My Summer Thesis Research Journey

Category Student Voices

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Nadya, HFAI coordinator
Nadya Nfaoui Class of '22
Authored on July 22, 2021

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In the year and some of chaos that has defined our lives, thinking about summer opportunities felt like an impossibility at the end of my junior spring.

I was burned out and ready for a much overdue break. I knew that I wanted to engage in something that would inform my senior year in a meaningful way, but I was lost as to what to pursue. After weeks of sifting through internships postings, the idea came to me in the form of an email from the History of Science Department- my senior thesis. The thesising process can be long and stressful, but what better way to get a head start on the work than by dedicating my summer to the project. I had already been considering my thesis topic for several months, but I was still unsure about how to approach getting started. As a first step, I started looking at potential avenues of having my research funded. I was surprised to learn that I could have my independent research project funded as a full-time project, something that I had never considered as an option. Not only has this project given me the chance to push myself academically, but it has also given me the chance to grow professionally through the curation, management, and execution of my own project.

Summer Research Photo

These research materials and I have been attached all summer.

My thesis focuses on colonial psychiatry in Morocco during the French occupation and its effects on the classification and treatment of mental illnesses. Furthermore, I plan to focus on how traditional and Western methods of understanding insanity and mental illness overlapped, clashed, and evolved over the course of the protectorate and into the modern-day. As a Moroccan myself, this topic is extremely close to my heart and has given me the opportunity to connect with my country’s history in a way that I have never been able to before. The research has been equal parts fulfilling and challenging. Virtual research has been an entirely new experience for me, one that has pushed me to adopt new strategies for learning. Accessing archives, finding relevant and accessible books, and creating a meaningful relationship with my research adviser are just a few spaces where adjusting to the virtual space has been difficult. On the other hand, I have also been granted an unexpected blessing throughout this time. I have been able to stay close to my family at home, who all have treasure troves of lived experiences that have helped me narrow and guide the project just through having conversations with them. 

My still ongoing journey with research has been a long and confusing one, but it has also been equal parts fulfilling and enlightening. Throughout this summer, I have gained newfound insight into myself as a person, student, and researcher. I have become more flexible and open to new avenues in my research while also recognizing the importance of the support and feedback of my family and friends throughout this project. I am excited to see where the rest of this summer takes me!


 

Nadya Nfaoui Class of '22

Hi! My name is Nadya Nfaoui and I am a Junior concentrating in the History of Science on the Mind Brain and Behavior Track with a citation in Spanish, living (usually) in Mather House.

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Nadya, HFAI coordinator