We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 75: Deadlines in Academia


5 tacks on a single date on a calendar

Getting a PhD is a weird process. Sometimes it seems like everything is falling apart and somehow (hopefully) it comes together in the end. To that point, in an academic setting, deadlines tend to group together. For instance I have not one, not two, not three, not even four, but five deadlines coming up back to back. Today, let’s talk about why that is in my case.

In a perfect world, deadlines would be evenly (or at least semi-evenly) spaced with plenty of time in between. I’m sure for some degrees (somewhere?) that is the case, not so for me. In engineering (since I can only speak about that from experience) we have two times of the year where deadlines group together. That would be publishing season (yes, there is a season for us) and conference season, these go hand in hand.

While conferences admittedly happen all year long, there are several larger conferences that happen roughly the same time every year, so the beginning of the year is submitting publications and the end of the year is time to show your poster/give a talk at these conferences.

In my case, the big conference I have coming up is the day before the Neurotech entrepreneurs bootcamp that I am a student chair for. This means I have multiple deadlines, for both the conference and the bootcamp I am helping to run. All of this is happening the same week as finals (woo), while also still needing to do my qualifying examination prior to the trip AND finish a prosthetic for an 8 year old. So yeah, not just one deadline, five.

It can be stressful, especially with the logistics behind everything. In the next month, I need to:

  1. Book a hotel
  2. Book my flight
  3. Find a roommate for said hotel (we pair up when traveling)
  4. Finish the 3D model for the prosthetic
  5. 3D print and assemble the prosthetic
  6. Study for finals
  7. Redo some of my QE analysis (this takes… FOREVER!)
  8. Do an entire experiment that I’m still not sure what the experimental setup will look like (for the conference)
  9. Contact my sessions speakers for the bootcamp and coordinate the talks they will be giving
  10. Meet with Lucas (the child who is getting the prosthetic) to do at LEAST a second test fit and trial
  11. Do an analysis for an entire experiment that hasn’t even been agreed upon yet
  12. Create a 5 minute powerpoint talk for the conference where I will talk about the experiment that hasn’t happened and hasn’t been agreed upon yet.
  13. Create a poster on my PhD research for the same conference
  14. Finalize the agenda for the bootcamp
  15. Actually do my QE
  16. Take the finals
  17. Fly to conference
  18. Give talk
  19.  Host bootcamp
  20. Finish the prosthetic

And that is just the shortlist.

To say that it can be a little hectic is an understatement. I’m not exactly sure everything will get done to be honest. See the experiment that I keep mentioning is at a local research hospital where I am doing a co-sponsored fellowship. I already have my visitor status, it took 6+ months to get (it is a slow process). My fellow students who are assisting in the experiment however… well they have only gotten started in the process in the past month or so, I’m told they should be done faster than I was, sometime in December… or after the conference.

Long story short, I will probably be doing an experiment all on my own, which wouldn’t be an issue if we had agreed on the experimental protocol, which we have not and my PI changed it completely at the last minute (as in just a few weeks ago). Let me reiterate, when I say completely, I mean COMPLETELY. The experiment looks nothing like I had originally planned and therefore we have no idea what is going on or what will happen since we haven’t all agreed on the methods yet.

Fun times.

In any case, I’m keeping a positive attitude about the whole thing and I’m hopeful it will come together in the end. Or maybe it won’t, I guess we will just have to wait a few more weeks to find out. That’s the problem with clustered deadlines, who knows if you’re going to get them all done and often you are working until the last minute to finish so you don’t know for sure until the deadline has come and gone. In any case, good luck to all my fellow readers who find themselves coming up on a deadline and they aren’t sure if they will make it, trust me, I feel that too.

Until next time, don’t stop learning!

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