Four months to master

A real and raw list of Bachelor’s Thesis Project (BTP) commitments that no one tells you about.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have a BTP to take care of or are a very good friend of mine.

Your bachelor’s thesis project is (arguably) going to define how you spend your time in your senior year, and how good your application for a master’s admit is. The purpose it serves for a larger fraction of students is as an eye-opener, showing them how good a candidate for research they are, or aren’t. It’s pretty heavy on the credits side, as it should be, with a total of 12 credits allotted to it.

The deal here is that many of us, as 6th semester undergrads, either don’t give enough thought to what we really want to do and treat our BTP’s like they are another unavoidable course; or take it seriously enough but still can’t figure what we want.

The bottom line is that you need to make up your mind, and you need to do it quickly if you’re a 3rd year student.

As I’m writing this piece, I’m waiting for two sets of gold nanoparticles to form, which takes a total of 2 and a half hours. The next step will be verifying if they’re the size we want by performing a UV spectra characterization of the sample; a rough 30 minutes more. Finally, to figure out how these gold nanoparticles aid the enhancement of Raman signals of a particular ligand, I need another 4 to 5 hours to spare. On some days I need to be in the lab at 9 AM to make sure I take care of a sample that was left to be synthesised overnight, and some days I need to repeat the nanoparticle synthesis 4 to 6 times because I need them in bulk, and dry out the water to make an XRD sample. I need to plan the overnight reactions in a way that my timetable doesn’t clash with my lab guide’s timetable. Also have to (at least try, and) foresee next week’s plan so that I can comfortably finish what I had to and have enough time to draft my report. Each one of my friends who is dedicating a part of their time to their BTP is going/has gone/will go through the same grind. Keep in mind, this is the placement semester - things are quite tight right now.

I’ve been asked multiple times why I chose a BTP in my core, to which I have a simple answer.

In my case I’d actually studied chemistry for a total of 3 years, and couldn’t possibly be better at anything else.

A lot of people also wondered why I didn’t pick a project that required me to code, or at least not visit the lab so often. My answer to this, in no particular order, was

Asking seniors and collecting as much information as you can about the kind of work and commitment that is asked of you is as vital as figuring out your area of interest. It’s completely okay to not have a passion or field of interest in your own department as long as you do have one somewhere else.

If you feel like you cannot go through a lab phase again and don’t want to give it a chance, don’t.

If you feel like you cannot look at a bunch of code again in your life, don’t - certainly not for a BTP, and especially not if nobody is paying you to do it in this case.

If you feel like you’ve had enough of your own core subjects and really want your BTP to help launch your professional career in another field (let’s face it, not too many of us stay with the department, and this article isn’t going to accommodate that debate), feel free to go through with it. At the end of the day, you need to be spending time doing something impactful – doesn’t matter whether the impact is on society or on your own career.

Once chosen, you (usually) can’t switch your BTP and a good deal of your time goes into it, whether you like it or not. Good efforts can bring great results, but that’s not guaranteed if your work is exploratory, which it ideally should be. Additionally, if you’re doing something you don’t really want to do, your BTP will end up encumbering everything else you’ve wanted to do in your last year of college.

The decision is not easy to make, but the outcome can be fun if you choose it to be!