From the archives: “M” is for Midterm

By Kelly Strzepek (originally posted 7th December 2011)

“M” is also for my goodness can I leave my desk now?

I think one of the things that attracts us to research is the constant variety. We spend time in the field, we go to the lab, we read and then sometimes we are required to write…a lot. One of the milestones in the life of a PhD student is the (sometimes dreaded) midterm report. It is completed around the half way mark, and it requires you to sit down and write up all the things you have been doing for the past year and a half. We present a written report, and give an oral presentation to our panel of advisors, and then they decide whether we have what it takes to continue on as an independent researcher. It turns out to be a rather long report and where I am going with all this is that I HAVEN’T LEFT MY DESK IN WEEKS! Some of the lessons that I have learned:

1)   Scientific writing is very different to other styles of writing…and I write slowly! I write with finesse between 7am until midday and then it’s mostly drivel.

2)   It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is I can’t spell.

3)   When asked to give a timeline for completion it is a good idea to get your scholarship end date correct.  According to the university I finish in 2013, according to my report it’s 2014. As a result my quantitative skills have been called into question. That’s just embarrassing.

However, all in all, it was a great experience. I have focus, direction and a lot of work to do between now and 2013. I ran into one of our senior faculty the other day and he asked how I was doing. When I explained that after all this work I worried that I hadn’t done enough, he smiled and said “that is because you probably haven’t, but you will gain momentum”.

So I passed my midterm and my training wheels have been removed. I invite you to join me as I peddle off, gaining momentum as I  wobble down the road of research. Welcome to the “year in the life of a scientist”, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a walk.

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