Monday, February 18, 2008

To PhD or not?

On Friday, P1 and I had lunch with my adviser. He thinks I should continue, re-take the exam, and finish up. I explained to him that the exam is the least of my problems. If I had known the kinds of questions to expect, I would have studied for it and aced the exam. I *do* object to the singing faculty member on my committee, however. I never wanted him on my committee to begin with, but my adviser insisted. I should have put my foot down at the time, but I did not. I don't think I should have to put up with being humiliated during my oral exam, and I'm decidedly uncomfortable about the idea of him being there for any other exams.

The biggest problem, however, is the question of what it's going to take for me to graduate and whether that is feasible this year. He asked me to write up a summary of what I've done so far, and include all my negative results (that'll be a big report!). He also wants me to write up and name the chapters I'm planning to include in my dissertation. I asked what *he* expects me to do, and he reiterated everything we've talked about for the past year or so. I've changed directions with his permission, so I'm glad he is sticking with that. Although he could have mentioned that during the exam, when committee members were coming up with all sorts of interesting ideas of where my research should be heading. At least one other committee member is on board with these plans, but even if the singing member does a disappearing act, that still leaves 2 more members to be convinced that this is worthwhile.

My adviser told me to write it up, and he'll take it to the other two and explain the plan to them. I'm still torn. On the one hand I think I'm fully capable of doing this, and as long as we stick to the plan, it is feasible. Tough, but feasible. But if significant stuff is added to my project, that will become a problem in terms of funding and immigration status. And if it is impossible, I really don't want to waste any more of my time being tortured in exams.

So far, my dissertation plan looks like this:
Chapter 1. Literature review
Chapter 2. Original project that yielded negative results
Chapter 3. New direction that is looking promising
Chapter 4. Side project I did for my boss last year

I can write chapter 1 now. Chapter 2 needs a little more data to finalize it, but that can be done in about a month, and I can still do other stuff in that month too. I could start on chapter 4. All the data is in, I will need to do a bit more analyzing for that, but I will do that anyway, because my adviser wants me to present it at a meeting in July. That leaves chapter 3. I'll need about 6 months to finish up chapter 3, but that doesn't seem unreasonable. In terms of publications, I should get a (small) paper out of chapter 2, and a couple out of chapter 3. For technical reasons, chapter 4 is not publishable at this time.

Yesterday my adviser said he wanted singing member to stay on my committee. The problem is that if I ask him to step down and he refuses, I have to petition to the graduate school to have him removed. And that simply is not my style. And if I fail, I have a completely disgruntled singing member present during my exams. Talk about a disaster.

Slowly, I'm coming out from underneath the rock I've been hiding under for the past few days. I've basically ignored all questions, and just told everyone I didn't want to talk about it. And I hid in my office. I guess I should head out into the big world, but I'm not ready yet. I need more time.


ScienceGirl said...

It's ok to hide under a rock for a little while, as long as you reemerge. Which you will when you are ready, and you will be stronger and have better responses for people.

I have seen a prelim with a singing committee member (ok, so he was not singing, but very hostile nonetheless). The student's advisor put him in line. I hope your advisor will be better at doing the same (you are not in a position of power to do this, but your advisor is!)

Your advisor's advice looks sound. The "feasible this year" is a question I have seen almost everyone struggle with; it is even harder with visa problems. It looks like at least your advisor seems to think so - perhaps you should hang on to his evaluation.

makita said...

Thanks for the support. I think I'm going to come out now.