It’s been a year since I wrote part 2 of the PhD series, which means…I am graduating soon? Soon means I am defending my thesis in December, which is just another 6 months away. Uh oh. WHAT. IS. GOING. ON.
As I enter the critical thesis-writing stage of my PhD, I often get asked, “How’s your thesis coming along?” Well, fellow non-academia friends, let’s go through some grad school etiquette, shall we?
Thank you, Jorge Cham, for putting it in an understandable, acceptable manner. In short, do not ever ask a PhD student the two taboo questions (or questions remotely similar to them). These questions may induce unnecessary stress, irreversible brain damage (either to the PhD student, or to you, when the student goes berserk and attacks you), loss of appetite, or (in extremely rare cases) increased motivation.
Actually, cross out the part about motivation. This “motivation” is a mysterious force that eludes me so perpetually that I sometimes wonder if it is only a figment of my imagination. One would think that as I approach the end of my studies, I would be MORE motivated to do experiments, publish papers, and write the thesis, so I can get the hell outta here soon. Nope, not the case.
When months of work goes to the trash because of one cell contamination of an unknown source, it could get rather frustrating and discouraging, to put it lightly. April was a tough month for me because I was in Belgium doing work that would normally take me at least two months to complete. It was a heavy process of mass-producing materials that became useless because my cells refused to cooperate. I’m beginning to wonder if I forgot to do the dishes one day or something, and the giant lab spider came (all the way from Louvain-la-Neuve to Bordeaux) to ruin my research… 😦
Then there’s the actual writing of the manuscript. You see, when I look at blank section headings with empty space ready to be filled in, I get horrified. I mean, I have the outline nicely written and laid out but…now what? Each section screams out, “Pick me! Pick me!” But…I don’t want to pick you 😦 I don’t want to write the literature review. I don’t know how to put three years of work in writing and assemble it into a little booklet. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t…
But I DO. I DO want to graduate. I DO want to write a thesis worthy of graduation. I DO want to publish. I DO want to stand up on that stage on the day of my defense and be convinced that what I’ve achieved is substantial and not a waste of anyone’s efforts. I DO want my parents to be proud of me. I DO want to say, at the end of the three years of PhD studies, that I’ve done my best and that I regret nothing.
I think what I need is a strong dose of URGENCY. I’ve realized over the years that I work exponentially better under pressure, and when I have plenty of time left, I just don’t feel like I NEED to do it right away. And I really underestimate the amount of time it takes to write a good-quality thesis, so when I have 6 months left, I still think that’s more than enough time (minus the time it takes to make changes to the manuscript and get it approved). WAKE UP ANNIE. REVEILLE-TOI!
Meanwhile, the question I will have to ask myself is, “Is it all worth it?” Until then, I’ll do what it takes to finally earn the title “Dr.” That’s what this is all for, no? Two letters and a dot before my last name…sounds a bit ridiculous, and somehow quite vain, as well. I guess I won’t know the answer to my question till the very end, and only I will know my own answer…