Being able to do a PhD here at the University of Manchester is probably one of the best things that could happen to me (and, to be honest, I do have to say “happen” since I only got into this by accident, a slightly random but rather fortunate choice of MSc modules and an insane amount of work during my degree). The opportunity to actually do ongoing research, not being restricted to one-off coursework that ends up in the (virtual) bin once it’s been submitted and marked, as well as working with world experts who are incredibly passionate about their research is an amazing experience. I’ve recently submitted my first paper (the one mentioned in the post below… hey, good to see that I’m making progress, hehe) to a workshop and I will find out in the next couple of weeks whether it was accepted or not. I would then have to try and get funding so I can travel to the workshop in June and present my work there – I suppose you can imagine how exciting that would be!
While this all comes with a lot of hard work, it also gives me the chance to organise my time in a way that is suitable to me. There are deadlines, of course, and the number of research topics, projects and collaborations that I could spend time on is both infinite and overwhelming – there’s a “main focus” (the ultimate goal of which is writing up my thesis and completing my viva after three years), various “side lines”, “mini projects”, as well as a generous helping of conferences and workshops that one could submit papers to. It turned out that, in addition to research skills and, naturally, an understanding of the research area, good time management is in fact key to stay on top of your work (or at least know which steps to take next when you’re snowed in…).
I am currently preparing my “end of year” report, a 60-80 page “dissertation” describing my proposed research in the context of a background and literature survey discussing related work, as well as a short version of the report and a presentation (to be held in September), which hopefully allows me to move on to the 2nd year of my PhD. Since there is still a lot (a LOT) of work to do for this in the next couple of months, I got a very useful advice the other day on how to deal with my workload: It’s time to become anti-social!
Dear readers, following this advice, I’m off to lock myself up in my office now. Let’s see if it helps – I will keep you posted! 🙂
Edit: In order to keep the food theme running, I would like to give a special mention to the Vegetarian Cafe in the basement of the Burlington bar, right next to the university library. This place looks like it hasn’t actually changed since the 1970s, with wax clothes covering the wobbly tables, a random array of faded pictures on the walls, and a lovely collection of proliferious plants on the shelves. It’s always packed and buzzing, the food on offer ranges from soups (I had lentil and mushroom the other day), stews and sandwiches to veggie lasagne (YUM!), and there’s some cake as well. While it is certainly not a place to have a quiet cup of tea, the nice food (good value for money btw) make the Vegetarian Cafe one of my on campus food favourites!