One presentation done!
Today was the final presentation on some research I did. The road was long and I wish I could blame it all on COVID, but there was a lot for me to learn between when we started and now. I’m happy with the outcome and I think my school-PI is happy as well. There’s still one minor milestone left and that’s the publication, but the paper is written and I’m waiting for edits from my co-authors, so the hard part is done at least.
This was the technically the fourth update on this project. The first proposal presentation went well, but after that things went downhill pretty quickly. The first update was basically nothing getting done, COVID was just about to hit too, so things were going to get pushed back even further. If I had known, I don’t know there’s anything I could’ve changed, but man things were bad for a bit. Thankfully at this point everyone was understanding so we didn’t get hit too bad when our project was scored. In fact, most people agreed that the project was still on schedule and things were okay. The major hold up at this point was just getting the experiment designed properly and figuring out how we wanted to do the experiments.
The second update was the one I gave last winter and that was just awful. We had just finished data collection a few weeks prior and I had no firm grasp on what type of analysis was needed, how to do it, or what I was looking for. The presentation was bad and that’s not me being hard on myself (which as people have pointed out, I tend to do), it’s just the truth of the matter. I was still learning at that point and wasn’t ready. Some of that was due to COVID, but a lot of that was probably my own fault. Oh I did write about that experience…. (here).
Then we had the third update wasn’t much better. This one happened earlier this year and while I had somewhat better results, the outcome was not great. I stumbled a lot and ran out of time before I had even really started. The whole thing was a mess and I wasn’t happy with it, but overall it went better than the last one so there’s that I guess. Really at this point I figured I was just doomed when it came to scientific speaking. I can do outreach all day long, but giving formal talks was apparently not my thing or at least not something that comes naturally.
Which brings us to today. I’ve had a lot more time to work with the data, talk with people from the lab, and just figure out how to do stuff with the information. In roughly six months or so I’ve managed to finish the analysis completely, write a draft of a paper for the project, write a ton of code to do some really cool stuff, and I realized that sometimes you need to make your own tools to do the things you want instead of trying to force the tools that exist to do it for you. I felt a lot better about the project going into this presentation and even though it’s a year late, I gave the final presentation on this project today.
Thanks to my preparation, the work that was done, and my understanding of the topic, I managed to get through my presentation today with minimal stumbles. In the end I finished almost right on time, I wanted to finish with two minutes for questions and had finished with one minute remaining, but there were no questions after I presented so I think that was a good sign (or maybe no one understood what was going on!).
I’m still not a huge fan of the experiment. Maybe it’s just the stress of going through this whole process and feeling burnt out because of how hard the dataset was though. It was just exhausting and super frustrating. Really frustrating, like what the fuck am I even doing in this field frustrating. I feel like we had to rush to get started and a lot of the things that we did for the experiment didn’t make sense after the fact, it was more exploratory than it was answering any sort of question. I prefer going in with a somewhat clear objective so we can design the experiment around that goal, instead we did a bunch of stuff just to see what would happen. Maybe my hospital-PI is rubbing off on me because he isn’t a fan of that stuff either.
In any case, today wasn’t a bad day. In fact, I think I finally got to show the group that the funding I received for the project wasn’t going to waste. I haven’t heard from school-PI yet about my performance, usually he asks us to rate ourselves afterwards. I suspect that he will be happy with the outcome though and I will be rating myself pretty highly. If it weren’t for this deep sense of dread I feel, I would probably be going crazy with the celebrating. Maybe it’s just this time of the year and I’m worried things will come crashing down, or maybe it’s because I still need to edit the paper and my hospital-PI had some very serious concerns about my analysis. Whatever the reason, even if I can’t be bouncing off the walls happy, it’s one less thing to worry about and I’ll take it.
As usual when I have a small victory like this I want to take the time to point out that none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the support I get from all of you who read my blog. I took on this super arduous task to blog daily about the PhD journey without any idea why I would put that much effort into something. I figured I would give up or just finish the first year, but the support I’ve gotten along the way has made it well worth it and it’s why I keep writing. I could cry just thinking about it. Seriously, you are all awesome. I don’t know why most of you follow me, but it means the world.