The end of the term
It looks like I survived. Another term down and one step closer to the finish line. It’s not quite the clean victory I was hoping for, but after yesterday I now no longer have any class requirements for my PhD. The only requirements I have now are with my dissertation, so now I can focus on that work exclusively. I’m not going to lie it feels pretty good. Since the end of the term isn’t as clean cut as I was hoping for. I figured today we can look at the leftovers from the past week of panic. We might as well after the week I had!
Welcome! Since it’s been awhile since I’ve done an intro, I’m a third year PhD candidate in neuroengineering. My BS and MS are in mechanical engineering and if you think it’s all engineering so the career change would be easy, well I have some bad news. My research is primarily to figure out how communication to the brain changes after spinal cord injury. I’ve had my ups and downs. I deal with mental health issues, physical health issues, and I’m a disabled veteran, so there’s all the stuff that comes with that. For the past two years I blog pretty much daily on my progress in my PhD program. As you may imagine, it’s a lot of work, but it’s nice to have a log, if only for me. So let’s talk about the end of the term.
Yesterday was major milestone 3 of 3. Yep, after that there was going to be nothing left for me to do (yay). Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men… I ended up being given an extension on a few things, I had to push back the project I took on for my Co-PI (this one) and it turns out I had even more to do than I had realized when I made my list. Suddenly I find myself with a whole list of things due Monday. Data, slides, posters, etc. Hopefully that means once I get that done I can have a proper break. I could really use a few days off. With summer I should have some free time to relax though so I’m excited about that prospect.
One of the things that was on my to-do list yesterday was presenting the work I had done for the project in the statistics class I took. It was an interesting day because I got the chance to see what everyone else did. I guess I hype up everyone else’s work and sort of brush off mine as not very good. The project for those not aware was to reproduce some figures in a manuscript from the instructors lab. They provided the dataset used in the manuscript and we were told to reproduce the specific figure(s) for that part of the project and there was three parts total.
So I did just that. As in I tried to reproduce the figures as closely as possible. The end result I had was not quite exact, but if I can talk myself up for a moment, pretty freaking close. Especially if you consider I have never used the software (RStudio) before this class with the exception of a short intro way back in a class for undergrad. I slaved over those figures, spent days getting them correct after spending a good week just getting the figures made. As I said this class was a lot, but I did it and when it finally came time to see what everyone else had been turning in I realized I made a horrible, awful, incredibly me, mistake.
Let me set the stage, I was in the middle of the pack for the presentations, the order was emailed to us hours before the class. We could’ve worked in teams, but I opted to work solo. It’s better for me that way. When it was our turn to present we went through the slides just showing, not really doing anything fancy and literally it was just a PowerPoint with the figure, nothing else. The professor would stop us and ask questions from time to time about what we did or what the figure shows. It was meant for us to show that we didn’t just blindly make the figures, that we understood the meaning.
Presentation after presentation my heart just sunk. I had taken reproduce the graphs literally as in it should look identical to the manuscript. Apparently no one else thought that way. Everyone who presented had the graphs done to various degrees of completeness, some had broken sets of plots into individual ones. Some had no labels, some had very wrong plots, some looked really good, but not one person had reproduced the graphs the way they were presented in the manuscript. I had made them look almost exact, colors, labels, placement, size, down to the minor and major tick marks. Finally it was my turn and I was a bit embarrassed, but mostly anxious to find out how this was going to work and what the professor was going to ask me.
One by one I showed my slides. He looked at them and generally approved of everything. Then he asked me to go to the final figure, the one we just reproduced and for a minute he didn’t say anything. He just looked at it. Finally he said it looks like I labeled everything properly and that I obviously understood what I was doing. He told me he didn’t have any questions for me. Out of the entire class, I was the only one he didn’t ask questions about what we had done.
Yeah I had done far more work for this class than what I needed to do. Thankfully that will be the last time I make that mistake (mostly because I’m done with classes). It was a good reminder that I’m probably better at what I do than I give myself credit for, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I was thankful for the presentations because I had dreaded seeing how much better everyone else’s plots looked.
Now that the term is done the game plan is simply wrapping up all those loose ends. Now that the pressure has been significantly lowered, I can stop working myself literally sick. There’s still things to do, but suddenly it seems slightly more manageable now that the term is over.
Small victories, but every victory is worth celebrating.