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LOLmythesis: Succinct, Sardonic Summaries Of Academic Achievement

Saturday, January 4, 2014

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What happens when you cross thesis research-induced delirium, a sardonic sense of humor and Tumblr? LOLmythesis, a pithy collection of one-line summaries of academic theses. Angie Frankel, the creator of LOLmythesis, speaks with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about the funny, sometimes depressing submissions.



An academic thesis, at whatever level, is the culmination of months -at least -of thought and labor. Presumably, it's a grand statement of all the learning you've been doing, topped with an appropriately inscrutable, grandiose title. Maybe something like "Probing Early Galaxy Formation with Damped Lyman Alpha Absorbers." But what about a dark night in the lab when you're feeling a bit more cynical? Maybe then the title feels more like: that galaxy wasn't the one we were looking for, and after careful examination we can say that it doesn't have any other particularly interesting traits either. That's a real example from the website LOLmythesis. It's a collection of wry one-sentence real-talk summaries of theses. And with us now is Angie Frankel, she's a senior at Harvard, working on her own thesis, and the creator of LOLmythesis. Angie, thank you for being with us.

ANGIE FRANKEL: Thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: So, what is the story behind this website? Where'd you get the idea?

FRANKEL: Well, I was working on my own thesis, and it had become a common practice amongst friends to sum up our progress in a somewhat humorous way. So, I somewhat randomly decided one day that I should definitely collect these and publish them somewhere.

WERTHEIMER: Did you do a sort of a laugh out loud version of your own thesis?

FRANKEL: I did. Simply: I have killed so many fish.


WERTHEIMER: What is the real title?

FRANKEL: The real title: "Characterizing the Role of a Specific Gene in Second Hartfield(ph): A Closer Look at Feverfish and Brionac Cardiogenesis."

WERTHEIMER: Now, you've collected pages and pages of these summaries so far. Do you have any special favorites?

FRANKEL: I do. So, one I really enjoy is when a space rock goes in front of a star, you can't see the star again until the rock moves.

WERTHEIMER: What about - do you find any of them sort of sound sad and discouraging?

FRANKEL: Absolutely. There is one, let's see: It seems the results of this study are not statistically significant and that was statistics at Harvard.

WERTHEIMER: So, do you think that it's inevitable that somebody begins to take a kind of bleak view of their thesis? I mean, I suppose in any humorous recitation of the title does imply a certain, I don't know, despair.

FRANKEL: Yeah. I think that there is a common theme that, you know, a lot of these theses are so specific that I think, for me at least, you know, I've seen that that's kind of how academia works, where you look at, you know, highly specific research projects and that small contribution is a contribution nonetheless.

WERTHEIMER: Angie Frankel is a senior at Harvard College. Angie, thank you so much for spending time with us.

FRANKEL: Thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: And good luck with the dead fish.

FRANKEL: Thank you.


WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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