Yes! It is exactly one year since I started my PhD. There is always a lot more to do than what I have already done. Here are some of my thoughts and insights from one year of being a PhD student.
I am not quite satisfied with everything, but that is how most of my colleagues seem to have felt in the beginning. Let me start with things that I did not achieve, but I wish I did.
Things I did not achieve
- Good time management; I should use the Pomodoro technique
- Saying No and knowing when to say; It is quite important, I realise.
- Having less number of distractions from the thesis; a few is enough.
- Learn to drive and swim.
- Finished at least one chapter and sent off for publication
- Write a feature article in a popular sci-comm outlet
- Ask one question a week
Things I learned
- Over-planning is bad. Sometimes unexpected results, observation and events are good.
- Plan data analysis before the experiment. It helps in designing a proper methodology.
- One should expect months of non-productivity, but working all the while towards the thesis
- There is a lot of politics in science. But try to be nice to everyone. In academia, most people have their own motives, most of the time.
- Scientists make mistakes, some are selfish, but all scientists are people (unless cats are conducting secret experiments on us)
- Published work is not always right. There is a lot of room for scepticism.
- Doing science is more important than sci-comm and outreach? If I want to be in Academia, I will be hired mainly for my science! I was given this advice after doing ‘too much’ sci-comm. I still need to strike a good balance.
- The feeling of guilt after a non-productive day or procrastination is quite common among PhD students. I need to learn to enjoy guilt-free weekends by setting short weekly and daily goals.
- Information diet! Internet sucks up all the time and pukes out lot of information that I don’t use/need. I should learn to go on less information diet.
- Collected data for 2 chapters of my thesis, and started writing a review.
- Won a few awards: Barbara Rice award for best field based presentation at departments conference, ASSAB conference best speed talk, OEH/ESA award (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage/ Ecological Society of Australia) for outstanding outreach for 2016, along with 5 more people from different universities in the country. All the six winners will be registering with the Scientists in school programof CSIRO to work on a collaborative ecology project in schools from different parts of the country. I will be working in a school in Canberra ACT. Through this school project, we aim to turn some bright young minds on to science!
- New skills
- Slightly improved writing skills
- Miscellaneous: Kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding…
- Attended Ant course 2016 and got to interact and network with many ant scientists and learned a few techniques like dissection, taxonomy, morphology etc.
- Started doing some science communication: Wrote a few articles to popular science outlets like The Conversation, The Royal Institute of Australia, Insectes Sociaux; gave an interview to ABC radio national, started a podcast called just-questions; made 30second biology videos, exploration videos of one new place a week; participated in outreach programs like ant walk and open day at MQ uni; joined HDR mentors to mentor new HDR students; started tutoring and learnt some human physiology!
New skills to acquire
- Neural electro-physiology, Neuropharmacology, brain dissection
- Computational modelling
- Scanning electron microscopy, 3D brain imaging
PS: This post has been more of a note-to-self, but some of it might be useful to others.