Thoughts on Theses: Grant Geddie
Issue   |   Tue, 11/29/2016 - 23:55

Grant Geddie is an architecture and environmental studies major. His thesis analyzes the urban planning and development of Indian cities in comparison with London in the 19th century, looking specifically at how water infrastructure and water resource planning have evolved.

Q: What’s your major? Can you describe your thesis?
A: I’m majoring in architectural studies and environmental studies, and my thesis is bringing those two together in urban planning. [It’s about] the development of the Indian city, particularly Mumbai, New Delhi, and the state of Bihar. [I’m] comparing that to the 1800s in England and how water infrastructure has developed … and how we can look at climate change and urbanization to better plan and develop water resources.

Q: What have you found so far?
A: I’ve found that the main issues revolve around water scarcity, water control and water pollution, and all of those three things have an intimate relationship. So for instance, if climate change affects the monsoon season and there’s more rain but fewer rainy days … you would think that because there’s more rain, there’s more water recharge in aquifers. But instead, the ground becomes impermeable and you get these large rainfall events and ... massive, massive floods along with droughts [and] no water recharge — and in that you get pollution. A lot of that affects the poorer regions in India. I lived in India this summer and got to see so many people who were affected by issues of water pollution [and] water scarcity — water disaster, basically.
I’ve been interested in writing this thesis since I was a sophomore in high school … it’s something I’m passionate about, and something really, I think, important to learn about. And even more so, [it’s] just something that I want to do for the rest of my life, so if I can’t write a paper about it, I probably shouldn’t do this [for] the rest of my life.

Q: How did you get interested in this topic?
A: When I was talking to my grandpa, I basically looked at him and … was like, “What would you do with your life if you could do it over again?” And he answered me very seriously and was like, “I would go back and solve water crises [and] do water resource management, because today … wars are going to be fought over it, millions of people are going to die and it’s going to be a world issue in your generation.” And I was like, “Oh my God, that’s huge.” But it also really did incite a passion in my heart to start to learn about it.
I’ve always been interested in helping others. It started out as just as a means to kind of use my life to give people what I’ve always had and that they needed, but since coming to Amherst … I’ve become really engaged in Amherst Christian Fellowship, religion and Christianity particularly, so I more and more saw it as a means to share my faith, especially with those who are unreached … it’s a means to both bring water but also to share faith and to bring hope and peace to some of these regions. I got to see some of them in India, and it just broke my heart because the government doesn’t have the resources nor the drive to get involved, so a cholera outbreak will happen and people will just die.

Q: Who is your advisor, and how have they been involved in the process?
A: My advisor[s] [are] Anna Martini and Heidi Gilpin. Anna Martini is my primary advisor just because she’s a hydrogeology professor and she’s basically the water lady at Amherst. She’s dynamite. She knows everything about water there is to know, and is just … so kind and helpful with her time.
[Gilpin] provides guidance, because it technically is an architecture program thesis. She provides me with a lot of structural guidance and planning, time-management stuff. She has to keep me on track.

Q: What type of research do you do?
A: Primarily, a lot of my research was in India this summer. I was there for nine weeks and got to live in New Delhi, travel all over the place, see Calcutta and got to work with the people and design buildings and stuff like that. I gained a lot of information [and] connections there. Outside of that, it’s just been a lot of reading.

Q: What’s the best and worst part about writing a thesis?
A: The worst part is just the stress. I think I’m probably the least stressed person ever, and it’s still, “I don’t know how to do this,” or “I’m a little behind.” Just general stress about writing, because it’s just so much.
I think there’s two best parts. I think that the sense of accomplishment of finishing such a significant piece of work that you’ve put so much time into is always … fun, kind of exciting. And then, secondly, I think that the fact that it really does matter … we do so much work at Amherst that doesn’t necessarily seem applicable — or if it seems applicable, it doesn’t seem like we’re having any effect on the world. But with a thesis, you get an opportunity to impact either the field [of study] or lives, and I think that’s cool. It’s kind of the point, you know?

Q: Is there any advice you would give to students thinking of doing a thesis?
A: Always just choose something you’re very passionate about … don’t work on it purely intellectually. Have a purpose and have a reason, and get fired up. Then, I’d say, be strategic. Understand that it’s going to take a while … do it because it’s going to have an impact. Don’t do it for yourself.

Q: Is this topic something you see yourself pursuing after graduating from Amherst?
A: I was really interested in urban planning and urban development, especially in South Asia or Southeast Asia. My brother lives in Vietnam, so I’ve spent time in Ho Chi Minh City, and doing something there would be really cool. But recently, especially with working with Martini, I’ve been thinking a lot more about doing hydrogeology ... particularly, I want to do water resource management, which means, basically, go to a village in India that’s having a cholera outbreak, tell the government [and] get funding from the government to go assess the situation … take care of that in whatever way it needs, and then provide water source diversity so that you have a sustainable water source for the village.
I’ve just gotten to travel a lot … [it’s] built a [desire] to just go to where governments [and] policy, don’t reach — where usually, it’s particularly hopeless, whether for a lack of water, food or just general infrastructure … don’t just go for a week, go for years. Live there, be with them, give them everything, give them all of yourself [and] invest all of yourself. Even if that doesn’t make any money — and it won’t — [tell] them about the most hopeful thing in the universe.
I’m excited about that. It’s a lot to get there though — it’s kind of scary. I have a lot of debt coming out of college, and going into a field that doesn’t make any money is tougher … I think it’s good that way. If it’s not hard [and] doesn’t take sacrifices, it’s probably not worth doing.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 11/30/2016 - 14:04

This dude is so legit. I would be his friend.