I first started my honors thesis journey during freshman year when I initially was introduced to research outside of my high school science classes. Throughout my life, I have always found that I have been a naturally curious person and I initially approached my first-year accounting professor, Rachel Gambol, about the possibility of conducting research. She introduced me to Dr. Robert Marley who has been my thesis committee chair throughout my entire thesis process. Before applying to the Oxford Abroad program, my thesis had begun evolving as my interests changed and research process was unfolding. Initially, I wanted to research the country of Myanmar’s reliance on cryptocurrency, but, due to the inaccessibility of reliable information on either the Myanmar’s finance and accounting records and cryptocurrency transaction volume in that region, we quickly reformed my thesis.
After arriving at Oxford and Christ Church College, we had the opportunity to solely focus on our research and my thesis advisor while being there, Nikita Aggarwal, was a fierce critic of what I had written so far. She helped me understand the nature of trust in the digital world and honed my thesis to its current state. Rather than looking specifically at cryptocurrency, I found that I was interested in the inherent promises of blockchain technology and to connect it to my career path interest of accounting, we decided that the audit route would be most relevant to me. My research at Oxford greatly impacted the way I think about education, research, and curiosity.
My biggest recommendation for anyone in the Honors Program is to apply for the Oxford Abroad Program. Throughout my four years at UT and the involvement that I have participated and led at UT, I would put my Oxford abroad experience as my favorite thing I’ve ever done in undergrad. No matter what your major is, you can connect a personal passion or interest to your major and that is the simple power of conducting research. You have total control over what you want to research and what you want your result to be.
Although I could talk forever about my Oxford experience, I think the most beneficial learning moment I had was just regaining perspective on the purpose of learning. Some classes that you may take at UT can be draining and it is difficult to find a balance with school and social life as a new college student. Although it may seem like a problem you are facing alone, every undergrad goes through the same struggle at some point in their time in college. Something that I found surprising at Oxford was that many students practice incredible balance with commitment to their education and social life. By committing all their energy into what they’re doing in the present, they also respect their personal life with friends and loved ones. Although this is one lesson that I didn’t realize I would learn when I started my honors thesis journey, I am forever grateful for it.
When I returned to campus in Fall 2020, the world had changed dramatically since I had left, and my future had as well. Rather than wanting to publish and continue my education, I decided over the initial quarantine that getting into the auditing field was a priority for me. After talking to my honors thesis committee, we decided to change the formatting of my thesis to be a review paper of available literature on the impact of blockchain on auditing. Although it includes all the information I would have included in a publishable paper, it lacks original data gathering, hypothesis, and other elements that many students consider to be in a typical scientific research paper.
As you think about your own research, be comfortable with change and don’t stress yourself out with keeping the same topic throughout your whole process. Research is meant for you to ask more questions which may coincidently change the entire direction of your thesis. Welcoming those changes will make your experience more interesting and allow you to grow as an individual. If you are interested in research and haven’t found a topic yet, I recommend having conversations with professors that you admire and if they conduct research, ask them about their experiences. Talking to passionate individuals can only aid in your process of opening your brain to asking questions you are personally interested in and inspire you. If I had not been involved in the Honors Program, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do an honors thesis or research in Oxford with the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. Reflecting today, it would have been detrimental to my experience at UT and individual growth. I want to send my biggest thanks and appreciation to Dr. Tillman, Dr. Cragun, Dr. Marley, Rachel Gambol, and Dr. Faifman for their support throughout my research journey.