Thursday, 20 October 2016

Post 94: My thesis adventure is starting to come to an end!

I start a new job on Monday! I got hired to fill a paternity leave in the Ministry of Environment, and I am very much looking forward to learning more about how policy work happens in our provincial government. I'll try to keep some updates coming about how my understanding of what a policy analyst does, exactly, evolves in the coming months. I've never had work like this, but it seems promising on both an intellectual and interest basis!

I lined up the job interview shortly after I arrived back from my trip home (mid-September), and by the beginning of October I had a new job lined up! Even now, thinking over the past month, I'm still struck by how quickly the whole process went!

Rosa nutkana, one of our wild rose species on the West Coast! Look at those rose hips!
I really quickly had to put my thesis into an even higher gear than the pressure that I had been putting on myself prior to my trip home. BUT, so much has come together in the past few weeks! I finished a full draft of my last chapter, then I went through all the previous chapters and completed all of the edits according to feedback from my supervisor (and a few of my own revisions that I felt were necessary), put together the formatting of my thesis into the UVic Thesis Template, and sent off a full draft with a somewhat more rough introduction, missing an abstract, and an unformatted Bibliography.

What a difference it was to put the whole thing together and see it looking great!! Now I'm waiting on my committee member to have a read of the thesis and give me suggestions to strengthen and clarify the writing and the ideas. While I have some tasks in terms of cleaning up the Introduction, writing the abstract, and finishing the bibliography (I had used the write and cite function of Papers, which handles all the journal articles and the grey literature and government documents that I've used, but I have some books that I need to make sure are included in there!)

Whew! What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! Now, I'm gearing up for my new job. I attended what may well be my last lab meeting this morning, and I was definitely feeling sentimental about it. I am going to miss Eric's wonderful stories and the regular check ins with everyone, and the camaraderie that comes with a lab group. I don't think that the camaraderie will disappear simply because I'm no longer in the office, but something special happens when you get a small-ish group of people together regularly. You build rapport, and a sense of community that's hard to come by! And now it's coming to an end much faster than I had anticipated! (I didn't expect to find meaningful work so quickly, when I emailed a few friends in the late summer!)

So here I am, feeling the feels.
The coming months will be challenging: working full-time in a dynamic workplace, and trying to balance finishing up the thesis. I will be carrying on trying to finish the research contract work, which also wraps up around Christmas. Time management and scheduling my time carefully will be my best friend, I think!

So here's to new beginnings and endings: I'm sitting in my office listening to Sia's "The Greatest," feeling happy and excited and sad. I've loved being at UVic for so many years now. It's starting to sink in that my regular time here is coming to a close. All I can think to say now about the thesis process is that perseverance pays off.

Lovely October sky, with a ghouly ghost saying hello, too!
Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween! I hope that I'll have a few more guest posts coming in soon! I've asked a few more people with specific topics to contribute, and we'll see if any of those can materialize.

For my next post, I'll summarize the short presentation I gave about "writing in grad school" last week at our lab meeting.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Post 93: You Are More Than (Just) Your Thesis, and Celebrating the Small Successes

Writing a thesis is to undertake an ultra-marathon. For many students it will be the longest and most in depth account of research they have undertaken to date. It’ll take a lot of training and practice to get good at the writing. It requires perseverance, good time management skills, the ability to set long and short term goals, and a commitment to follow through. It’s for this reason that I’m very much in favour of celebrating the small successes, and undertaking shorter term projects along the way.

In my case, these small projects have taken the form of writing the occasional newspaper article, writing these relatively short blog posts, participating in my first 5K race, and making a set of personalized hand made cards and keeping up with my pen pals, among other things. In some ways, even doing chores can feel like successes, as can staying on top of doing the dishes, and doing your own cooking (which is also a good way to keep food costs down and manage your finances).

I love the geometry of these! <3 

I submitted a draft of my last chapter on Friday last week, and now I’m in revision mode, and it’s actually a lot of fun. But it was really nice of my partner to help me to celebrate and recognize what an accomplishment it was to finally finish a decent draft of that chapter, which I’ve been working on for months now.

I find that when I keep up on small projects along the way, my motivation stays higher than when I don’t. I finish a blog post, up it goes, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It hasn’t been that often that I have that feeling with writing another paragraph of my thesis, or straightening another set of citations. So I encourage you to do what you need to make sure that you feel good about what you’re doing, whether it’s going to the climbing gym and figuring out another boulder problem (climbing lingo for route), or hosting a successful potluck with friends that you can’t make the time to see individually, or cooking up a storm and having meals for a week. Have your hobbies!

Big leaf maple (Acer mycropyllum
I suppose what’s behind all of this is encouragement to establish a good work-life balance, which I struggle with, for sure. Undertaking a thesis can seem to be all-consuming, and I think sometimes it can be difficult to feel good about taking on other projects and non-grad school related things, but in retrospect, I'd say don’t be afraid to register for that pottery class, or join that soccer team, or develop a writing group. These are all things that can help us realize how important it is to support ourselves in different ways all along the way, and reinforce that we are not only our theses or grad work. 

View from the Gorge on a beautiful fall day!
Of course, don't be filling up your schedule to the extent that your thesis becomes a low priority, but a bit of a mix of things is definitely good.

Next I’ll write about my new job coming up, and transitioning out of grad school!