Master of the thesis
Nick Gilmore produced an award winning honours thesis. How did he do it?
I was asked to write a blog about my thesis and share my tips. I haven’t done much creative writing before, so after asking for a few hints I was told: “Pretend you’re down at the pub talking to your mates”. Only problem is my mates don’t really care about my thesis… and I don’t have any mates.
But here goes…
After reading this, hopefully you’ll get:
- A couple of extra WAMs on your thesis
- A new job opportunity
- An insight into the life of engineers
I just finished my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering last year, this is also when I wrote my thesis ‘Design of a Thermoelectric Cooling Garment’. After more than a decade it was my final year of education and it proved to be my busiest by far.
Part of this was the underlying job hunt. With unemployment looming, everyone was pretty stressed about securing that coveted graduate job. Fortunately for me, my thesis and job hunt crossed paths. But before I tell you how, I thought I’d reveal a couple of the quirkier aspects of writing a thesis.
OH&S is an unavoidable, and often a strange part of modern life. When I was running my thesis experiments I came across the following OH&S hurdles:
- I had about 150mL of water in a sealed container. It was identified as a drowning risk. Watch out for those unsealed cups of water in your own home.
- I also had to write up a step-by-step procedure for turning on/off an electrical power point. There was surprisingly more than two steps!
Now to be fair, I did have a minor smelting accident during my thesis experiments so maybe it’s not as strange as it seems…
Cramming is something that’s been conditioned into engineering students. So naturally the majority of us wrote our thesis the week before they were due. Evidence of this was most clear the morning before the thesis was due. I went to Glory Printing, to, surprise, print my thesis. I rocked up half an hour before it opened and I was still 10th in line!
Now back to how my thesis crossed paths with my job hunt. Basically, despite the quirks, I was really enjoying the process of writing a thesis. At the same time I was also applying for a lot of infrastructure jobs, for which I had very little passion. It was during this that my thesis supervisor informed me of the potential to continue researching as a PhD student — an option I had not previously considered.
With the financial help of a scholarship I am now currently researching photovoltaic cooling systems. The work is enthralling and I already have opportunities to network with industry leaders (I’m going to try convince someone, very soon, to let me run some experiments at their vineyard in the French Alps… not even kidding!). So if you’re still studying don’t forgot about the opportunities postgraduate research could give you.
Back to the tips you were looking for in the first place:
- Attack the marking guidelines. They’re super clear, so if you’re constantly targeting them you're practically guaranteed the marks
- Choose a project with some meat (i.e. plenty of work to do). It’ll make the report writing easier and also give your thesis a lot more weight when it comes to marking.
- Don’t count on your holidays to get stuff done… the beach is always too much fun (and too close to campus).
- Choose an interesting project. Unless you’re interested in the aerodynamics of a cow
Visit the Student Centre website for more tips on writing your engineering honours thesis.