Part 1: The Beginning 

The Honors Thesis is the culmination of your Honors classes and research work at UMass. Typically completed in your senior year, the thesis can be completed as an Individually Contracted Thesis (research manuscript or creative portfolio) or through a Thesis Seminar.

This series will track two senior Honors students as they go through their thesis journey. George Olisedeme-Akpu, a senior mechanical engineering major, is doing his thesis as a research manuscript on driver assistance systems.

Read on to learn more about the start of George’s thesis and the work he is doing now!

What is your Honors Thesis about? How did you come across this topic?

My thesis topic is "The Impact of Driver Assistance Systems on Teen Driver Behavior". I came across this topic while working on the Teen Drive research project at the Human Performance Laboratory and took a personal interest in it.

George sits in the driver's seat of a car, with a screen showing virtual reality at a University of Massachusetts lab

What is your research about for this topic?

My research basically tracks the behavioral changes in teen drivers as they use L2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems over four visits. During these visits, participants go in the driving simulator and go through various predetermined scenarios. They drive through these scenarios as they would normally, and then with varying levels of automation (where the car is able to maneuver some part of the course by itself) during each visit. During these visits, we assign them surveys before and after their driving session; these surveys collect data on the driver's adaptation to automation, driver acceptance, trust & distrust, and mental models. The survey data is then analyzed and visualized, and I will be writing my thesis on the trends I find through visualizing the data.

What was the Thesis Proposal process like? Do you have any tips for students?

The proposal process was very smooth. I made my first proposal as an assignment for my Honors Junior Writing class and worked with my Committee Chair to make changes before submitting it.

"I'd recommend starting the proposal process early and making sure that you and your Committee chair are on the same page before submitting.”

What does the start of your thesis look like so far? How are you planning out the rest of the process?

Photo of George Olisedeme-Akpu working on a computer

Right now, I am working on the data collection and analysis part of my projects. I am also currently studying similar journal articles and research papers, as I am now starting to draft my literature review. For the rest of the semester, I hope to complete my literature review and wrap up data analysis. So far, it's off to a good start. I'm excited to see where it goes from here.

Why did you choose this topic for your thesis?

I chose this topic out of personal interest; I have always been interested in the transportation industry and its effect on society. My project allows me to delve deeper into this topic, particularly as it relates to teen drivers.

How does it feel to start your thesis? 

“It feels almost surreal. It is something I've been thinking of since freshman year and it is a mix of being nervous and excited at the same time, but I'm learning to trust the process.”

This is the first installment of a three-part series. Stay tuned to learn more about George’s thesis journey!

Article posted in Academics for Prospective students and Current students