Readying for graduation, engineering students reflect on their senior thesis experience

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
by Melissa Moss, for the Office of Engineering Communications

As their thesis deadlines approached, seniors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science reflected on what they’ve gained by tackling a demanding yearlong research project, along with their coursework and other activities.

The thesis experience allows Princeton students to apply the material and skills they’ve learned over their four years at the University.

“The senior thesis or independent project is the culminating experience of a Princeton undergraduate education,” said Peter Bogucki, associate dean for undergraduate affairs in SEAS. “Students build on the knowledge gained from their coursework, choose a topic in consultation with an adviser, and perform experiments, design prototypes or simulate processes as they take ownership of a particular engineering problem. They then present their results in a professional way, having become an authority on the topic they have chosen.”

Said Elad Hazan, professor of computer science, “It’s a very gratifying experience for me as an educator to see students grow over the course of junior and senior years. They learn what it means to innovate in research, the challenges involved in making these innovations rigorous and provable, how to handle setbacks, how to collaborate, and how to communicate their results and relate them to relevant research in the field. I am amazed by the resilience and motivation some of them display, bringing out unique skills they have, whether mathematical, programming or writing, as impressive as any I have seen in my colleagues. They truly become researchers.”

A video featuring Emily Abdo, whose senior thesis was advised by professor Richard Register, brings to life seven engineering students' projects in the final days of the year.