Senior Thesis Presentation

BME 123T

Senior Thesis Seminar

Spring 2014


Instructor: Melissae Fellet (

Seminar hours: Monday and Wednesday 5-6:45pm, Crown Classroom 105.

Monday will be time for class discussion and perhaps some individual writing. Wednesday is optional writing time and I’ll be available to answer questions.

Office hours, PSB 405A: Tuesday 3-5pm, Thursday 10am-noon, or by appointment.

(Please do not stop by on Monday, Wednesday or Friday as another teacher will be using the office.)


Recommended texts (none required):

Margo Northey and Judi Jewinski

Making Sense: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing by

Oxford University Press, Ontario, Canada, 2007

Chapters 13-16 have clear advice and examples of readable writing and solutions to common grammar mistakes


William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White.

The Elements of Style.

Allyn & Bacon, Massachusetts, fourth edition, 2000.


Final projects from previous bioengineering students:

Specifically, examples of senior theses by Melissa Eberle, Ziah Dean, and Adam Rogers


Course overview:


The goal of this course is to write about your independent research in form of a senior thesis. As you write, imagine a student joining the lab during the summer following his/her junior year. To continue your project, this student will need to know about the overall goal of your research, why the problem you are trying to solve is important, the specific progress that you’ve made towards solving that problem, and any questions yet to be explored.


Your thesis is a way to communicate that information through clear, concise and comprehensive writing. Clarity in scientific writing comes from monitoring your use of technical terms. Many science concepts can be explained without scientific terminology. Necessary technical terms should be quickly defined so that a reader does not get confused if he/she is not familiar with a term.


This is the basic structure of a thesis:


1. Abstract -- summarizes the goal, relevance, methods, results, and conclusions of your research in two to three paragraphs. I find it easiest to write this last.


2. List of tables and figures

3. Introduction -- Describe the problem you are trying to solve, why that problem is important, and the experiments/methods/approach that you took to solve the problem. This section summarizes the aims of your research. (1-2 pages)


4. Background -- Includes relevant information needed to understand the scientific concepts underlying your work and any technology that you are developing. Also explains how other researchers, either in your group or from other groups, have approached this problem. Can be more than one chapter.


5. A chapter for each aim of your thesis, explaining the experiment, showing relevant data, and interpreting the results.


6. Conclusions and future work -- This section summarizes the status of the project, what work needs to be done on the original aims, and describes any questions that still remain or arose during the research process. (1-2 pages)


7. References


8. Appendices with specific experimental methods


The specific structure of your thesis, in terms of the number of chapters and the content of each chapter, will depend on your individual project.

Writing a thesis takes a variety of skills, from writing to time management. I hope the assignments will help you practice and develop the particular writing skills that you need for this project, as each assignment is a portion of the final document.


Assignments 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 are opportunities to practice specific writing techniques in small chunks before tackling entire chapters. Assignments 3, 6, and 7 are optional (see schedule below for more details), if you would prefer to write a whole chapter at once.


However, opting out of these assignments means you will get fewer opportunities to practice receiving comments and incorporating the suggestions into your writing. Whether or not you complete these assignments, each chapter will go through one round of editing. Revisions to the chapters will be incorporated into the final thesis.  


Finding time to write can be challenging when long projects intersect with busy schedules. The assignments are spaced out to help you make consistent progress throughout the quarter, and class time on Wednesday will be optional dedicated writing time. I will also be available to answer questions during that time. I recommend bringing your lab notebooks to class and any office hours that you attend.


Assignment schedule and procedure:


Submit assignments to Melissae via email ( by 4:30pm on the day they are due.

Formatting of individual assignments:

  • Submit in pdf format

  • Font: Times New Roman, 12 point

  • Double spaced

  • 1-inch margins on every edge

  • Include your name, date, and assignment number at the beginning of every assignment


Mon March 31:  Assignment 1: Research question and why it matters (1-2 pages), due

4:30 pm April 2


Wed April 2:       Writing due: Assignment 1


Mon April 7:   Return Assignment 1

Assignment 2:  Aims and background information (1-2 pages), due 4:30 pm April 9


Wed April 9:   Writing due:Assignment 2


Mon April 14:   Return Assignment 2

Assignment 3: Read model theses (Eberle and Brenerman)

  Assignment 4: Write full introduction due 4:30pm April 21


Mon April 21:      Writing due: Assignment 4

   Assignment 5: Write full background chapter(s), due 4:30 pm April 28


Mon April 28:      Writing due: Assignment 5

Assignment 6 (optional): Write abstract, 200-350 words, due 11:59pm April 30


Wed April 30:      Writing due: Assignment 6

    Return Assignment 4


Mon May 5:        Return Assignment 6

Assignment 7: Write ½ of results, due 4:30pm May 12


Wed May 7:        Return Assignment 5


Mon May 12:      Writing due: Assignment 7

Assignment 8: Write other half of results, due 4:30pm May 19


Wed May 15:      Return Assignment 7


Mon May 19:      Writing due: Assignment 8

Assignment 9: Conclusion and future work, due 4:30pm May 28


Mon May 26:     No class, campus holiday


Wed May 28:     Writing due: Assignment 9

Return Assignment 8


Mon June 2:   Return Assignment 9

Final revisions and formatting (Appendices with methods, List of abbreviations, list of tables and figures)


Friday June 6:Full thesis due, revised and formatted, 5pm




You will be evaluated on participation; attention to detail and deadlines; the quality of your writing; and your improvement throughout the course. That includes attempting to apply writing techniques to early drafts as well as using them during revisions. As you revise your work, it’s important to make changes throughout your writing, not just where the suggestions are made.


Plagiarism will be considered cheating, and may be grounds for failing the course. Appropriate citation methods will be discussed during the course.


Instructors and Assistants