Sarah Hardy

Assessing the circulation of phosphorus at Sullivan Park constructed wetland in Easton, PA
by Sarah Hardy
Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2014
Thesis Advisor: Professor Art Kney

 Q: When and how did you select your thesis advisor and committee members?

 A: Dr. Kney is my official advisor. Dr. Brandes and Rothenberger are also on my committee, and I work very closely with all of them. I chose Dr. Kney for his experience with environmental engineering research, Dr. Brandes because he helped construct the wetland I am studying and for his hydrology/hydraulics experience, and Dr. Rothenberger for her understanding of ecologic systems.

 Q: When did you start thinking about your thesis?

 A: My junior year during Hassaan Khan’s final thesis talk on the wetland I am now studying. I had intended on doing a thesis on a different subject, but Dr. Kney and Dr. Brandes asked if I wanted to switch topics and continue Hassaan’s work.

 Q: How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?

 A: Defining the scope of the project was the first and most difficult step. When I returned to campus in the fall, the wetland was in the peak of its growing season, so there was not much time to make decisions about what to sample. I knew many of the laboratory methods and background literature from my research junior year, so I did not have to devote as much time to those in the beginning.

 Q: Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?

 A: I learned about the structure mostly from Hassaan Khan, who was doing a thesis at the time.

 Q: Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?

 A: I had done a few literature reviews for previous research projects, and Hassaan Khan had already collected a lot of background literature for the project as well during his thesis. This spring semester I have been spending a lot more time looking in the literature, as I am interpreting my results.

 Q: Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?

 A: Yes. I had worked previously with Kylie Bailin, and she has continued to be very helpful in finding articles and key words.

 Q: What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?

 A: Finding a balance between energy spent collecting data and interpreting it; mediating the diverse backgrounds and approaches of my committee members; unforeseen problems like malfunctioning equipment, etc.

 Q: What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?

 A: Uncovering increasingly complex interactions between components in the wetland that will lead to future student projects.

 Q: What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?

 A: My committee and I met biweekly.

 Q: Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?

 A: Yes; I met with and corresponded with Kylie Bailin in the fall when I hit a roadblock in finding relevant articles.

 Q: What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (IT, parents, friends, etc.)?

 A: Advice from my committee; two students, Alexa Gatti and Zack Benedetto, helped me with the field work; Tom DeFazio helped with the lab work; and Hassaan Khan for his previous work on the wetland.

 Q: Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?

 A: Mostly, yes.

 Q: Would you do anything differently if you went through the process again?

 A: It would have been great to sort out the scope of the project before the fall semester started.

 Q: What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?

 A: For field work, make a sampling checklist of all the supplies needed. If you do lab work, keep an eye on supplies running low, and remember it can take a while to get shipments.