Developing a Plan for ICU's Senior Thesis through Study Abroad in the STEM Field
Deepening My Knowledge of Biology
I had never thought of becoming an exchange student until midway into my second year. I, who was hesitant about studying abroad, came to be interested in the exchange program in order to deepen my knowledge of biology. After studying biology at ICU for one year, I increasingly developed a desire to study the subject in a more challenging environment. In such a stage, I came to learn about the program at the College of Wooster that was to start in the winter term of the third year. This program offered a course to help me in developing a plan for my senior thesis. I was especially attracted to this opportunity of learning in a series of classes on how to plan a research project in a systematic way. That was how I decided to study at Wooster.
Developing a Plan for ICU's Senior Thesis
The College of Wooster is a liberal arts college in Ohio, U.S. and is known for its superior Independent Study (IS: senior thesis) program offered for the 4th year students. The Wooster exchange program is for STEM-major students and the Junior Independent Study (Junior IS) course is incorporated to help students to write a proposal for a senior thesis. In the Junior IS course, I developed a plan for ICU's senior thesis in one term (equivalent of about two terms at ICU). A research proposal consists of sections for introduction, purpose, and specific experimental methods to be employed in the research. In the Junior IS course, we were taught how to read papers, how to use annotations, and how to put together the key points of the papers we had read and how to associate those papers to our research theme as well as other papers we had read before. We also learned about citation with specific examples, including the effective description for citation and easy-to-read summarization.
At the same time, during a class, we read research proposals our seniors at Wooster had written and were given an opportunity to think and discuss in a group how we should specifically write an introduction and the section describing the methods of experiments. After learning the background of our own research theme at a certain degree, we clarified our own research purposes and planned experimental methods that fit the purpose in much greater detail. For each purpose, I researched, gave consideration to, and put together the method to be employed for my experiments, expected outcome from the experiments, probable issues, alternative methods, the budget for such methods, and scheduling. At this stage, I was able to clarify what I was going to do in my senior thesis and could see the end in sight. The research plan I had written went through repeated peer reviews, after which I rewrote my plan. Then, at the last class of the term, I made a presentation on my research plan.
Outcomes of Study Abroad
There are several reasons why I thought it was great that I was able to take the Junior IS course at Wooster before beginning my senior research project at ICU. First, I took a considerable time to read papers in related subjects and was able to acquire additional knowledge on my senior research theme. Second, I could learn how to develop a research plan in a systematic way. During the class, I was offered considerable time to think about the background, purpose, experimental methods, and expected outcome of my research, while referencing papers written by seniors students and receiving advice from my classmates and professors. Through this process, I was able to not only capture the image of my year-long senior thesis but also learn how to proceed with my research.
At the College of Wooster, I took two courses other than Junior IS that I thought would be helpful to my senior thesis. Another factor that drove me to study as an exchange student was my desire to study in a more challenging environment. I was glad that I did, as the other courses also satisfied my objective. Those courses demanded deep knowledge and, to add to the degree of difficulty, I needed to learn in an English speaking environment. It was much harder than I had expected, and I particularly felt uncomfortable in making presentations in English. However, having gone through this experience at Wooster, I feel much more comfortable now.
I was hesitant to study overseas, but now I am glad that I participated in the Wooster exchange program. I was able to spend a good amount of time to construct the plan for my senior thesis while further studying areas of interest.