All 3 entries tagged Luke

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November 14, 2011

The thirteen month itch – by Luke

I realised today that I have less that thirteen months left of the official length of my PhD and not a huge amount to fill a thesis shaped hole with. After picking my shattered nerves up off the floor, I spoke to a variety of people; PhD students like me, PostDocs with their world weary wisdom, and some friends and family. Surprisingly three pieces of advice surfaced from every single conversation; be ruthless with your time and efforts, retain some semblance of a normal life and don’t worry it really will work out in the end.

The only one that I hadn’t heard before was the first of these and it struck a chord with me, in what way is it ok to be ‘ruthless’ with respect to a PhD? And before I knew it my mind had been made up, I needed to let go of all the things in my research that weren’t going to be useful for writing my thesis or passing my viva.

It’s often very hard to let an experiment, or particular aspect of research, or even chain of thought die especially when we have grown attached to it. The grandest plans that I made when I started my PhD still lay dormant in the back of my mind waiting for the opportunity to spring in to life. I’m coming to realise that that is ok, they can sleep while I construct the thing that satisfies my immediate goals, and then get it bound, and finally get some sleep!

To finish on a connected question ; how much frustration is it healthy to have, and what kind of balance should be struck between throwing your brain against an scholastic brick wall in the hope of a breakthrough or simply finding another route?

P.S. To all current Phd students: remember that ultimately, it will all work out in the end...

October 04, 2011

Congratulations! – by Luke

Writing about web page

Dear Prof. Rochford (FRS)ClAlPc Monolayer

We thank you for the submission of your manuscript 'A comparison between 'Thrice' and 'Metallica' as aural stimulants for low dimensional organic species in tunnelling microscopy and low energy electron diffraction experiments'.

We would like to point out that we do not usually accept 'manuscripts' clearly hand drawn in crayon and or condiments and posted to us on what is clearly a napkin as well as the back of an 'X-Men' comic book. Despite this, we have accepted your manuscript with minor corrections and would like to buy you a beer because you seem like a swell and rounded guy for a PhD chemist.

Rock on,

The editors of all scientific journals ever (in my head)

August 18, 2011

The small things – by Luke

I was struck earlier today about how the biggest thing in my life at the moment (my PhD research) relies on some of the smallest things i have come across. I am speaking quite literally: every day i use a tiny piece of Tungsten wire (a single atom across at the apex) to image tiny organic molecules (rougly 60,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair). STM Tip

Science aside, this got me wondering - why is it always the smallest things that underpin and support the largest and most important pursuits in life? At each stage a single 'making' or 'analysis' step has been the criterion for success in my research, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Beyond this I feel it extends into my private and wider life; finding that perfect place to live, finishing that video game, finally reading the books that sit neglected in a stack somewhere at home.

With all this whizzing round in my head I'm sure some of it is a coping mechanism. With the enormity of a PhD thesis dangling somewhere just out of view, defining milestones with arbitrary 'good' results or goals seems to stop me from hyperventilating.

How does everyone else (particularly humanities and social science PhDs) feel about this notion, especially when it extends past research in a science lab where progress is at least quantitatively defined? Is it simply coping with the inevitability of not achieving the vague goals set at the start of PhD studies? Or is it human nature to fix our focus closer to our locus?

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