The Thesis Experience: An Inside Look

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

One of the most daunting moments of the ESTEEM program was when Lynette, our thesis advisor, showed us example theses from prior classes. She had described the required five chapters plus business plan and financial workbook, but seeing the stack of papers was quite a shock. I had written a 30-page thesis in college, but each chapter in the ESTEEM examples was that long or more. At least we had nearly a year to do it; I needed to relax and take it one step at a time.

The first step was selecting a project. As a biochemistry major aiming for medical school, I was interested in drug development. After meeting with some professors about their research, I decided to work with Prof. Rich Taylor on treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare, incurable genetic disease. The outline for my first chapter was due in two weeks, so I read as much as I could and wrote 10 pages. Lynette gave great advice on how to improve it, so I was encouraged.

Over the weeks, the outline became 30-page draft. The process continued with Chapter Two, Chapter Three, and so on. With helpful suggestions and corrections from the advisor and mentor along the way, I finished the 130-page document by mid-March.

The thesis required plenty of work, research, and meetings, but the step-by-step approach made it manageable. There were certainly some long hours on the nights before some of the chapters were due, but after the initial stress with Chapter One, I got into the rhythm of just completing the next section by the next deadline. Writing 10 pages every two weeks is not too demanding a task after all – and the payoff is amazing. You learn so much about the field and about moving discovery into the marketplace, and you earn a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.