A change in my timing
The meeting with my PI is done and it’s not all bad news. It went better than expected in some aspects and not so great in others. That’s how these things work out, it’s not a linear progression, it’s a lot of going back and forth and sometimes side to side too. Thankfully we met before I made any firm plans! Anywho, let’s just dive in and talk about what happened.
The research project I’m doing is taking too long, stupid COVID. We got the data though so now the processing part needs to happen. I’ve done a portion of it, but we still have a lot of other things to do with it. Mostly I need to figure out what’s going on with the data and draw some conclusions from it, but really that won’t happen until I finish all the analysis that needs to happen. It’s a vicious circle that starts and ends with the analysis step.
That was basically the theme of our meeting. The project needs to get finished and because I now have the data I get a few months (yes these things take months!) to look over everything and figure out what we have. Even with that, it’s an ambitious timeline so maybe I hit it, maybe not, but in the end at least I have more time to do a proper review of everything. Plus I need to publish some results from the experiment. That part is a bit tricky until the first stuff is done. I can write most of the paper now, but until I have some results it’s not going to be ready for publishing so even if I write everything I can now, it will still be months before I can publish my findings.
Which brings us to the crux of the meeting! Before I defend my proposal my PI would like me to have one publication from his lab. I’ve got several already from my previous lab, one journal paper from one of my classes, a book chapter I helped write, and a conference paper I had a hand in. However, he wants me to publish on this experiment specifically before I go into my proposal since the journal paper I wrote was brain related, but didn’t necessarily use all the techniques we use in his lab. So really it all comes back to the experiment I did and getting it finished. After that, I can get started with my proposal and what not.
I’ll be honest, it was a bit odd since he was adamant about getting it done ASAP, as in as early as this month. The sudden shift seems a bit abrupt for me, but it’s his lab so it’s his prerogative to change his mind whenever he likes. That just means I have more time and there is no real rush to do my proposal defense, it’s not a formal milestone like my qualifying exam. Instead it’s just getting my committee to sign off on my plan for research and getting them ready for the work that will come. I could do it as late as the term prior to my PhD defense.
Since I still have ~3 years left to graduate (the typical PhD is done in 5 years, but I could do it faster if I really push hard) there is no real rush to do the proposal defense. I mainly wanted to do it at the behest of my PI and because I want to do things in the “traditional” order, even if that tradition isn’t very… well traditional. Not a lot of people in the lab do it that way, one of my labmates is getting ready to do his proposal defense in his last year before he graduates, but he hasn’t even done his qualifying exam, so technically speaking he’s going to be doing his qualifying exam and proposal defense in the same term, then his PhD defense the following term.
That seems a bit extreme for me, so I prefer to hit milestones in some sort of order. In any case, this just means I get more time to get things ready for my proposal and get some of the groundwork done to make the best case that I have something tangible since my “super secret” technique is a bit controversial and more importantly even though I think it works, I’m not sure that it does so getting enough proof before my proposal will help not only ease my committees minds, but also my own.
An important thing I should point out, you don’t have to succeed in your research to get your PhD. The question I pursue doesn’t have to be a success, I could find nothing and still graduate. That’s just how research goes sometimes, you don’t always have something succeed. In fact, just recently we had one of my labmates graduate with his PhD, but his hypothesis was proven wrong through the experiments he did. The point of the PhD isn’t just to succeed in research, it’s to learn how to do the research and explore the unknown. He did that and sometimes the answer you get isn’t the one you expect. The point is now that is known and thus we’ve gained new knowledge we wouldn’t have had prior and he’s learned how to do the work, the analysis, and draw conclusions from it.
So picking a high risk project like mine isn’t a recipe for complete failure if it turns out I really do have nothing. I would just prefer to avoid that situation with my little project if I can help it. In short, I would prefer to be prepared going into the work before I get a few experiments into it just to find out it doesn’t actually work!
I’m just excited to get to see if I have something and more importantly to share it with the world (assuming I do) But. I guess we’re all just going to have to wait a little bit longer…