Fieldwork in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Great Anti-Climax

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now.

It’s now been about 6 weeks since I handed my thesis (The coral Cladocora caespitosa as a high resolution palaeoclimate archive) in after three and a half years working solidly on it at UEA. All the work, years of my life, stress and swearing that went into it all fit into about 45,000 words – which doesn't seem like a lot when you realise it’s only 35 words per day of the PhD.

There was no grand finale, no fireworks, no celebrations, the copies of the thesis were printed off, bound and handed in with no more than a ‘Well done, that must be a relief.’ from the office staff. After so long working on it actually finishing and handing in was a great anti-climax, and I actually felt a little bit sad that it was over rather than any kind of relief. It was almost some sort of Stockholm syndrome, I’d developed some sort of dependence on working on the thesis at the same time as hating the damn thing.

Now the thesis is done and the funding is all gone I'm now back in a part time, minimum wage job (retail assistant at Go Outdoors, Norwich) like the last three and a half years never happened. It is nice to have a break from science but I do feel that if I stay there too long my brain is going to shrivel up and die from complete lack of use, it seems as though I've already gotten stupider in the last 6 weeks (having managed to miss a few shifts, lose things and, most of all, write a car off).

It’s now a case of waiting for my viva (thesis defence) in a month’s time, hoping that they don't completely rip the thesis apart and I only get minor corrections to do so I can start looking for a ‘real’ job. I still have lab work to do for a clumped isotope paper that needs finishing off but I can’t get on the mass spec. for a couple of months yet as there’s a queue of people desperately trying to finish off their own PhD’s. And I’m still waiting on the proofs for my stable isotope paper and the reviewer comments on my trace element paper (both on the coral Cladocora caespitosa). So all in all it’s just been a period of quiet waiting; not really the great celebration I always thought would be waiting at the end of the thesis, but maybe it’ll get better after the viva. Maybe…

This post might sound pretty negative but I don’t regret coming to Norwich and doing a PhD at all. It’s been a great (although frustrating at times) experience, these have probably been the happiest few years of my life so far. I've met many great people (including the amazing Charlotte who got me through a lot of the shittier bits of the write up), had some great experiences – mostly with the UEA Fell and Mountaineering Club, and discovered (hopefully lifelong) passions for running and climbing, while doing all of the science.

It's not been all bad

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