Managing Lab Consumables and Budget

Hi all,

The biggest thing in my last few weeks has been learning to use a budget to get where I need in the lab. I’ve never had to worry about costs as my supervisor has handled it. Last year, we got a grant for some lab consumables and this Spring it’s been on me to manage it. Reading over protocols, taking stock of what we have, working out the best value orders. It’s been quite fun.

I’ve been very thankful for the wonderful people at varies companies who have helped me with my orders. There’s been a lot of little things which I haven’t considered and they have been very patient. The pressure is on because the money will run out and any delays set back my research but overall it is getting there!

 

Next month or so is going to be spent working on draft 2 of my paper and doing this lab work!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Ben

Writing My First Paper!

Hello friends!

I’ve spent the last month drafting my first paper. What an experience! To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect…that sounds dumb since I’ve written things before but something about it being a formal output of MY OWN WORK raised the pressure a little bit. I’ve enjoyed the process though and honestly having the first go at sharing my piece of the world has been wonderful.

I started with the methods and results as these are the ‘easier’ bits. Easier in that the content is cut and dry, very matter of fact. From here I outlined and then wrote my discussion. This took a lot of phrasing and rephrasing. Finally, I wrote the introduction which, after having hashed out the discussion, was relatively simple to do. The only concerns I have is whether i’ve judged the balance of big picture content well enough…

It’s going off to the supervisor in the next couple of days and i’m fully aware of how much it may change in response to their comments. But for now I am proud of myself.

Thanks for reading,

Ben

An Apology and an Update

Hi all,

I haven’t posted since my introduction and it is entirely my fault. It also demonstrates some of the struggles which come in this world: balance. I’ve found it difficult to balance my activities for a while and no more obvious has that been than in my doctorate. So what have I been up to?

I have: taught a month long summer school, been away 3 times, presented at a conference, applied for funding to pay for lab kits, taught weekly on a first year course, been a study skills tutor, taken a Chinese class, organised a workshop series, AND re-done some statistical analyses as well as started planning papers…

So getting it all together plus working out the best things to say for a regular blog here was difficult and I’m sorry for that. But with the new year I have a no structure to my activities and that includes booking in blogging time. My next month is going to be spent ordering the lab kits and starting that work, drafting another summer school as well as workshop series, and finishing off my first paper. I will update you accordingly.

Thanks for reading,

BCT.

Remember to Enjoy

I see one of two dispositions in almost every pair of eyes when I am face to face with my fellow researchers. They are two very common looks in academia. Let’s call them the cynical demeanor and the cutthroat demeanor.

Ah, the cutthroat demeanor. These are the folks who are still ambitious. They are the over-achievers, the ones with subpar but acceptable papers published in all the “right” journals. They know the lingo and know what’s en vogue. Often times they rush through material and are productivity driven. They are gunning for those few and far between research gigs in higher academia. It seems as though they are constantly running and never stop to actually think about what they are saying.

And then there were the cynics. These are the ex-cutthroats. They have decided they would rather not join the rat race. Their eyes are tired and suspicious. Instead of learning from the “fast track” of eat-or-be-eaten and slowing down, the cynics often dismiss the whole enterprise and just settle for getting through the research, as if it is an unfortunate slog, a mere hoop to jump through.

Personally, I oscillate between these two demeanors. I suspect that is the case for many if not all researchers. They are dangerously easy camps to get entrenched in. But I would like to learn a third way. I believe it’s possible.

Maybe it would look like enjoyment. Enjoying my research without obsessing over ambition and success. Enjoying my research without resigning from the thrill of engagement with colleagues. In short, choosing not to be cutthroat, nor cynical.

No matter what you do, remember to enjoy it. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t lose heart when others do the comparing.

Just remember to enjoy.

Not All Books Are Created Equal

Books. You cannot write a PhD dissertation without them. In many ways, writing a PhD dissertation is you writing your own book! But before you can write, you have to read. And boy is there alot to read for a PhD.

But fear not! This book reading is fun! One usually embarks upon a PhD because they love what they are studying…enough to commit years of research to the topic! If anything, a PhD student has the problem of too much reading! There are a vast number of complex primary sources, and a seemingly endless scope of secondary sources on your chosen research topic. Your PhD is you demonstrating a deep understanding of the first and a masterful awareness of the second.

One thing I have learned in my PhD so far is this: Not all books are created equal.

Some books I need to sit in. I need to not rush through them. I need to soak in them, read every word, know every footnote, and be formed by the work as a whole. These are the books worth every precious minute you give to them.

But if I treat every book like this, I will literally end up never finishing my PhD! It would be nice but there is simply not enough time.

The reality is there are many books I will only “speed read.” One professor described this to me as “Emergency Room Reading.” This is where you look at the Table of Contents, find the Chapter relevant to your thesis, and skim through it to find that one quote you can use in your research writing.

I am realizing to finish a PhD well, I have to intentionally separate these two kinds of reading. If I don’t, I will either always be reading and never finish writing, or I will never be formed by any good books! Both are important, both are necessary.

Not all books are created equal. Choose wisely, researcher!