Senior Thesis

A thesis is a more ambitious undertaking than a project. A project that meets the honors modeling requirement (either through Applied Mathematics 115, 91r, or through other means) can be extended to a thesis with about one semester of work.  See the above section on English Honors for details on how to satisfy the honors modeling requirement.  Obviously the more time that is spent on the thesis the more substantial the outcome, but students are encouraged to write a thesis in whatever time they have. It is an invaluable academic experience.

The thesis should make substantive use of mathematical, statistical or computational modeling, though the level of sophistication will vary as appropriate to the particular problem context. It is expected that conscientious attention will be paid to the explanatory power of mathematical modeling of the phenomena under study, going beyond data analysis to elucidate questions of mechanism and causation rather than mere correlation. Models should be designed to yield both understanding and testable predictions. A thesis with a suitable modeling component will automatically satisfy the English honors modeling requirement; however a thesis won't satisfy modeling Breadth section (v) unless the student also takes Applied Mathematics 91r.

To write a thesis, student's typically enroll in Applied Mathematics 91r or 99r or both during their senior year.  Applied Mathematics 99r is graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.  Usually concentrators will have completed their programs of study before beginning a thesis; but in those situations where this is necessary, students may take Applied Mathematics 91r for letter-graded credit, for inclusion in Breadth section (v) of the plan of study, with the thesis serving as the substantial paper on which the letter grade is based.

Students specializing in mathematical economics may substitute one of the Economics 985 thesis seminars for Applied Mathematics 99r. These seminars are full courses for letter-graded credit which involve additional activities beyond preparation of a thesis. They are open to Applied Mathematics concentrators with suitable background and interests.

Students wishing to enroll in Applied Mathematics 99r or 91r should bring the application available from the Office of Academic Programs (Pierce 110), signed by the thesis supervisor, to the Directors, Associate Director, or Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, who will sign the student’s study card.

Thesis Timeline

Early September:

Students often find a thesis supervisor at this time, and work with their supervisor to identify a thesis problem.  Students may enroll in Econ 985 (strongly recommended when relevant), AM 91r, or AM 99r to block out space in their schedule for the thesis.

Early December:

All fourth year concentrators are contacted by the Office of Academic Programs.  Those planning to submit a senior thesis are requested to supply certain information.  This is the first formal interaction with the concentration about the thesis.

Mid-January:

A tentative thesis title approved by the thesis supervisor is required by the concentration.

Early February:

The student should provide the name and contact information for a recommended second reader, together with assurance that this individual has agreed to serve. Thesis readers are expected to be teaching faculty members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or SEAS.  Exceptions to this requirement must be first approved by the Directors, Associate Director, or Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies.  For students writing theses in mathematical economics, the second reader will be chosen by the Economics Department.

March 29:

Thesis due at 4 pm. Electronic copies in PDF format should be delivered by the student to the two readers and to am-submit@seas.harvard.edu (which will forward to the Directors of Undergraduate Studies, Associate and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies) on or before that date. An electronic copy should also be submitted via the SEAS online submission tool on or before that date. SEAS will keep this electronic copy as a non-circulating backup and will use it to print a physical copy of the thesis to be deposited in the Harvard University Archives. During this online submission process, the student will also have the option to make the electronic copy publicly available via DASH, Harvard’s open-access repository for scholarly work.

Contemporaneously, the two readers will receive a rating sheet to be returned to the Office of Academic Programs before the beginning of the Reading Period, together with their copy of the thesis and any remarks to be transmitted to the student.

Late May:

The student may pick up the readers' comments from the Office of Academic Programs in late May, after the degree meeting to decide honors recommendations.

Thesis Readers

The thesis is evaluated by two readers, whose roles are further delineated below.  The first reader is the thesis adviser.  The second and reader is recommended by the student and adviser, who should secure the agreement of the individual concerned to serve in this capacity.  The reader must be approved by the Directors, Associate Director, or Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies.  The second reader is normally are teaching members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, but other faculty members or comparable professionals will usually be approved, after being apprised of the responsibilities they are assuming.   For theses in mathematical economics, the choice of the second reader is made in cooperation with the Economics department.  The student and thesis adviser will be notified of the designated second reader by mid-March.

The roles of the thesis adviser and of the outside reader are somewhat different.  Ideally, the adviser is a collaborator and the outside reader is an informed critics.  It is customary for the adviser's report to comment not only on the document itself but also on the background and context of the entire effort, elucidating the overall accomplishments of the student.  The supervisor may choose to comment on a draft of the thesis before the final document is submitted, time permitting.  The outside reader is being asked to evaluate the thesis actually produced, as a prospective scientific contribution — both as to content and presentation.  The reader may choose to discuss their evaluation with the student, after the fact, should that prove to be mutually convenient.

Format

The thesis should contain an informative abstract separate from the body of the thesis.  At the degree meeting, the Committee on Undergraduate Studies in Applied Mathematics will review the thesis, the reports from the two readers and the student’s academic record. The readers (and student) are told to assume that the Committee consists of technical professionals who are not necessarily conversant with the subject matter of the thesis so their reports should reflect this audience.

The length of the thesis should be as long as it needs to be to make the arguments made, but no longer!

Thesis Examples (for download)

The most recent thesis examples across all of SEAS can be found on the Harvard DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) repository

Gilcrhist_Thesis
Xu_thesis
Chin-Lee_Thesis
Lei_Thesis
ZhangC_Thesis
Buckley Thesis

Note: Additional samples of old theses can be found in McKay Library.  Theses awarded Hoopes' Prizes can be found in Lamont Library.

Recent thesis titles

Author Title
Siddhant Agrawal Does Integration of Bricks with Clicks Affect Online-Offline Price Dispersion?
Marianne Aguilar Predicting Mood in College Students: Developing a Predictive Model from Multivariate Time Series
James Almgren-Bell An Agent-Based Numerical Approach to Lenski’s Long Term Experiment
Dennis Bao The Price Isn't Right: The Effect of Passive Ownership on Stock Price Informativeness
Jacob Bindman Surveying Harvard Dining: An Architectural and Mathematical Assessment of
University Dining Services and Spaces
Matthew Bouchard Information and Market Efficiency: Evidence from the Major League Baseball Betting Market
Jacqueline Chea Investigating the Causal Effects of Climate Change on Lyme Disease Incidence
Jiafeng Chen Causal Inference in Matching Markets
Eryk Dobrushkin A Game Theoretic Approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Christopher Fenaroli The Closed-End Fund Puzzle: New Evidence from Business Development Companies
Kabir Gandhi Applied Linear Algebra and Big Data Course Book
Michael Giles The 'Taxi Driver' Process and Passive Mobile Sensing on Networks
Brooke Istvan From a Hashtag to a Movement: Modeling Conversation Around #MeToo on Twitter
Katrina Kraus License to Exclude: The Concentrated Costs of Occupational Licensing
Joshua Kuppersmith Geographic Clustering for Neighborhood Boundaries:
A Spatial Analysis of Chicago using Public Data
Matthew Leifer Don't Hate the Players, Hate the Game: Designing a Provably Trustworthy
Stock Market in the Age of High-Frequency Trading
Lars Lorch Constrained Bayesian Neural Networks
Manuel Medrano Toward a Khipu Transcription “Insistence”: A Corpus-Based Study of the Textos Andinos
Amil Merchant Fairness in Machine Learning
Methods for Correcting Black-Box Algorithms
Lia Mondavi A Fork's Impact: The Reach of Mission-Driven Fine Dining
Anant Pai A Quantitative Analysis of Reproductive Rights and Right to Life
Advocacy Organization Mission Statements
McKenzie Parks Learning Strategies for Bidding in Online Advertisement Auctions with Noisy Feedback
Christina Qiu Administrative Assistance and the Labor Integration of Migrant Roma
Informal Settlement Residents: Results from the MOUS Program in Grenoble
Leah Rosen Genome-Wide Analysis of NET-seq Data to Understand RNA Polymerase II Behaviour
Around Transcription Factor Binding Sites
Dustin Swonder Effects of Job Displacement on Prescription Opiate Demand:
Evidence from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey
Serena Tchorbajian Determinants of Volatility: Calling it Quits on the VIX
Elias Tuomaala The Bayesian Synthetic Control: A Probabilistic Framework for Counterfactual Estimation
in the Social Sciences
Varun Varshney Growing Pains
The Effect of Hospital Market Consolidation on Health Care Quality and Wages
Katherine Wang Subsidized Contraception and Teen Fertility: The Effects of Medicaid Family
Planning Program Eligibility Expansions on the Teen Birth Rate
and 12th Grade Dropout Rate
Tomislav Žabčić-Matić One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
A Machine Learning-Powered Options Trading Strategy
Dario Zarrabian Tip Nudging: A 3-Part Experimental Analysis of Influencing Tips
through Technological Default Menus
FeiYang Zhu Real-Time Scheduling for a Variable-Route Bus System

 

Author Title
Jerry Anunrojwong Designing Prediction Markets with Informational Substitutes
Tallulah Axinn An Electronic Health Record Interface for Clinical Use in Inpatient Settings
Nan Chen Labour-market Impacts of Industrial Robots: Evidence from US occupations
Katherine Cohen HIV Dynamics: Predicting Treatment Efficacy and Rebound
Neil Davey The Impact of Medicaid Expansion on the Quality of Care in the United States
Jake Gober Gaming the Blockchain: How Subversive Mining Strategies Can be Profitable
Alexander Goldberg Differentially Private Inference over Exponential Random Graph Models
Lydia Goldberg A Comparison of Sketch-Based Cardinality Estimation Algorithms
Jack Heavey Weighting the Dice: A demographic based look at slot machine profits.
Benjamin Li Automation-Driven Job Displacement and Subsequent Employment Outcomes: Individual-Level Evidence
Alexander Munoz Markov-based model of cervicovaginal bacterial dynamics predicts community equilibrium states in young South African women
Akash Nandi Money Illusion and Attitudes Toward Trade
Samuel Plank Tweeting and Dialing: Quantifying Influence in Online and Offline Protest
Katherine Playfair What is the role of social value on complex decision-making tasks?
Katherine Scott Pointing Isn't Always Rude: Using Pointer Networks to Improve Word Prediction in a Language Model
Mirai Shah Mumps at Harvard: Modeling the Spread of Disease on College Campuses
Paul Stainier Adaptation in Corn Production Sensitivity to Extreme Weather Events: the Effect of Weather Calculation Procedures
Isabel Steinhaus Testing for Racial Discrimination in Mortgage Lending via Mortgage Default Equations
Aron Szanto Defuse the News: Predicting Information Veracity and Bias in Social Networks via Content-Blind Learning
Shahd Tagelsir Fertilizer Supply Chain in Ethiopia
Johnny Tang Wrong Turns and Right Tails: Identifying Fraudulent Detours in New York City Taxi Rides
Haruka Uchida I'm Not Sexist, I Just Prefer My Companies to Be: An Experiment in Discrimination by Customers
Raj Vatsa Estimating the Causal Effect of Chloroquine Treatment on Mortality in Malaria Patients Using Marginal Structural Models
Kevin Xie Urbanization and Social Networks: Evidence from a Development Context
Kelsey Young The Role of Merit-Based Scholarships on Economic Mobility in the United States
Christine Zhang Smarter Prescriptions: Personalized Radiation Treatment Using Self-biomarkers
Hellary Zhang Does Network Influence in Global Value Chains Lead to Innovation?