Corrections accepted!

When I had my viva I reflected that although it was an important milestone, it didn’t feel very climactic because it was simply a gate passed beyond which there was more work to do.

A few weeks ago I finally got word back from my internal examiner that my thesis corrections had been accepted. This felt far more joyful and climatic, because this was an agreement that from an academic perspective, I had passed and would receive a PhD; the only remaining hurdles were bureaucratic ones.

A week later I printed four copies of the thesis and organised an overnight trip to Edinburgh to get them bound and handed in. I got a receipt, and I clutched on to it like the special document that it was. This was what I was waiting for – the point at which I could fully relax. Well, before worrying about the next job 😉


Two pictures. On the left, a cardboard box with "Simon's Thesis" scrawled on the top in marker. On the right, four hard bound theses - black books with gold lettering.

Before and after. Photos: Author.


Posted by simon in Professional updates, Reflective

News! Thesis! Job!

Hello world. I have two bits of news.

A stack of paper, about 2cm high

And that’s double-sided!

The first one is that a couple of weeks ago I sent a complete draft of my thesis to my supervisors. This isn’t the end of anything as there’s still plenty of work to do, both before and after they get back to me, before it’s ready to be submitted for examination; but it’s a milestone. I’d never printed the whole thing in one go before, and I was surprised by its bulk…

The second piece of news is that I have a new job! I’ve been lucky enough to win a NERC “innovation placement”, which will allow me to spend a year working with the Oceanography team at Marine Scotland Science. From next month I’ll be doing the same type of modelling that I’ve done for most of the last four years, but instead of using it for energy I’ll be working on applications in aquaculture.

This doesn’t mean that I’m leaving energy behind, at least for now – apart from anything else, if time permits there’s at least one more energy-related paper waiting to be written. But it will be valuable for me to diversify my skills and experience in a different area for a year.

Posted by simon in Professional updates, Reflective

Thesis deadline approaching.

I’m in the final few weeks of writing up my thesis, with my (self-imposed, but then agreed with supervisors) deadline for a complete first draft coming at the end of the month. It’s surprisingly stressful.

It shouldn’t be. Yes, the deadline is soon, but the amount I have left to do is entirely manageable. Yes, it’s longer than anything that I’ve written before, but the chapters are reasonably self-contained, and any given chapter is shorter than plenty of documents that I’ve written in the past. Additionally, most of those chapters are based on papers* that have been through peer review, so I know that they (probably) can’t be awful.

So given all that, why does the thought of “finishing a thesis” have so much weight around it? I think part of it is that, however unlikely, it’s a potential single point of failure which could render the last 4-5 years of work, arguably, wasted. I think another significant part of it is that finishing a thesis is expected to be heavy and stressful, and one internalises that over the years. When everybody who has done one is sympathising with you and saying “you can do it”, you start to agree that it’s hard.

Anyway. Having procrastinated a bit by writing this… Onwards!


* Papers that I wrote, just in case anybody is getting funny ideas 😉

Posted by simon in Reflective

November writing

Text scrawled across a colour chart reading "insert something profound here"

Photo: Flickr user maddiegascar95. Licensed CC-BY-SA 2.0.

It’s November, and that means that a number of my friends are starting on NaNoWriMo, a crazy scheme to write a novel in a month. I am not doing that, but I do have a lot that I need to write. So I’m setting myself a goal to write something every working day in November, and maybe a few other days as well.

I’m going to use a pretty broad definition of “writing” here. Outlining counts (this is a necessary part of my writing process). Reading my work and editing counts (this is not NaNoWriMo, I’m not simply trying to bash out wordcount). Reading papers, if not also accompanied by writing, does not count – endless reading when trying to write is a particular trap that I tend to fall into.

Next week I’m going on a “writing retreat”, where a group of researchers who have papers to write sequester themselves in the middle of nowhere for a few days to do that, with mutual support. The idea for me is to get a paper drafted without letting it spread and encroach too much on my thesis work. It also has the benefit of providing a deadline for being ready to write, and this week I’m putting a lot of effort into getting all of the data ready. Today’s “writing” task was outlining that paper (more precisely re-outlining it, as last week’s data didn’t show quite what was expected).

Things that I hope to write during November:

  • A summary of what I did in October. I find that writing these up monthly is really helpful for me.
  • The paper that the writing retreat is for.
  • Revision of another paper in line with reviewer comments.
  • Updating and refactoring the literature review for my thesis. Some of what I did a couple of years ago is no longer relevant as my subject has shifted, and other stuff is now needed. This is a bit open-ended, and is unlikely to be finished this month.
  • Maybe some more blog entries? They totally count 🙂

It’s likely that one of these will slip, but…. we’ll see.

Posted by simon in Reflective