Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to do a PhD

I've begun a get a PhD.

The PhD project is being done with the Sydney University Physics Education research Group (SUPER group, hands down the best name for a research group if you ask me!) at the University of Sydney. My project will cover different aspects of physics and science education.

This blog will be a sort of research journal, how I did it, what was I thinking, what's next, review of papers/conferences/meetings, data analysis etc. I don't know how any of this works, so I'll be figuring out as I go along. Whoever reads this...You're invited to come along with me!

As with any PhD project, what is presented is only the culmination of all the hours and years put together in a single document. When I was a fresh first year, I remember handing in my very first philosophy assignment. An epic 2500 words essay on something very important like socks with holes in them.
John Locke proposed a scenario regarding a favorite sock that develops a hole. He pondered whether the sock would still be the same after a patch was applied to the hole, and if it would be the same sock, would it still be the same sock after a second patch was applied, and a third, etc., until all of the material of the original sock has been replaced with patches - from Wikipedia.
I remember handing over my masterpiece for which I toiled over, wiping the sweat from my forehead, I could barely walk due to the effor that this essay took, I was a shell of a student, I'd done it, my first university assignment! I was very proud. The lady at the admin counter handed me a receipt of submission and I held onto that thing very tightly, I wanted to say "When do I get notified that this paper will be published and in which well respected journal? I'll be in the refectory if the media need to contact me!"

Next to me, was another student handing something in, but hers was a little bit different. just after my receipt was given I saw 3 entire hardcover books get slammed onto the counter, it made a huge thwop noise!! She looked beat! She simply said, theres three years of my life!" It was her PhD thesis. My jaw dropped. It didn't get any better when all she got for it was the same receipt from the admin lady. I instantly felt, the change in perspective that it almost made me dizzy! I still have no idea how she did that.

I guess no-one can really tell me how they did it, I just have to get in and do it! I don't even know where to start, let alone how to complete and finish it! So I may as well just start! So to answer the question of how to start a PhD?...Like this!


I was told once by someone finishing up his PhD in Astrophysics a couple of years ago, "You always have to remember why your doing a PhD." You'll forget it sometimes, and it'll seem a long way away, there'll be times when you want to give up, and times where you can't sleep cos you're so excited. But no matter what, you have to have in your mind why you are doing this, and getting to call yourself Doctor is not a good enough reason!

My reason, I want to contribute to the area that I have chosen as my work. I work in science communication and Science education. I would like to say that I have made some form of technical, and academic contribution to that field. And that's basically it. I think the nitty gritty of this may change a bit over time but the basis of it will probably stay the same. This is of course a simplified justification and it goes deeper than that, but for now, it fits.

So I guess here ends my first thoughts about it. There's plenty more to go.

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