Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Rachel Newman ’16

Paramus, New Jersey • Psychology View Profile

The Most Exciting Moment of My Thesis

Python coding and me

I feel weirdly confident in writing that I think one of the most exciting moments of my entire senior thesis happened a few weeks ago.  (Yes, I know that the most exciting moment should be reserved for April, when I hand it in, but still...) 

Since the beginning of the summer, I have been learning to code in Python to design my project (for those as computer science illiterate as I once was, Python is this). As someone with zero formal training in computer science, this has been a big job for me.  I've been relying heavily on a few lovely and wonderful grad students and lab managers -- and even on my own adviser -- to pretty much walk me through every step of the way ... until the other night when I did something completely by myself. 

It was crazy and mind-blowing and I'm still not 100% sure it happened.  I looked up how to change the code on my own and made the change without asking anyone's opinion. 

In reality, the change I made to the code was pretty minor.  But it didn't matter.  This one moment of taking a task in computer world completely into my own hands has been game-changing. I always tell people who help me code (and there are and have been many) that it's not the content that confuses me, it's that I'm nervous.  So until this point, the main obstacle has been convincing myself that I can code without other people's guidance.

I'm not about to tell you that I am now totally comfortable coding.  That would just be me lying to you, which is not the point of this blog.  What I can say, though, is that this experience has taught me to trust my gut and experiment on my own.  Yes, people have been telling me to do that that since I started.  But, as many of you who have tried new things before may know, "have you tried not being nervous about it?"  is way easier said than done.

Well, I finally did, and so far, so good.