Friday, June 29, 2007

Teh Tehsis: Post #1 of a zillion...

A couple of days ago I had a huge, long, fantastic meeting with Dr. SuperWoman, my main research adviser here at Hot State University. We've been saying for a while that we should really talk about my thesis, and haven't gotten around to it (we've been trying to get a paper out the door all week, and I've just started a new and hairy method of analysis that's involved lots of help and discussion). Finally, at that last meeting, she said, "Well, we could talk about it now", and *boom*, we were off.

To my astonishment, I thought for about five seconds only to realize that I'm *ALWAYS* thinking about this. I have a couple of sub-disciplines in Useless Science that fascinate me, and since I have a rather unique research history I'm very anxious to combine the two disciplines to answer some very popular and hotly-debated questions. I've already done a relatively large amount of work in both fields, and I know that the question I'd like my thesis to answer will be a big deal, and of great interest to lots of people. I've had this idea for a while, and it pretty much evolves with every passing day as I think about it little by little. And it's not changing - it's just becoming more detailed and thought-out

By the end of that meeting I had described a semi-detailed plan that she loved, we had talked about the sort of proposals and field work I'd need, we had even pieced together potential future committee members and set a timeline for when I should plan on giving my "proposal defense", as we call it. I was bouncing on my bike seat the whole way home, squeeing with excitement, and buzzing all over my apartment. Even when I managed to settle down and get a little work done, I was ridiculously pumped. No way drugs can do this. When I tried to go to sleep, I got back up and banged out the outline that was zooming around my head before falling asleep. I cannot WAIT to get this up and rolling - yeeeeeeeeeeeeee...

Now, I'm planning to propose my thesis sometime early next year - that gives me plenty of time to piece together a really thorough and detailed proposal, do background research, and begin planning what my realistic goals are for the project. This puts me about a year and a half ahead of the standard grad student timeline in my Department. Looking ahead, it seems that I'll be finishing sometime in the four-to-five year range.

O readers, tell me: what will I do wrong?

There's no WAY I'm the first Ph.D. student to think "I already have an idea! I'll finish in four years!", nor will I be the last. I am not particularly smart. I am hardworking and motivated, but so is almost everyone who goes to grad school - that's nothing special. I've lucked out so far with extremely supportive advisers and projects that I love and am passionate about. Given the long-distance situation with TB and my general eagerness to get to a more solid and flexible place in life, I've definitely got plenty of reasons to push toward finishing early. Right now, I see no reason why I can't, barring some unforeseen tragic event. But I don't have that much faith. I'm not special. Why should I expect to do what so many people, who are probably smarter and harder-working and better scientists than I, don't?

Tell me: what's going to derail me? Will I have the committee from hell? Will my field work fall on its face? Will I get SCOOPED? (this is another reason why I'm in such a rush - this is an exciting question, I've never heard anyone ask it before, I want to be the one to answer, and there's no WAY that nobody else has noticed how interesting this subject is). Will I break up with TB and fall into a long bitter depression that strands me here for seven years? Anybody? I figure if I know what might happen - if I know what the typical roadblocks are - it might give me at least a little extra time to prepare for and accomodate them.

Help! Things are going too well! Something is going to break any moment now! (how sad is that? Even when grad students are happy, they're stressed about being happy).


DancingFish said...

That is really, super fantastic! Congrats!! I am also on the 4-5 year track and haven't had anything go TOO wrong yet. Analyses and writing are the two giant obstabcles I am wary of. I hope things continue to go well for you!

Jenny F. Scientist said...

Elli- it's great to have a plan! There's definitely no reason you CAN'T finish in five years. But things do go wrong. Nobody (almost nobody- nobody I know) ends up doing exactly what their first plan is. The answer is no to question 2. Someone publishes something that makes you realize your hypothesis is wrong. Whatever. This isn't to discourage! You have a plan, you'll keep revising the plan as needed, and you'll keep working on it!

I think: you won't necessarily do ANYTHING wrong! It's just that a thesis is kind of something you figure out as you go. Otherwise we'd all publish in Year 3 in the Journal of Results We Wish We Had Gotten. :)

Good luck!

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