Ariel Nikas Weaves an Honors Thesis Outside Her Major

Every Honors student has the opportunity to write an Honors thesis before graduation. Most students choose to further explore a specific area within their major, but Honors senior Ariel Nikas is composing her thesis outside her major. Intrigued, we asked Ariel about her choice to explore another interest with her thesis. Here’s what she shared:

What is your major and why did you choose it?

I major in mathematics. I really enjoy the satisfaction that comes from solving problems or discovering connections through proofs. Mathematics, while at times frustrating, can be very rewarding. I’ve gotten the chance to work on a number of research projects in mathematics and it’s shown that with math, I can really do anything.

Can you tell us a little about your Honors thesis? What is it on and what does it entail?

My thesis, Women’s Work: Herstory Through Fiber Arts, focuses on cultural attitudes about women and their work, specifically in fiber and textile art. I’m researching, writing, making art, and putting on a show. I learned how to use a floor loom to weave. I learned to make natural dyes, and some of the materials have even been gathered on campus! I’m creating artwork showing the strength, power, and value of women, using techniques that have been disparaged as not “art” enough.

How did you become interested in your thesis topic?

As an art minor, I love creating and exploring new techniques. I took a fiber arts class and learned a lot, but there was so much more to know. I really appreciated all the hands-on aspects and tactility of fibers.

Stringing the heddles of the loom.
Stringing the heddles of the loom.

Why did you choose to do your thesis outside your major?

I chose to do my thesis outside my major to break out of the research I had been doing. So far, all my research had been focused around physiologically based pharmaco-kinetics. I needed a change.

What has been a challenge of doing your thesis outside your major? A benefit?

The challenge of doing research outside my major was gaining all the background.  While I might have all the basics in math, doing my thesis in art required a lot of additional research to get up to speed. However, the discourse is fascinating and it is always a benefit to learn and make new connections.

Later, do you think you might build further on this year’s thesis research?

I would love to continue weaving and I’m hoping to learn more about plants native to North Carolina, in order to keep my dyeing local and sustainable.

Thanks for sharing with us, Ariel! As college students, we have the opportunity to focus deeply on an area of interest to us when we choose our majors, but what are ways that you pursue interests outside of your major?


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