So you submitted your thesis… What’s next?

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

On December 7, I submitted my master’s thesis. All of my blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project – the entire reason I’m in Montreal and at McGill – all finished with the simple click of the “send” button on an email.

The lead up to this moment was quite substantial. Up late the night before (and many nights before that) I was completing revision after revision, formatting change after formatting change, and figure sizing after figure sizing. The day of submission, I had compiled feedback from all of the necessary parties, read it over a few more times, and then all of a sudden – it was a PDF document. It was official, I was ready to submit my thesis.

Creating the email, I had to make sure all of the necessary forms were attached (“are you SURE this is the right version?!”), and ensure I included everyone on the email that needed to receive the submission. I stared at my computer screen for a while. Then, I clicked send.

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Rolling with the Punches: Coping with Change in Grad School

Photo by Flickr user Frederico Cintra.

Photo by Flickr user Frederico Cintra.

Entering the second semester of my master’s, I was following my proposed schedule perfectly. I had completed all of my required course work, applied for funding, and helped with data collection for our second year master’s student. I learned how to use relevant processing programs for my lab work, read what felt like one million articles, and put it all together to develop my thesis topic. From there, I wrote my literature review (after reading more articles), worked tirelessly to process pilot data, and even found an undergraduate student who was willing to help me. Finally, my formal thesis proposal presentation was one month away. I went into my weekly lab meeting feeling very accomplished, ready to informally present my progress and finalize what was going into my presentation.

During that meeting, my thesis topic changed.

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Formatting: An unexpected challenge of thesis-writing!

Photo credit Help Desk, reed.edu

As spring approaches, so do some important deadlines for graduate students. For many of us, we’ll be submitting an initial draft of our thesis in April, which is (eep) less than a month away!

As I putter on, editing my manuscripts, polishing my introduction and conclusion, I can’t help but notice something I truly didn’t expect. Who would have thought formatting could take up so much time?

Maybe you Word-savvy readers would scoff at the reality I’m facing. What’s odd is that I always found myself to be pretty competent at copy editing and formatting. Maybe it’s the size of the thesis that is making things a little complicated. For one, my citation management software, EndNote, is acting a little funny; like it’s tuckered out and can’t handle more than 70 citations at once. Or, maybe it’s that my table of contents is three pages long and his having a little meltie.

My table of contents just can’t handle it right now
Photo credit: Nancy K. Sullivan

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Getting discouraged

Feeling discouraged? Me too! The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.  Image from wikigallery.org

Feeling discouraged? Me too! And this guy…
The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.
Image from wikigallery.org

I’m sure it’s bound to happen to most graduate students during their thesis-writing days. It’s a feeling of deep discouragement. One that gets you to your bones, and makes you feel tired in a way that sleep cannot suppress.  (more…)

Writing Wednesdays

Ask anyone what Graduate School is about and the first thing they will probably tell you is that you have to write a thesis. In reality, we all know that Grad School is about a looooot of different things (some of which we had no idea about before we started our Grad School journey), but I think we  would all agree that the main goal is to pop out that dissertation and leave a trace of ourselves and our contribution to the research community.

So, is it just me or are others also faced with the ironic situation that the one thing we should really be doing also happens to be the one thing we devote the least time to in our everyday PhD lives?

Of course, there are many steps to complete before even beginning to write the dissertation. First,  you argue, you need to get all those other pesky requirements out of the way (depending on how your Department works) – coursework, Comps, the research proposal, etc. Then, if you’re in an experimental field, the next phase is devoted to obtaining Ethics, recruiting participants (or finding animals, growing cultures, whatever you’re into!) and testing – oh, so much testing. (By the way, have you ever tried to use your lab keys to open your front door at home? Testing can be draining.) You can’t POSSIBLY write during this period, right? And, after all, you need to have something to write ABOUT, don’t you? It’d be atrociously silly to start writing papers when you might have to re-think, re-analyze, re-organize and re-write it. And, needless to say, there are all those urgent interruptions along the way – the kinds with deadlines (conference abstracts, conference presentations, paper reviews), the kinds with heavy expectations (attending meetings, being involved in other work in the lab, participating/organizing departmental events), and the kinds with neither, but that we simply cannot live without (Facebook and various other procrastinatory activities).

Excuses, excuses!

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Honey, no one is going to read your thesis! – ah bon…

‘Honey, no one is going to read your thesis!’ C’est la phrase que m’a lancé une sympathique chercheure australienne à la conférence à laquelle j’assistais dernièrement à Berkeley (voir ma chronique précédente). Elle devait avoir environ vingt ans d’expérience derrière elle.

 À ce moment-là, nous étions cinq à la table pour le dîner et nous parlions de nos doctorats respectifs, en cours ou complétés. J’ai mentionné que je rédigeais ma thèse en français à McGill, expliquant à leur étonnement que c’était possible, puisque McGill est une université bilingue. (more…)

Powerless

My research is frustrating. Power engineering is such an unfamiliar realm of study for me – still. My undergrad electrical engineering background did not really cover concepts of power very in-depth; very few undergrad electrical engineering programs do, unfortunately. The concepts of power converters and power system dynamics fascinate me. But, I really suck at implementing models of these systems. But, I really want to. I mean, the graphs look so pretty when everything works out well.
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