Monday, September 25, 2006

Work update

So, this blog was supposed to be about tracking my progress towards PhD. As even a quick glance of the index of the blog tells, I've been rambling about, blogging about this and that and even avoiding work-related stuff. It's time to change that.

So, where are we, now that the end of the final year is getting closer?

Not quite at the end. I promised to make sure I'd generate more text to my thesis than to my blog. That hasn't quite worked, as I realise there isn't much more text that I could call PhD thesis now, compared to when I started the blog. While, of course, there is a lot of stuff in the blog. Luckily this doesn't mean I haven't been working, and it doesn't mean I have skipped work to write this blog either. It just means I haven't reached the writing-up phase yet, not properly anyway.

I feel so much better about my work now than what I did a couple of months ago. I have now run enough experiments, so I don't need more data for my PhD. Remember when I was contemplating whether to learn to use the gear properly or just get on with the experiment? I actually ended up learning how to use it, as it was the only way to proceed, but needed the extra unit anyway, as it was somehow broken and couldn't stretch to doing what I needed it to. So, not either or, but both... :-)

The BIG conference in Bologna was a success and I'm pleased to report the follow-up has been interesting. I've got many emails from people, wanting to know more about my work, I've been emailing people I met there and whose work I've been interested in, and in general I feel much more confident about my work now than ever before. I think I have been putting off writing up, and I have been putting off writing those articles I need to churn out, partly because I haven't felt I have the "command of the field" that I need. Now I feel that I know what I'm talking about, and while there are still a lot of things that I need to clarify and learn more about, I know that my data is good, the methods of analysing the data are solid "industry standard", and that I have enough knowledge to interpret the data and discuss the implications of the results.

So, what's going to happen now? I'm currently looking at a couple of promising analysis methods, but they might be superfluous and not worth the trouble trying to apply now. Once I've checked them out (sounds much simpler than it is, as there's a lot of physics and maths involved, plus some new software etc.) I will write up the first article: I've decided to submit the new data as a "brief article" which means the referee process is much simpler and the paper should come out quicker than normal.

After that I will progress to reanalysing and writing up two other articles. These will form the core of my thesis data chapters. I know I will need to do a different write-up for the articles and for the thesis, the latter taking priority. So, if it seems like I'm running out of time, I'll just focus on the thesis and leave the articles for later. The fact is, I will need those articles to get a job afterwards, that's why I'm even thinking about them.

Hmm, there's a scary thought, a job. I haven't really given it much thought yet, but of course I should be applying for post-doctoral positions as we speak. Again, I will try to, but at the moment it seems that my head is not big enough to hold both thoughts at the same time, finishing the thesis and finding a new job.

In general, I'm approaching the cut-off-point. That is the point to which your thesis is up-to-date. The point up to which you know everything about your field, but after which you don't include any new stuff, no matter how relevant that might be. It's the point where you stop searching for new methods to analyse your data, stop adding to the theoretical background and stop honing your "approach". No more approaches, it's all about arrival.

(Pic: © Voodoo8Witch)

No comments: