Starting a thesis in Wageningen
At the heart of every two-year master’s degree offered in Wageningen is the master’s thesis which starts in the second year. I started mine two months ago, in September. In this article, I will briefly take you through the important things to know before starting a thesis in Wageningen.
If you are new to Wageningen or are planning to start your masters here, then you should probably know that the academic departments in Wageningen offer a few compulsory courses to students in order to start a thesis with them. Once you join Wageningen, you will be assigned a study advisor. Take their help to find out more about the compulsory courses that you will have to take for the departments that interest you. I would suggest to do it as soon as you arrive here.
Most of the time, students end up taking these courses towards the end of their first year. So, you still will have lots of time in choosing the department where you wish to do your thesis. If these courses are not completed on time, it could potentially delay the start of your thesis within a department.
Finding a topic of interest
While this might also seem straight forward, it might often not be the case. A student can easily get lost in the many options that are available to him/her. Each department in Wageningen(for example Environmental Technology) has different chair groups that work on specific societal goals(like reusing water, recovering metals). I looked at the societal goal that appealed to the most and applied to that chair group. This might be a nice way to filter out topics, especially for confused brains. It is also good to talk to people(seniors, student peers, professors, PhDs ) who are studying or have studied similar topics before you to gain more insight into what topics are currently relevant to research on.
Each department also has a thesis coordinator that helps students find topics. Another way to look at the topics is by searching on the department website. Always look out for department thesis markets, where various topics are put in display and are often presented by the people working with them.
Try to start finding topics that interest you around four to six months in advance. For students that start their thesis in September, that is around March-April. There might be situations where more than one student might be interested in one particular topic, and in that case, students might have to compete with each other. So it is always better to start early, to get the topic that you like. Once you find out topics that interest you, find out how the application for the department of your interest works. The application for every department works very differently.
This is very important! Once you have completed your prerequisite courses and found a topic of interest, the next step is to find a supervisor who can supervise your thesis on the very same topic. Contact them at least three months prior to the start of your thesis (I did just before the summer vacations, starting my thesis on September).
Your supervisors are generally PhDs and their supervisors (professors) who are working on the same topic. You will have to sign a thesis contract before you start your thesis. This contract contains the starting date and finishing date of your thesis. It also the signatures of your supervisors and the study advisor assigned to you.
Tips from my Experience
In a thesis, you not only learn about your topic. You also about other important things like time and project management. If you can develop your scientific writing skills beforehand, it will be very helpful for you when you start a thesis. Learning how to use Microsoft Word properly can come in handy especially while writing your thesis proposal and final report. I have also attached a youtube link if you wish to learn a few tricks that can help you write reports in Word.
Stay tuned for more about a thesis in Wageningen in part 2 🙂