Thesis Writers Working Through Break

Every year around this time, as spring break meanders through its second week, I have to express admiration for those students who have been working hard throughout. Of course, there are the athletes who have been competing and practicing. I saw some in the gym this week getting ready for track and field competitions, and I’ve watched some fine games online as our lacrosse, softball, baseball and tennis teams compete in warmer climes.

There are plenty of students on campus holding down jobs in the library, science labs and other places. Do they have a spring break? Well, they have a break from classes, at any rate. And then there are the thesis writers. With the deadline for completion fast approaching, these folks may have what feels to be the shortest breaks of all. Here are some of the projects I’ve heard about through the academic deans and faculty advisors:

There are a whole bunch of C-Film students working in teams on films and individually on criticism projects. I’ll just mention Will McGhee (screenwriting) and Russell Goldman (film making). In art history, Carolina Elices is doing a senior honors thesis for both her majors in English and art history, focusing on the novelist and poet Thomas Hardy’s career as an architect who worked on preservation and restoration of medieval English churches, in the same period that he was creating his renowned novels like Jude the Obscure and Far from the Madding Crowd

In chemistry, Eric Arsenault and Prof. Stewart Novick are currently working on a paper almost certainly to be accepted in a special issue of the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy.  Eric’s research includes the investigation of ring inversion in fluorinated cycloalkenes and the study of molecules containing atoms, particularly iodine, with large nuclear quadrupole coupling tensors. Eric will be joining the Ph.D. program in Chemistry at UC Berkeley in the Fall. Helena Awad, a BA/MA student in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is trying to understand why mutations in a DNA repair protein lead to colorectal cancer. Her work with Prof. Manju Hingorani involves painstakingly isolating each mutant protein and studying its properties to discover why the mutation disrupts DNA repair and compromises the stability of the genome. 

In English, Emily Apter, is writing a creative thesis involving “blurred genre” essays about 20th century Hartford. Jack Reibstein, is working on a group of short stories and essays about addiction. Miranda Konar, is doing a critical thesis on the history of emotions in Arthurian literature. And there are more!!

I received the following notices about theses in French studies: Alex Lee is writing on his own interaction, as a reader and translator, with French poet Guillaume Apollinaire’s calligrammes, and an articulation of this process in the form of new poetry. Noah Mertz‘s “Memorial” is a nonfiction thesis crosslisted in the English and French studies departments that blends personal anecdotes, literary theory, and philosophy on the subject of untimely death. Rachel Rosenman‘s thesis is in French and music. She is writing about the French woman composer Mel Bonis (1858-1937), who remains surprisingly little known, despite leaving behind a considerable oeuvre comprising over 300 works. Rachel will also present a recital of vocal and instrumental chamber works by Bonis in April.

Anna Bisikalo (government/Russian, Eastern European & Eurasian Studies) is writing about the role of women during the Maidan revolution in Ukraine, including some interesting arguments about the way they have re-discovered myths of Ukrainian warrior princesses. She locates this against the backdrop of the transition from Soviet to market economy gender roles, and pushback from Ukrainian feminists against the importation of Western liberal gender models. Jeesue Lee is writing about the selling of the COIN counter-insurgency manual in 2005 as a “new” solution to the stalemate in Iraq, based on selective use of historical analogies – out with Vietnam, in with Malaya. She analyses this policy debate through the prism of counter-factual history, and the way history is used by policy makers. 

Ethan Yaro is writing on the notion of language, its epistemological function and its location in the economy of presence and absence. He presents readings of Condillac and Rousseau, along with the response to them by Herder. Ethan argues that Herder both pre-figures some 20th-century literary theory and offers solutions to some of the problems post-structuralism identifies in Western metaphysics.

Sofi Goode, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies/ Economics, is working on a thesis titled, “In the Name of Protection: Queerness, Biopolitics, and Carcerality.” Sofi examines the impact of American prison policies that claim to protect incarcerated LGBTQ people. She makes the argument that “by restricting relationships with other incarcerated people and confining queer people in actively dangerous spaces, these policies seek to ensure the normativity of the general population while masking the violence they commit against queer people.” 

Dinayuri Rodriguez‘s anthropology thesis is entitled Revolutionizing the Quotidian: Intersubjective Processes of Self-making in the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Diaspora. Dinayuri is investigating processes of self-making and demonstrates that Dominican artists like Josefina Báez and members of the anarchic collective Cibao Libertario build and enact a relational sense of self through quotidian acts that are not typically understood as “revolutionary” precisely because they are so ordinary.

There are many recitals, exhibitions and performances this spring that are part of senior projects (like Senior Dance Recital the first weekend of April and senior exhibitions which begin April 5th) that you can find here. For example, in theater Jessica Cummings, Constance Des Marais, Nola Werlinich, and Cheyanne Williams have conceived and created Up Your Aesthetic, “a disruptive, devised, women-only performance piece juxtaposing the rage and grief felt by modern women with the Ancient Greek myths of the Amazons.”


Emma Broder’s SiSP thesis is entitled Whose Lyme Is It Anyway?: Epistemic, Culture, and Experiential Representations of Chronic Lyme Disease. Emma uses discourse analysis to investigate gender representations in the writings of scientists and doctors, patients, experts and celebrities who discuss the condition. In Lying-In to Lying Alone: The Medicalization of Reproduction in the United States, Sally Rappaport explores the emergence of obstetrics and gynecology as medical sciences that wielded expansive control over women’s bodies and reproduction. Deja Knight’s thesis in African American Studies titled Soul Food: The Plight of African American Food Sovereignty, Food Insecurity, and Resistance explains the problem of food insecurity in two Black public housing projects in Baltimore. She uses Geographical Informational Systems and detailed historical analysis to demonstrate the spatial dimensionality of food sovereignty, insecurity, and justice in these communities.

This is just the tip of the thesis iceberg. If anyone would like to add others to this list, please send them in. And good luck to all the students working hard as spring “break” comes to an end!