New year, new experiments
We are an alarming number of days away from the new year. Where did this year go? Why did it suck so bad? Why was this possibly the best year we will see in our lifetimes? Why am I asking so many damned questions? Am I having an existential crisis now that the year is coming to an end? That was a legit question and not part of the running gag. I’m a man who likes his plans, so let’s look at what (I hope) is instore for next year.
There’s actually quite a bit going on these days that has me both nervous and excited for the upcoming year. On one hand, the pandemic sucks and I will almost certainly finish my degree with the pandemic looming over us, even if things don’t go as planned (degree wise that is). On the other, the government (thanks to capitalism) has decided that we can all die as long as the economy is okay, so we most likely won’t see the shutdowns, lockdowns, or precautions that we had when the pandemic first kicked off. Sad, but true. So I need to plan accordingly, or rather, realistically.
Next year I will be wrapping up year four of my PhD and starting year five (in the fall). Year five is my graduation year, or more accurately the year I WANT to graduate. Will I make it? Who knows, but that’s the goal and I really don’t want to put it off more. The longer I’m in grad school the more complicated things will get with my work (like actual job now!) and I really just want to finish this. That just means I need to make forward progress on my PhD goals and formally announce my PhD proposal defense.
Before I can formally kick off my research, I need to get my committee together (already formed!) and defend my proposal. This should happen sometime in late January or early/mid February. Taking another step back, there’s also some legal stuff that needs to happen. I need IRB approval for my experiments, the IRB or institutional review board reviews my protocol, the risks, the benefits, and approves me to do the research. Since my work is non-invasive the risks are nearly zero so we’re hoping to get the approval fast, hence the January or February proposal defence date.
Once that happens the rest will go (hopefully) quickly. I’ll collect my data, do my analysis, publish one or, if I’m lucky, two papers on the research I did and start writing my dissertation in the fall. Spring 2023 will be my PhD defense, again in a perfect world, and I’ll either get my PhD or have to revise some of the things I’ve done before I can graduate. It shouldn’t affect my actual graduation date, but it may cause some work for me. Normally edits are minor, my PI’s (all three of them) will keep me from doing anything too stupid so by the time I defend, I’ll be 85% confident I’ll be done with at most minor edits.
Of course this negates all the other work I need to do now that I have an actual job, which is still crazy to think about, but here we are getting paid like an adult. I’ve got several projects I’m working on, some more than others related to my PhD and some not really related at all. I recently had a brilliant idea (here) that is very related to my PhD work, but I’m coming at it from a completely different angle.
We’re talking nature paper(s) level of work and idea here. It will be awesome and I’m excited to dig into the questions I want to answer once we can collect some data. Hospital-PI has given me a $3000 budget to make my idea a reality and we will be testing it at the start of the new year once I make everything I need. I’ve already made a test version of what I’m doing and it worked brilliantly so he’s excited, I’m excited, everyone is excited. Hospital-PI hasn’t fully grasped the implications of what I’m proposing, but he’s slowly getting there. That’s not a dig at him, I’ve just had more time to think about it than he has.
Basically the next year, pandemic not included, will (in a perfect world) be a big year for me. I’ve finally got some of the freedom to explore the questions I want to answer and I have the tools and support to do it. Between school-PI, hospital-PI, and surgeon-PI I’ve got a great support group and I’m coming at the same questions from two different ways to help verify some of the stuff I plan on doing.
In the end I’m not sure how the next year will ACTUALLY go. I can plan and replan all I want, but no matter what I do or how I plan there is a TON of work ahead for me. The question isn’t so much if I will graduate this year as it is can I do all the work needed in just a year (technically year and a half). I’m not sure, school-PI has full faith that I will be able to do it so I trust him. I also know hospital-PI and surgeon-PI are worried about how long I can be so productive before I completely crash. I think once I do my proposal defense though everyone will relax a bit.
There’s also the lingering question about this whole project. 365 days of academia was a stupid little project I wanted to do that was just going to be a year. I enjoyed doing it so much that I figured why not continue, and now we will be hitting year four of the project this fall and I’m not sure if I’ll continue after I get my PhD (assuming I hit my goals of course). I’m sure something will fill the void, probably not a daily commitment. I was crazy to commit to this project, but it’s come so naturally that I’m also sad to close that chapter. I’ve (virtually) met some amazing people through this little project and I can’t help but wonder who I will miss meeting once I stop. Anyway just some background thoughts from a clinically certified crazy person I guess (I mean crazy literally and I’m okay with it, honest).
The short version of this post is that I have either a semi-leisurely two years worth of work (and headaches) or a wild run to finish in one year. A sane person would chose the two-year route, but I’ve already admitted I’m not a sane person, so let’s roll the dice and aim for one year.
It’s going to be one hell of a year.