22 Jun Bachelor’s thesis: your first real research

A Bachelor’s thesis can be a dirty job. Image: Jan W.

After 2.5 years of hard work you finally get a chance to find out what it’s like to be a real scientist! All the hours of lectures, field work, lab work and studying have prepared you for your own little research. Pick the right Bachelor’s thesis and it will be a big advantage in your future career.

How to pick a research
Are you wondering where to start? Follow these points to find the perfect research for you!

Info: first of all it is very important to know what a Bachelor’s thesis is, for every study you can find information about what is expected of your thesis, for example: Chemistry, Biomedical Sciences and Physics and Astronomy.Think: what part of your study do you find most interesting or what part do you want to know more about?

  • Research: search the internet for interesting scientific articles and cool science news.
  • Connections: if you find some interesting subjects look up the scientists or research teams that are engaged in that subject and contact them. Or if you know a research center that focuses on the subjects you like ask them if they are looking for a student researcher, most researchers really appreciate it when you show interest in their work.
  • University: last but not least the University of Amsterdam also provides a list of subjects you can choose from.

A day in the life of…
To give you an idea of what you can expect of your Bachelor’s thesis I will talk you through a day of the Bachelor’s thesis I’m doing right now. A short explanation: my research is about a food-safety trade-off in Macoma balthica, a marine bivalve. For this research I have an experimental set-up consisting of 200 plastic cups containing 200 bivalves. This sounds like a lot, but in one day of field work we actually collected thousands of individuals.

Macoma balthica

08:30 – On the ferry to the lovely island of Texel, where I do my research at the NIOZ.
09:00 – Off to the climate chamber to measure the depth of all 200 individuals.
09:20 – Warming my hands on a cup of coffee, because the temperature of the climate chamber is set at a not so tropical 10 °C.
10:30 – Now I have to pick some random individuals out of their cups for dissection (biology can be a cruel field of study).
11:00 – I feed the individuals with different concentrations of food with a pipette (pipetting 200 times a day makes you a real pipetting-pro).
12:00 – Time to feed myself: a lunch-meeting with my supervisor to discuss the progress of the experiment.
13:00 – Almost every week the NIOZ organizes a lecture or colloquium, this week it’s a researcher from our department that presents his thesis, very interesting!
13:30 – The 20 unlucky individuals have to be dissected. I separate the different feeding organs into different crucibles, which is painstaking work since the individuals (and their organs) are so tiny.
14:55 – The dissected individuals are put in a drying oven for 3 days, so I can measure the dry weight.
15:00 – Tea break in the sun with cake, because somehow there’s always someone celebrating something with cake.
15:30 – Time to enter all the collected data in the computer, do some statistics and write a part of my research report.
17:00 – That’s enough for today, time to go home!

No project is the same
In my research project no one day is the same. I picked the busiest one to show you what your research can be like. But no project is the same: some people work whole days in the lab, some do a literature study and some work in the field. You can choose what you like or combine those things, like I have. But of course your supervisor is the one that is in charge.

Become a pro
Choosing the right Bachelor’s thesis can have a very positive effect on the rest of your career as a student and a researcher. The connections you make with the people you work with and the ones that work in the same field come in handy when you are organizing a research project for your Masters. When you make a good impression you might even be offered a job.

Very few Bachelor’s theses get published, because the time of research is simply too short, but if you get nice results out of your research you can always resume it later or during your Masters and extend it. And maybe your supervisor can help you to get the research published. Having a publication on your name is a very big advantage if you’re looking for an internship, PhD or a job. So if you think your work is worth it, be sure to try!

If you have some tips and tricks or questions concerning Bachelor’s theses, let me know in the comments!


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WTF fanny

WTF fanny

Biologist (no tree hugging involved), enthusiastic, researcher, studious, creative, witty, the new Jacques Cousteau.
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