Category: chronicles of a thesis

Conferences and Open Bars

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Every so often, when doing a PhD, you get to go to conferences and the like. Sometimes, there conferences are across the world, and you get a free holiday. Sometimes, they’re right in your backyard.

This week, I had the pleasure(?) of attending a Seagate sponsored and ANSIN organised conclave at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick. Whilst I don’t want to go into detail on the content, suffice to say the talks were all interesting enough, some good and some bad – par for the course really at these conferences.

Did I say par? Ah yes, so one reason they picked the Hilton? It’s got a great golf course!

The view of the golf course here at my room in the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick

Robert and Bob, my supervisor and vice-supervisor respectively, are keen golfers, as are a few of the Seagate staff if I recall. Whilst I’d love to try it out as I enjoy watching it, I don’t have clubs, shoes, skill…

Anyway, time was too short really for either that or the jacuzzi and gym that our room fee got us. What was fun was the boozing. As you may have heard me say on Facebook, it was an open bar.

Very tasty Long Island Iced Teas, and with an open bar courtesy of Seagate, much more tasty again!

Well, basically this post is just to say how much fun it can be seeing your friends and colleagues, other academics, and staff all get very very drunk on free booze!

Chronicles of a Thesis: Despair, frustration and hope

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So, I know I said I was going to do an hour a night. Yeah, that didn’t last long unfortunately. I have a good bit done, but thesis writing moved to second behind actually getting results (kinda a required part of a thesis).

Science ruins my sanity on a daily basis
Science ruins my sanity on a daily basis. But I wouldn't care, as long as I can get my results and write my thesis!

I can’t (probably not anyway, so I’ll not risk it :P) talk about what I’m actually doing, but suffice to say something should be working, and it hasn’t been. I’ve been trying to make it work for a year, but to no avail. Earlier today, I had a despairing moment, one of those moments I’m sure happens, where I freak out about “Oh damn this isn’t working it’ll never work never EVER” and worrying about whether I’ll get done in time to take ANY job, let alone the one I’ve secured with BT. It’s not a nice feeling.

So I had this moment after an hour futilely analysing a sample looking for my stuff to happen, and seeing nothing. See, the equipment I use to analyse it is kinda dodgy, like most equipment in labs everywhere. It is new, but has glitches and problems, and I was coming against one of its problems. But the frustration was discovering, thanks entirely to Bill, that the problem wasn’t on the bit I thought it was but on a completely different part.


So I mentioned hope somewhere. Well, so it’s already 7pm and I want to get home to watch the Champions League Semi-Final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. But, knowing now what part is bad, an easily replaceable one, I really want to swap it and do just a few more scans…

So I do, and despite it being much too early to declare it a real result, amazingly, I get a graph out that looks suspiciously like the ones in the literature. The numbers look reasonable. Hope. I still have it.

I’m home now, watching the match on ITV+1, and eating chicken strippers and cheesy bacon potato skins. I’m supposed to be watching my weight because of Spain holiday in 5 weeks, but I couldn’t NOT tonight. Not after that day. Hope for tomorrow springs eternal!

Chronicles of a Thesis: Day 4 – Procrastination

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Bad Dog

Weekends are hard…

So, Saturday (yesterday) was tough because I bought a new toy – Panasonic Lumix G3 DSLR 😀 – but at least I did about half an hour of work. Today… none, nada, ziltch. James was over, and then I was going over to my parents for dinner, and then Nicky had a new Xbox and I was chatting about that with him… and it just didn’t fit. I could do it now, but it’s half 9 and I need some ‘me’ time to chill and play games with some crappy movie in the background.

I think it’s been a hell of a week, and I’m not going to go crazy if I miss a day. I have a lot going on, and the thesis is an important part, so I will be making time for it. But one day won’t kill me. I might still do a little this evening, after some Fallout 3, which is very fun. And, you gotta remember what they say, you have to have a little fun, every day.

Peace, out!

– Matt

Chronicles of a Thesis: Day 1 – A beginning (LyX)

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It’s gotten to the point – for a few reasons – that I really must start making a concerted effort to write up my thesis in order to finish on time by autumn. And so, I will be regaling you all with my progress, thoughts and frustrations. Lots and lots of frustrations, I’ll bet. I appreciate your attention, comments and advice.

I’ve resolved to do an hour a day on my thesis – while I feel I am a little behind where I need to be in terms of experimental data, I think that the actual write-up could be largely done if I devote at least 7 hours a week to it each week until finish. For those who don’t know, I’m studying a PhD in Physics, and the general topic is on a heusler alloy called CFAS which has intriguing properties. I know most don’t know this stuff so I’ll spare you the details for the most part! Instead, I want to offer an insight into what it takes, and your feedback on how you think I’m doing, and how I might do better.

It’s a tough goal – to be finished by September. Very tough – but I want to do it, for a few reasons that I’m sure, over time, will be eked out.

So, without further ado – Day 1

I’ve  had a long, time-wimey day, with unexpected phone calls and frustrating probe tips, with the topper of a less-than-good session of sparring at karate and aggravation of an old injury. Additionally, I wanted to get most of my every-4-week progress report out of the way tonight to give me more experimenting time tomorrow morning. So I gave myself an easy one tonight – reading the draft thesis plan I’d done a while back for familiarity, and deciding how to actually type up the thesis. You might wonder what I mean. I mean how to word-process it. Because, for reasons I still don’t quite understand, Microsoft Word is considered a no-no.

A bit of prior knowledge and the “done thing” for journal entries etc is LaTeX, and I’d tried in the past a decent half-way house in the form of LyX. Some further digging suggests that Word 2007 onwards is actually much better than it used to be for this kinda write-up, due to the greater use of style systems. However, knowing that the results of LaTeX usually end up looking very professional, I resolve to use it. It proceeds to download HORRENDOUSLY slowly from some FTP server somewhere, probably in some field in Texas…

It’s a small start maybe, but I feel now armed with Evernote for notes, LyX for write-up, and a time frame in mind. The end is there, it’s still distant but approaching fast. And I do intend to meet it.

More will follow.