The PhD process begins for real

I’ve been taking baby steps toward my PhD for a long time now, but I think I can officially say that I’m heading down the rabbit hole now. A few weeks ago I put together a committee for my qualifying exam and submitted the necessary paperwork. Since then, I’ve begun the process of drafting my PhD proposal, which I will present to my committee during my Qualifying Exam in the spring. This comic has been leaping to mind as I go along.

thesis-outline-phd-comics 2 No one ever said completing a PhD was easy, which is arguably a large part of the point. After my committee forms were in, I sat down and worked out a schedule for some self-imposed deadlines along the way and began doing background reading in earnest. I created an outline for my proposal and began filling in the details one by one. It’s a slow process that takes a lot of thought, but I’m enjoying how methodical it’s been so far.

In many ways, the proposal I’m writing now is the most important part of my PhD process. It creates a road map for the rest of my work over the next few years and serves as something of a contract with my committee and university about what I’ll accomplish during my time as a student. There will be a lot of obstacles and hard work to complete my dissertation, but having a very clear sense of what I’ll do before I really get going on more independent research make a huge difference in my success over the next few years.

This process is especially difficult because the more depth of thought that goes into my project, the more I realize I don’t know. I think every scientist (and probably every grad student) has experienced this, but it can be daunting to position yourself as an expert in a field which you feel you know barely anything about. In reality, though, I think I know a lot more about my research than other people and I think I’ll be able to make a valuable contribution to the rest of the cryospheric and climate science communities and maybe even the more general population while I’m at it.

This week I’m back in San Francisco, presenting some of my research at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. I’ll post something about the experience on Friday. In the meantime, onwards!

stand-back-going-to-try-science-xkcd 2


4 thoughts on “The PhD process begins for real

  1. Love the cartoon! I bet that’s exactly how most theses go, too. Good luck in your research and don’t forget to send copies to us, even if we (or at least I) will have trouble understanding it.


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