A few weeks ago I had one of my big meetings. These are when you sit down with your supervisors and talk about your project as a whole, how it’s going, what your aims are, whether you need anything and whether you are progressing well. I had to write a little report and there was even a form to fill in!
I’d been dreading this meeting. The summer was totally unproductive, a combination of it being too nice outside to work, everyone being on holiday and me not being in the right frame of mind to work. I felt like I’d stagnated. I was wondering if I was even cut out for this PhD thing after all, I was no way clever enough, I didn’t know anything.
The meeting went ok. There was some frowning and me not knowing some stuff and some hmming. I got told off for not having a plan of work with dates and reasons. I didn’t know I was meant to write one. My supervisor nearly ticked the ‘with reservations’ box implying I wasn’t getting on very well. My other supervisor informed us that a bit of lull was fine and I wasn’t that bad.
Post meeting I felt pretty rotten. I remembered that the week before my second supervisor told me I needed to ‘take ownership’ of my project. I’d brushed this off, how was I meant to take ownership of my project when I don’t know anything about doing research and they suggested the project in the first place!? Or when I’m still new to this atmospheric science thing and can’t remember what the different parts of the boundary layer are? No, I could never manage that.
Then I did some googling and some soul searching and I realised some things.
Firstly, no one else has ever seen the work I’d doing before! How cool is that? Each plot of data I make, I am the first person to have ever seen. How can I let other people be in charge when they haven’t seen it before me?
Secondly, this is new science. It’s ok that I don’t know the answers. My job is to find out answers. I’m allowed to read text books, papers and ask for help. I can go on courses if I need.
Thirdly, if it is my project I need to start deciding on my own work and asking my supervisors for advice, not waiting to be told what to do. I’m going to go wrong, but a PhD is learning how to do research. I’ve got to get over my need to be perfect straight away!
Realising these three things gave me a new resolve! I wrote a plan. I wrote a timetable. I decided which bits of book I wanted and needed to read. I didn’t worry too much about what my supervisors thought. Its my project so I shall try what I like!
The plan hasn’t really worked, the timetable not really been stuck to and I’ve not read as much as I should have. Its alright though! Its my project. I’m close to giving up on a thing my supervisor wanted me to do, because it doesn’t really work and is taking up loads of time. He hasn’t really ever run my model. I have. It’s my project.
It’s my project. It’ll have my name on it.