Things to consider before doing an undergraduate thesis
Contributor Nicole Legace
The Bachelor of Medical Sciences program at Western has a well-developed thesis program that provides ample opportunity for students to try their hand at research. There are a wide variety of programs to choose from, from pathology to medical biophysics, which allow students to select what best suits their interests. While this may sound like an appealing opportunity for BMSc students to get involved in scientific research, there are some things to consider before deciding if a 4th-year thesis is right for you.
One of the biggest things people want to consider is whether or not research is in their career plan. An undergraduate thesis can be a valuable career step if it aligns with future goals, so it is important to ask yourself whether a research opportunity will be an asset to you. If you are considering doing a research-based graduate degree or want a strong addition to your CV or resume, then a thesis could be a great way to get some more work experience in a laboratory environment. Even if academia is not your end goal, a thesis can still teach you valuable work skills like responsibility and teamwork. However, there are also other avenues to explore when looking for work experience. If you decide that a thesis is not for you, and you aren’t keen on doing research in the future, consider doing an IMS capstone project to get some lab experience. You can also check out the internship program for your 4th year of studies as it is a great entryway into an industry position.
Say you decide to do a thesis — what’s next? The key is to consider what field of research you want to go into. This project can give you valuable connections in a certain field of research, and to make it worthwhile, you want it to be in a subject area that you are interested in pursuing moving forward. If you know the type of research you want to do, this can help you pick what medical sciences module you will declare on your ITR. If not, don’t worry! Taking the courses that are the most interesting to you will set you on the right track, and lead you towards a field that you will enjoy.
Another factor you want to consider is the time commitment. As a thesis entails doing research outside of class hours, you want to ensure that you have adequate time to dedicate to this project alongside your other classes and commitments like clubs, sports, or jobs. While getting work experience is a priority for all students — especially when you reach your upper years — being able to manage your time adequately is equally important, and you should not have to compromise your other commitments in order to do so. Ensure you are able to dedicate 10–15 hours per week towards your research project, while maintaining all your other commitments.
An undergraduate thesis can be a valuable experience for students. For many, it is the first research experience they get, where they can learn the ins and outs of experimentation and decide if it is the right fit for them. For others, taking control and direction over your own project is a way to become more independent as a student and an individual. Regardless of what value a thesis may hold for you, it will always be a great opportunity to learn more about research, gain some work experience, and connect with professionals in the field.