Seniors create undergrad thesis database

by Rebekah Rombom | 10/12/05 5:00am

Jeff Iacono '05 did not write a thesis his senior year because he thought the process would be time- consuming and boring. But his roommate, Peter Noteboom '05, was inspired by impressive undergraduate research at the College when he took an economics seminar last winter.

"I was so impressed by the other kids in the class," Noteboom said, "and just surprised, basically, that no one was ever going to find out about their research."

Now, Iacono and Noteboom are both engaged in developing an online database that will allow students to easily access their peers' work.

The two alumni, along with Patrick Cantwell '04, created this summer to enable undergraduates and others to access the theses that usually end up collecting dust at Rauner and other campus libraries.

"When I first thought of the idea, I thought, someone must have done this before," Noteboom said. "I was shocked to find that no one had really done it. I think it would have been a big help."

The site, which now boasts about 350 members and 100 theses, is available to students at 109 colleges and universities nationwide. Cantwell, who is currently doing graduate work in London, said he hopes to extend membership to other continents in the near future.

The site enables members to download other members' theses free of charge. Members can interact directly with each other and with the authors of the theses through a messaging system built into the site's framework.

Iacono, Noteboom and Cantwell have been developing and running the site during their free time and paying the expenses out-of-pocket. Noteboom estimates that he has spent over 600 hours on the site.

"I've sent over 2,000 e-mails, probably," he said. "It's a major project."

While the organization is still small enough that the three men can run it themselves, they hope the site will continue to grow and anticipate more significant overhead costs in the future.

"After we get 10,000 theses on here, or however big it gets, the cost of maintaining the site will be out of our control," Noteboom said. "We're hoping that colleges will pitch in and help us pay for it."

Cantwell has already been in contact with Dartmouth librarians, who have agreed to post a link to UGResearch on library's website.

The majority of theses that are currently on the site are in government and economics, a fact that may be the result of a disproportionate amount of theses from Dartmouth, Noteboom said.

The other papers come from Amherst College, Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While students from only five schools have contributed theses thus far, the site's creators are hopeful that it will eventually become an important tool for academic research.

The ultimate goal, Cantwell said, is that the site will "be a central guiding point for all the undergraduate research that's done in the world."

Iacono agreed. Since he has been working on the project, his preconceptions about undergraduate research were incorrect.

"It would have been very useful for me when I was deciding whether to write [a thesis] or not," Iacono said. "I really had nothing to go on."

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