By Rachel Kirby
Last week I completed my first seminar as a research student. I was nervous, very nervous. Not so much about standing up and presenting, but about the questions that would inevitably follow. As an Honours student it was my first experience presenting my own research project to a number of academics. Up until now presentations were based upon what we had read in the literature or smaller research assignments, and presented only to our peers and the lecturer. This was a whole new ball game.
Honours is certainly different to the coursework of the first few years of an undergraduate degree. No longer do you have constant small assessment pieces, imposed structure on your day with lectures and labs, or accountability to your lecturers. Instead it is up to you. Assessment consists of just a few large pieces, you choose what you do each day, and you are only accountable to yourself. It is a change that teaches you about self-discipline, motivation and organisation.
All this responsibility comes because you have your own project. This is probably the best thing about Honours, and why I am enjoying it so much. Working on a project that is unearthing new data, new ways of looking at a problem, and new answers is very rewarding. It is a great feeling knowing that you are adding something new and unique to the field. Progressing knowledge of an area is an exciting prospect.
So how did the presentation go? Well I survived, and I am still here at university working on my Honours project. Questions helped prompt me into where to go from here, and were a good reminder of the challenges I will face this year. Squishing a research project into less than nine months will be one of the biggest challenges, and the temptation is always to think big. Maybe a little too big in my case. However come October (when I submit my thesis) I will know how achievable my project was.
Until then I had better get back to the lab, or read some papers, or try and work out exactly how I am going to tackle this project. Seven months left… and counting!