We're a little crazy, about science!

Dissertation proposal progress!

After yesterday I wasn’t expecting to write this so soon, but here we are. I’m scheduling my proposal defense. Seriously, I got the email late last night from school-PI and while the proposal still needs some work, it’s close enough that he feels confident in starting the scheduling process now, meaning full speed ahead for me. Honestly I’m a little in shock because things seemed to be moving so slowly that I thought for sure I would be in purgatory for another few weeks minimum, but apparently not!

Okay I guess today should’ve been the explanation day for the proposal defense because man did things move quickly! Right now I’m aiming to defend my proposal in ~3 weeks. Again for those who didn’t read yesterday’s post (here), in my case, the school requires that I send my written proposal to my committee a minimum of two weeks before I can defend. Which means I cannot schedule for two weeks from today since the proposal still isn’t fully written (see how that works?). Plus I need to take into consideration my committee and their time. The longer lead time the better, but I think now is a good time to do my proposal since I don’t believe a lot of other students would be doing it right about now.

I could be wrong about that, I only have my school lab to go off of, but even still other PI’s have far too many commitments to make time for me at the drop of a hat, so I think three weeks or so be enough. That means, assuming everyone can make it, I will be defending my proposal as early as the week of April 18th! It also means I have slides to prepare and a talk to write, because I’ve discovered I do better when I’ve written everything out. That was a hard lesson learned by the way, since I feel like I should be able to just talk about stuff without a script, but sometimes you learn new things about yourself like that.

Since things are moving quickly, I’m also about to place the order for some extra equipment I’ll need for the project. While most of the things I need are already on hand I like to be prepared going in, so experiment appropriate clothing is always good to have ready, because no matter how many times you tell a person to bring shorts, someone will always forget. Having disposable pairs on hand makes life a little easier and keeps you from having to cancel experiments or modify what you’re trying to do to work around the restriction.

I’m also officially starting the recruitment process! Ideally I will find around 10 subjects and over the course of a month collect all the data for aim 1 (of 3) for my dissertation. While data collection will go quickly, the analysis and what not will take a LOOOOONG time. Ask me how I know! So the sooner the data are collected the better, because I really, REALLY, want to graduate next year.

All of this is going to start happening within the next few days, so there’s now a whole lot of work open to me that wasn’t before, all thanks to a single email, amazing how that works.

Between now and the actual defense date school-PI will want me to practice my proposal at least once before the committee assembles. We are already planning to go over the slides I have ready for Friday. How many sides have I made so far? Well I won’t give an exact number, because I don’t want to make people jealous or anything, but it’s a number between 0 and 0. Yep, I’m on top of things. It will be okay though because I’m planning on reusing several of my slides from my qualifying exam presentation.

The nice thing about the path I took was that since, for those of you who are new, I came up with a totally new idea that I call “super secret technique” (SST for short). Since it had never been done, I performed an n = 1 study to demonstrate feasibility of SST. Now every program has different requirements for the qualifying exam, in some cases it’s a literal exam (I would fail so hard they would take away my degrees). In other cases, like mine, it’s a project you do to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing essentially. For our lab, it’s often replicating an experiment or doing some small portion of one of the projects the lab is doing. I’ve written a lot on the whole qualifying exam process though, so you can read more about that elsewhere on my blog (like here for example).

The reason I bring that up is because my whole PhD revolves around SST. Since the n = 1 study went so well, I’ve written several grant proposals, as in multiple, and was finally awarded one (here)(and my interview about it). Since I already gave the background and reasoning I can (mostly) reuse that for the proposal defense instead of coming up with totally new slides. I’ll also include a lot of the graphics that I used for my written proposal, so while it’s not in the powerpoint format I need it in, there is stuff done. Which is good because Friday isn’t that far off and I do work a full-time job now at the hospital, so not a whole lot of free time to do the whole student stuff right now.

So in short, there’s a lot of work that I have to do now, but I’m super excited to make more progress towards the finish line of my PhD. I’m sure this is common, but at about the halfway point I really felt like I was getting nowhere and that I wasn’t ever going to finish. I’m thankful that this was not actually the case. It’s hard to explain and I’m not sure I’ve written a post directly about it, but maybe I will once I figure out how to put the feeling into words.

For now though, I’ve got some work to do!

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