leave a message in the comments section!

-Wendy Pan ’14


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