The day after the night before – week 60

As I have mentioned before, my writing is a a few months behind present day.

It is the day of the Christmas party, so I will write half of this before the party and then finish it tomorrow.

It is noon on Saturday, and I have been into the university to get some work done. The reason I have had to go in on a Saturday is that we all got kicked out of the labs yesterday as there was a campus-wide water shortage. There was maintenance going on in the town, and the water had to be shut-off.

I thought it was strange that a lack of water could cause a campus-wide shutdown, but when you can no longer wash your hands, or clean up any chemical spills, I suppose there is no other choice. This is the kind of situation, I would guess, has no plan in place, as no one expects the water to be shut-off. I hate to think how many experiments have been ruined because they have been kicked out mid-experiment.

Luckily I was just about to start an experiment when we got asked to leave, so it wasn’t a complete disaster. I just put my stuff in the fridge and finished it off this morning.

I have heard some disaster stories of people not finishing their PhDs due to losing their laptops or hard-drives; I heard a story of someone who had left their thesis on a bus and couldn’t get it back and consequently never passed – this was in the days before computers. I can Imagine someone getting to the end of a crucial experiment and then getting told to stop due there being no water; there must be some sort of study insurance for that.

Last year, the Christmas party was surprisingly fun, and I wrote about it here. I think I have had approximately ten-units of alcohol since – I know, I don’t drink a lot. Hopefully, I will still be functional tomorrow, and I can tell you what it is like to party with academics. Maybe I should write while I am there gonzo-style.

One-day and much junk food later…

Well, I don’t feel great; I have definitely felt worse, and I am expecting to make it to the gym later. The night was quite uneventful, we started off at a slightly above an average Italian restaurant in the center of town. From there, the more experienced students led us to a club that reminded me a lot of a set from Danny Boyle’s film Trainspotting. It looked as if its business strategy was to purchase a property in the 70’s and never do any renovation or marketing.

The result of this was that we had the entire place to our selves. There was about 25 of us, and what I found interesting was that it was the older people that made it to closing time. The professors and the more experienced researchers were all the last ones to leave the dance floor. Work hard play hard I guess.

I had a few people coming to me and moaning about some other person in the department, which you only really get when people are inebriated, but apart from that, it was completely drama free. I almost wish something did happen so I could have some interesting stories; alas I was in bed by 3 am and awake again around 10.

Merry Christmas! – week 49

Week forty-nine that is the longest Un-interrupted spree of anything I can remember. This post will most likely be a pivotal point as I hand in my one year report on Monday.

As you may be aware, because I have been whining about it for what feels like six months, I have to hand in a report that is the deciding factor as to whether I can carry on studying for three further years or leave with a simple masters degree.

One of my issues, among many, is that I get bored of reading my work quite quickly and have pretty much lost all interest by this point. There are still a few days of editing and last minute additions to go. Here is a graph of my attitude towards my work when a deadline approaches.

As you can see from the figure, there is an increase in effort up to roughly one month before the deadline. Then I lose enthusiasm as the deadline approaches. Well, folks, I am at the last point where my enthusiasm is very low, I am sick of reading my work and can’t wait to hand it in. They say a thesis is never finished; it is just abandoned. That is how I feel with all work, to be honest.

It will be great to have the life back where I can, spend my weekends relaxing and exploring rather than sitting at my computer finding things to distract me from my work.

In the week of a PhD student, there has not been much to talk about this week. I did do one thing that was slightly interesting. I may be pushing the boundaries of the acceptability for the use of the word interesting, but I did some microbiology!

I had done some micro before, during my undergraduate studies, and thoroughly hated it. The reason I am doing it now is that my supervisor said I should, and I agreed. It may give us some useful data. I had forgotten how much was involved in cultivating microorganisms. I had remembered that something’s had to be sterilised but hadn’t realised that absolutely everything needed to be sterilised and that a special maximum recovery diluent needed to be sterilised and used. So most of the effort of the experiment was spent on sterilising everything. I quickly remembered why I am not too fond of micro work.

The experiment went okay, albeit a few days later than I expected due to the need for sterilising everything. I am going to repeat it in a few weeks to see how much worse the samples have become and hopefully capture the entire range I would expect to find in real-world situations. I will think about that when it comes to it.

Wish me luck people, next time I talk to you I will have handed in my report and had my viva. Although as this was written three months ago, I probably won’t remember what it was like.

The Christmas quiz – week ten as a PhD student.

You can see how long the delay is in these posts based on the content of this one!

Week 10, or as Apple would call it, week X. I am aiming for 300 words or fewer this week. I finished my program! I can now just point it to a directory of images, and it will analyse them all automatically for me. I think I will leave it there in terms of development, as I think I need to produce some results from my experiments. I may, however, work on a GUI in my own time and release if for other people to use and improve. This week, it was the Christmas party part one, part two is in two weeks. It was my first party with academics, I know what you’re thinking, but it turns out it was very similar to any other Christmas party. As a new PhD, there was one significant difference between an academic party and the standard work party. The difference was that I was definitely the weakest link as far as the quiz is concerned, especially as a fair few of the questions were about the professors. I did win the Jenga tower building challenge for my team; alas, it still wasn’t enough to win the quiz, I don’t know what position we finished in. All you need to know about a party with academics is that they are students who never stopped being students.

Next week I am going skiing, so there will not really be anything to report back. I am going to stay at my parent’s little ski shack in Slovakia, so nothing too extravagant. I don’t feel too good about going, mostly as I am going to be missing a few important meetings. Imagine that. Skiing used to be my biggest passions, I would spend 90% of my time inside the park, flipping and grinding anything I could or couldn’t. The further I have come through academia the less willing I am to take risks, I wonder if this is normal?

I will sign off here, I have failed to do it in 300 words, but oh well. I hope to have something interesting to talk about next time.