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Senior thesis: A rite of passage

Potentially useful thesis tip #1: The thesis is a journey and not a destination.

Princeton NJ -- Christine Barrett, a member of Princeton's class of 2003, gives that piece of advice, along with 10 other "potentially useful tips," to seniors embarking on their independent work in a book, "The Thesis: Quintessentially Princeton," distributed to incoming students, juniors and faculty members.

". . . the thesis is the most rewarding not when it is turned in, but rather when one is in the throes of wrestling with the material, trying to fit a fascinated mind around the topic," she writes.

Requiring a thesis of its undergraduates sets Princeton apart from other colleges and universities where it often is an option. The thesis, an independent work that typically runs about 100 pages, gives seniors the opportunity to pursue original research and scholarship on a topic of their own choice under the guidance of faculty advisers. All theses are archived in Mudd Manuscript Library.

The thesis book, published by the Office of the Dean of the College, includes 31 essays by students in the classes of 2002 and 2003 describing their experience. It also contains companion essays by faculty members about working with students on these in-depth projects, which can be a paper, a play or some other work that caps their undergraduate years.

". . . the most rewarding aspect of advising seniors is the joy I derive in interacting with the students and seeing them transformed from receptors of information to innovators of useful ideas," writes Salvatore Torquato, professor of chemistry.

This issue of the Princeton Weekly Bulletin features stories about four members of the class of 2004 who are completing their journeys this spring.

Research gets under the skin
Performer takes on the role of a lifetime
Engineer crunches literary data to seek truth about fiction
Playwright puts new twist on minstrel comedy