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Senior Experimental Thesis

The second option for your thesis is a 2 half-course sequence experimental thesis. You should plan on this taking the full academic year and you will need to develop a specific research project early in the Fall semester and work closely with your advisor. It is recommended that you begin to work on an experimental thesis with your advisor the Spring before your senior year. Much of your time will be spent working out the details of the experiment and you will need to allow enough time. It requires a commitment of 10-12 hrs/week of work in the lab. There will also be two progress reports during the semester that must be signed by your advisor. You will need to agree on a format with your advisor. Again, you should consider the format in the Journal of Neuroscience's Instructions for Authors. Another style you might consider is the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th Edition). You should also consult the Society for Neuroscience's (SFN) Responsible Guidelines Regarding Scientific Communication.

The thesis will consist of the following sections:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References

The experimental thesis is usually the more rewarding of your two options, but it is also the most time consuming and potentially frustrating. You will be limited by the resources available at Pomona College and will need to discuss availability of resources with your anticipated advisor as early as possible. The Neuroscience Program will support materials for experimental senior theses—these funds are limited, though, and you will need to budget your thesis and verify with your advisor and the Neuroscience Program Coordinator that you will have access to sufficient funds. Your research will need to conform to current ethical principles and you will need to work with your advisor in order to follow college policy for review of your project prior to data collection. Consult ethical guidelines for use of animal or human subjects as stated in the Journal of Neuroscience's Instructions for Authors, Institutional Review Board (IRB) Guidebook, and the American Psychological Association's (APA) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.

You can expect that things will go wrong (e.g., supplies arrive late, equipment breaks down, etc.) and you will need to plan for this and “problem-solve” along the way. You will be rewarded, though, with a sense of accomplishment and generating results of your proposed experiment (in contrast to those doing a grant proposal, who never see the outcome of their proposed experiments).

Students completing an experimental thesis will publicly present their thesis at the end of the year. All neuroscience majors are expected to attend. Since the time-frame for different parts of the research study will vary dramatically according to the details of the research, you will need to establish deadlines with your advisor.

Important: Your final grade in the course will be based, in part, on how well you meet the deadlines agreed to by you and your advisor. All deadlines are at 4:45 P.M. of the specified day.