It’s typical for graduate students who’ve labored away on their thesis projects for years to breathe a heavy sigh of relief when finally handing in their research.
But Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Morris Vanegas had a hard time letting his baby go.
After he spent countless hours poring through data and compiling information, bidding farewell to the thick stack of papers, bound in a brown cover and clamped shut with a large clip, felt a lot like parting ways with a significant other.
To commemorate the tempestuous relationship the 26-year-old had with his research, which addressed the very endearing topic of “characterizing the variability of wearables and sensors on the human body,” Vanegas took a series of romantic photographs with it.
“It was more like a farewell. We both knew the time was coming to an end, and eventually, we would have to separate,” he said in a telephone interview. “I guess, in relationship terms, it was like having a summer crush. It was good, but you knew there would be an ending, eventually.”
One photograph in the series of 13 shows Vanegas enjoying a milkshake with his thesis, a straw poking out from the papers, while lounging on the steps of an MIT building.
Another image features him laughing and sharing a beer with the thesis, which is titled, “Characterization of Inertial Measurement Unit Placement on the Human Body Upon Repeated Donnings,” while cozied up to the counter of a bar.
“Your sense of humor is just like mine,” Vanegas, who will receive his master’s degree in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, captioned the photo. “It’s like we were always on the same page. . . . And Friday afternoons grabbing a drink at the Muddy made all our conflicts disappear.”
The final image in the series shows Vanegas standing along the Charles River, gazing across at the Boston skyline, gripping a clip attached to the thesis as if he’s holding its hand.
“I have never been good at good-byes. So I’ll make it quick,” Vanegas wrote. “I hope to see your face again soon, in the references section of future works on space suits.”
Vanegas, who posted the romantic photo shoot to Imgur after turning in his project last week, said the idea started off as a joke with his mother. She had pestered him to be sure to hand in his project on deadline, so to stoke her anxiety, he repeatedly sent her images of himself goofing around with the thesis.
The picture series has been viewed nearly 50,000 times and garnered hundreds of comments, some of which poke fun at Vanegas's documentation of his love-hate relationship with an inanimate object.
Vanegas said the separation has been bittersweet, but he’s looking forward to his graduation ceremony in June.
“I have been working on it for years now, all to end up between two pieces of cardboard in a library somewhere. I expected a bigger celebration turning it in,” he said. “It’s warm heartache. It’s like, ‘It was a really good experience, thanks for that,’ and you let it fly [away].”