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Undergraduate Program

Senior Thesis Research

CHM 393: Senior Research, can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling courses that you take at the University of Rochester. It is required for the BS degree and optional for the BA degree.

Although two semesters of CHM 393 are specified as being Senior Research, any undergraduate may work with a professor as part of his/her research team during their freshman, sophomore, or junior years. Often this is done as CHM 395: Independent Research.

Getting Started

To start, you need to find out what kind of chemistry appeals to you. Then, speak directly with the professor who does that kind of research to ask if there are openings. Showing an interest in the group’s work helps a lot! To find out the areas in which professors are working, it is helpful to see the research and teaching interests pages located in the Insider's Guide, or check our faculty pages.

Once you have narrowed your field of interest, the next step is to talk with the professors. They can give you a better idea of what they are doing and what you may be able to do. They may suggest that you attend one of their “group meetings” to find out what their group is about.

If you decide that you like the area of research, you and the professor can devise an individual research plan and you can begin your work. For more information about undergraduate research see the Office of Undergraduate Research website.

Writing Your Thesis

The senior thesis is the written document describing your research project, and is a vital part of both chemistry 393 and your BS degree.

Written communication of scientific accomplishments is an essential component of research. Even the most stunning technical accomplishments are worthless if they are left buried in a lab notebook. However, there is not a single formula or recipe for technical writing. A thesis describing a synthetic organic project will certainly look quite different from a theoretical physical chemistry thesis.

Below are some general guidelines for thesis content. You should talk with your adviser frequently about specific thesis details. It is also wise to ask your senior research adviser and second reader for advice based on their reading of a preliminary draft.

General Guidelines

The starting point for your thesis should be the introduction of a well defined chemical problem, the problem which your research will address. This introduction should clearly state the objectives of your research, and discuss the significance of the issues involved. You should discuss the methods used to address the problem.The introduction is often useful to compare different possible approaches and state why the chosen methods are appropriate to your project.

All procedures and techniques should be carefully defined. A proper guide to the amount of detail required should be that an independent worker should be able to reproduce your work, given only your thesis and a good reference library. Your thesis should be more detailed and complete than a paper published in a research journal.

After describing methods, techniques, and procedures, you must present your results. Analysis of results and conclusions drawn from your work is an extremely important part of your thesis. A final discussion of the importance of your work, or how your results interact with other areas of chemistry may also be appropriate.

The diversity of chemical research makes it impossible to give specific length requirements for a thesis. However, it is difficult to imagine a satisfactory thesis of fewer than 10 pages, and 100 pages is certainly a reasonable upper limit.

There is a departmental Senior Thesis Poster Session each year the first week of May where you will present your research. Generally, your thesis is due no later than the last day of classes, which will give you the next week (final exam week) to make any final changes as recommended by your advisor and/or second reader.

Your thesis is part of your grade in CHM 393 and needs to be completed in time to have grades submitted at the end of the semester and in time for commencement. Please discuss details and deadlines with your senior research advisor.

To get a feel for the type of research projects other students have taken on see the senior poster abstracts (PDF).

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