Facebook tells me that it’s been five years since the day I submitted my PhD thesis at the University of Western Australia! Five years!!! I swear it was just yesterday.
I remember the day clearly, although I’d slept for barely two hours the night before. I had then woken up thoroughly convinced I was a galaxy, but unable to figure out if I was stellar mass selected or luminosity selected! True story. One of the stranger things I’ve experienced!
On submission day I chose to wear the brightest pink dress I owned. It was some sort of hilarious private joke with myself. Although, admittedly, I was in rather a strange state of mind, considering my earlier delirium!
Some good friends came to the university to share the submission moment with me. We walked over the the Graduate Research Office and I posed for some pics before pushing the door open and handing over the four hefty hardcopies of the thesis.
It was actually a slightly anticlimactic moment. I handed over the copies, signed a piece of paper and was sent on my way. But I did at least receive my prized PhinisheD mug, which has since followed me all over the world.
And then it was time to savour all of that sweet, sweet relief and celebrate with my friends, colleagues and supervisors. I proceeded to do nothing for the following few weeks except lay on the beach and play excessive amounts of Donkey Kong on the N64. I highly recommend it!
Since then, I have completed a 4-year stint as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. And I’ve recently moved to Cape Town, South Africa to commence a Square Kilometer Array Fellowship.
Although I’ve spent the intervening years since my PhD working in a slightly different research area, I’m now starting to return to the topic of my thesis… looking at hydrogen gas in distant galaxies. The goal is to use statistical methods to detect this gas out to farther reaches of the Universe than usually possible.
While I used the trusty old Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia for my PhD work, I’m about to do similar work with the brand-spanking-new MeerKAT telescope in South Africa. Can’t wait to see what cosmic secrets this incredibly powerful new instrument will reveal!
To all those currently writing up their theses, I send strength and encouragement. It’s certainly a marathon of endurance, but you CAN do this. My best advice is to take as good care of your mental heath as possible. Your brain in your primary tool to get the job done, so make sure you look after it! Breathe, relax when you can, keep exercising, don’t isolate yourself. Keep in contact with your friends and loved ones – they’ll help you through. It is worth it. Good luck!