October Returns!

Its not a bad month, October. Its when all the students from all academic levels comes scuffling through the corridors (some of which are lost!). But that’s not the point I was going to make.

My schedule has been a bit ’empty’, simply because I did register during the summer; and there are lack of classes and training available until October.

Since October is finally here, my diary seem to be filling in its own spaces. I like it that way. Makes me feel contented, and I belong here. Its a weird feeling to be describing about work, and mandatory training, but its a start. And a start of PhD cannot be bad at any point.

Though I’ve got a handful of training that I have registered to, I’m not particularly sure where it could actually help in my research. Though I know it will one day be needed, and might as well get them out of the way and sorted. At the moment, I am awaiting arrival of chemicals so that I can start off on my lab work. If I could go down to Sigma and ask for them myself, I would have done so a long time ago.

I hope this month to be a very productive month for me. I must get the project going, or I’ll never get anywhere.

Note to self: You are doing great. You are doing good. Must keep on going, even if you have to crawl. Just don’t stop. Don’t even think of stopping.

New University, Old Life – Or Maybe Not-So-Old Lifestyle

Its weird when starting off at different Universities into the ‘almost’ same course. Different systems, different protocols, and of course, different people.

Though my supervisor has reassured me over and over again, perhaps close to hundreds of times, that ‘everyone’ is nice. The echoing traumatic voices of my past PhD experience lingers around. Suppressing it isn’t easy, but at least the nervousness that keeps me on the edge of my seat motivates me to working harder. Its a good influence so far. Let it be that way.

Enthusiasm was not as high as it was previously, but it is there, and I’m keeping it where it should be.

As far as motivation is concerned, I am particularly motivated. Not to start, but more on ‘to finish it once and for all.’

Perhaps thats one quote I should hang on my bedroom wall: ‘To finish it once and for all.’

Good. Good. Good.

Back On My Two Feet

Its been about a year since I was out of University of Leeds.

I won’t lie, it hadn’t been easy to cope with my own depression. With the people around me, and of course, to my family members. I didn’t know what was harder; to tell everyone that ‘I’m okay’, or to tell myself that ‘I’m okay’.

A lot of things happened within the year, that I would rather not record here.

I’m here to tell good news! I am officially (since about two months ago) a PhD student at University of Lincoln, UK.

From the very first day I stepped to this city, I prayed that everything will be okay. I hope so. I prayed so.

And though work has been stressful, I actually enjoyed it. The city is well and peaceful, so are the people and my supervisors. I’m glad I’m back.

Fallen From The Brightest Star

I tried.

 

I struggled.

 

And I prayed so hard to Allah SWT to help me.

 

.. but in the end, perhaps Leeds is not for me.

 

I want this PhD so badly that I was put almost everything (if not even my ‘life’) on the line.  Now that I look back my past 17 months in Leeds at which I tried so hard to be ‘the PhD me’ rather than ‘me’, I regret some of the things that I did NOT do, rather than do within this time frame.

 

And so, I didn’t even make it through my First Year Transfer Viva after two very weak tries.

 

Though it didn’t seem much, but I have mustered up the last of my courage before stepping into that room.  A courage I thought I will never be able to gain again ever in my life, even if a knife was against my little fragile throat.

 

But no, this is not the end of my ‘phdrambles’.

 

I have not succeeded to graduate from University of Leeds, but it is not the end of my pursue of my own dream.  It took me years to get here, and though I have to reverse a step; it certainly does not mean I should stop here.  I will get entry into another university, get another funding, and yes.. I will carry on pursuing my dream.

 

PhD… it will be in my hands in due time.  One day.  Some day.

 

 

Pro-procras-gressing-tination

Questions.

Curiosity.

Gone.. blown by the pressure and stress of trying to do something for the sake of progress.  One thing I realised when I came home one day and saw one of my housemates just staring at the laptop screen is that we students tend to stare at something, wishing that it will magically work at one angle or the other.

Perhaps if we stare at it long enough, the words will appear from somewhere at the back of your head and work is sorted! (Yes, we may all keep on wishing about this miracle – bless all of our hopeless souls.)

But no. What we should be doing instead is to step back and look back at the basic question.  We always, always, always forget where we started from. Our main point. Our main question.

What is the question? If you figure this out, you will find out the answer.

Of course is not always have that main question in our grasp, they seem to have a certain flexibility of falling between our fingers like grains of sand.  But it is not an excuse for procrastination.

Staring at your data is not progress, its procrastination.

Staring at the question won’t make much use either; its procrastination.

 

Think.

Just think.

Go back to that little tiny voice in your head, the one that has the sense of curiosity. The one that has all the questions. Bring out those questions, write in on a piece of paper and stick it to your bedroom wall.

Einstein once said: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

You may be stuck at this point of your PhD, maybe the crappy machine is not working again; or your procedures are just taking too long or heck, you are so stressed out that all ideas has streamed away from your head like water being poured into a cup (or a huge tank – lets say you have a lot of brain juice!) Stress will always be there, its how you handle it. And procrastination is definitely not the answer to it.

Whatever you do, at whichever point you are in your studies (or PhD or life, even), never, ever stop questioning. Do not let that curiosity just fly by like wind that will never come back. Curiosity must be nourished, not perished.

Start asking yourselves, ladies and gentlemen: ‘What if I do this? Will this and that happen?”

Lets find out.

Drifted Away By The Wind

.. or gone with the wind? 

Cannot think. 

Cannot ‘see’ the future.

I am at that phase at the moment; stuck.  Want to move on but don’t know which way to go.

Hopefully my next post will be more .. enlightening.

Understand An Understanding

“If you can’t explain it simply, you just don’t understand it enough.” That was what Albert Einstein once said. And I really do agree with this quote because I have went through journal after journal after journal. But what am I actually looking for?

I’m not looking for some ‘.. as reported by our lab, we have successfully synthesised …’ Success? Yes, we are all (and always will be) looking for success rate, high yield, easy preparations and so forth (who’s notI’m personally putting on post-its on the journals that have at least 70% yield and purity.) But heck, I’m not doing my lab work yet! I’m doing a literature review and I’m already looking all the way that far? Put aside that telescope! Why are you looking at the stars when you don’t know which direction is the Polaris? 

So I looked up from my messed-up table and swiped away that annoying strand of hair that was had somehow escaped my tight bun. Or maybe the rubber band is also against my focus? Argh. And then I thought again. Ah..I’m not in the right course here. 

Indeed! I am not looking for some realistically amazing findings or mind-blowing success or something that might have been the discovery of the century (okay wait, scratch that. That will look EXCELLENT on a literature review!)

No, Distraction, why do you keep on interrupting me? (who, me? I’m you! I’m ‘designed’ to distract you..) Right.

The point IS that what I should be looking for, or rather should have got my teeth biting into in the first place can be summarised into one simple word: Understanding. Exactly, by understanding, writing will not come easy, but it helps a lot more than just sitting through hundreds of journals, trying to look for something that is probably non-existent. It would be like looking for a star by looking down into a pool. You might find it there, but its not the right way and it might prove to be more difficult. 

I admit. I got lost. But I understand which direction I should go now. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, let me just summarise that all in one sentence: Understand the topic, and write down what you think about it. Best way to start and best directional advice you could ever give to yourself.

-throws away all the journals aside- .. (No wait! Are you crazy? You’ll need those! :0) … Shut up, Distraction! I kill!

Basics to Fun-tastics

Drags, I thought to myself as I could hardly hold onto the leather-covered Inorganic Chemistry textbook by the tips of my fingers. My other arm was busy with another two textbooks. And heck, I was looking for another or maybe an alternative to what I already have in hand.

The more I looked for a general topic, the more I thought: I need the basics of this project. That’s where I should have started off with. No matter if I am to eat all my way through the journals that I have printed off and read while burning the midnight oil or just blindly started my report; the back of my head will arise such basic questions as: What am I doing? 

Lost, yes, “lost” would be the right word to describe the situation of anybody who started off without at least a peek of the basics. 

With basics in hand, scribbling nonsensical words of paraphrases will prove to be a little less burdening to those already heavy shoulders. I sound stressed out! Perhaps I am. But at least now that I have sort of a wall to lean on ie. the basic chemistry of this whole project, I could smile and write out what I think should be on this report. 

But how is it possible to change something so ‘basic’ into ‘fantastic’? While trying to include the word ‘interesting’ into the description of anybody who comes across this report, I guess it would be safe to say that the report has to be ‘fun-tastic’ rather than ‘brilliant’ only. ‘Fun’, by definition is an act of being amused or joyful. To be able to write such an article, one will have to have a certain level of interest, enthusiastic towards the subject in question and most importantly: a strong basic knowledge. That is only one bit of writing. The other is to be able to project all that in less than 300 words of length. Now there is where the problem arises, isn’t it? 

When gone too far, or ‘lost’ the way, don’t worry. Back to basics is the answer. 

Syn-The-sis

As was taught by a man named Dr Ramesh back in my MSc days (oh dear, how did I sound old nowadays – by this figure of speech, really?), he said “thesis” came from the word “syn-thesis”, ie. to make something new.

Take a step back and think, PhD stands for Doctrate of Philosophy. Ever thought why must is be ‘philosophy’ no matter what your profession is? Obviously, a PhD “thesis” is based on a philosophy. A new philosophy. A new theory. Something you make. Something new. (..something blue? haha – sorry, can’t help it! Shall shut up from now on!)

its not that hard to suddenly think ‘ah, I want to do this!’, ‘I want to try this’ and ‘how about we do this?’ But here’s the catch between a real scientific hypothesis and mere curiosity: You have to do something you have confidence to actually work. If you want more, do something that can (I’m sorry to sound so ambitious) change the world.

Yes! Change the world. Don’t tell me you lot went to study science because you woke up one day and thought ‘I want to get money!’ Rubbish! Admit it, in the 20+ years of your age studying science, you would have one day woken up from that silly bed of yours, cursing why you slept the wrong angle and now your shoulder is all stiff, your back aching because you couldn’t sleep till blahblah am in the morning ..(okay lets cut through the chase).. you actually did, at least once in this long journey thought to yourself: ‘Hey, I think I can change the world.’

What’s all that nonsense got to do with a ‘thesis’?

Why not should be the question.

The one huge rock that I cannot move from blocking my accelerating flow of ideas that was like water spurting out of a miraculous water fountain … is the rock that keeps on telling me one bit and one bit only: ‘Do you think this idea is worth the try? Do you think this will change the world?’

I don’t think so. I am not sure.

I just.. want to try. And maybe, after this horrendous three-four years of my PhD, and after it gets published in a reputable journal and so on. Just maybe.. that tiny bit of possibility and hope.. maybe.. I can change the world.

Must Keep Being Positive

Yes, yes, well its only the beginning and I MUST keep being positive.

To be honest, it hasn’t even kicked start yet. Given a previous thesis and a reputable journal to eat up was a good enough start. My supervisor is really keen on this project, and I like that (for starters, that has to be a good sign!)

Though the moment I listened to his plans, a little tint of fright appeared in my tiny heart and a question that has ever since clouded my mind: will I be able to meet his expectations?

Heck, no! I should not think this way, I thought (again!) as I fumbled with my keys on my way out of my house this morning to the office. My keyholder is broken, that must not be a sign. Oh dear, stop rubbing too much on superstition and endless worry will not get you anywhere! Expectations? Results? What I need to do now is not worry about expectations and do the best that I can. I must show my potential as a PhD student. I must not think about other people’s expectation but my own.

Perhaps it is the lack of sleep that is starting to show signs on my fragile body (and mind). I am not struggling, as I read through pages after pages of the literature review, and time just passed away like water dripping from a broken tap. Honestly, I find it really interesting and would like to know more and partly excited to get my hands on them. But of course, I must be patient, because soon it will definitely be in my hands. This is the boring (but unfortunately essential) part of starting off the project. Being lost and not knowing anything will be worse than having few weeks to sit and understand the background of everything.

By the time I have grasped all the literature covering up the topic, then I will be able to carefully (and hopefully smoothly – not just jump off the bridge or somewhat..) have a clear mind to start on the project and a clear aim of what to do in the next few months, at the very least.

I do, of course, have my own ideas for this project, but so far I want to see what ideas do my supervisor has and see if I can improve it or do it another way.

Back to the pages of the thesis, I do wonder what did this previous student thought of the project when she had just started. Was she as confused as I am? Was she as lost as I am? Or was she just a really brilliant student who knew where to step forward to?…  Keeping those useless thoughts aside, I must keep in mind instead that the more knowledge I have in this head, the better.  We can never know how much knowledge we need for something. We just know that we shouldn’t ever stop getting more. If knowledge is as big as the sea, we can swim in it, but will never be able to drink away everything.

Yes, now I am positively thinking.