It turns out that maintaining a blog is somewhat difficult when faced with the time-consuming Cerberus that is a PhD. But, fuelled with a desire to practice my non-technical writing, I am dusting off my typing fingers and trying again.
Two weeks ago I had my Major Review, which is essentially Portsmouth’s qualifying exam for PhD students at the end of the first year (or second year, if you are part-time). It consists of writing a document detailing your work so far in the context of the existing literature, your aims and objectives for the remainder of your PhD and other miscellaneous content such as the number of workshops attended or talks given. The Review culminates in an hour-long ‘mini viva’ with two academics from your department.
Mine was a very informal affair; I gave a short ten minute presentation to set the scene of my research and then my examiners went through my submitted document page by page, asking questions on everything I had written. It was a nerve-wracking prospect beforehand, but actually fun once we got into discussing my work, and it was far easier than the grilling that my supervisors had put me through as practice the week before.
So, I am officially allowed to continue my PhD and I and the rest of my cohort are beginning to feel like old hands now that the new first years have started. This year has expanded my knowledge of cosmology hugely and I am now able to discuss current open questions in the field, and particularly in my subfield, with confidence (although not authority, yet).
This year I am looking forward to finally publishing some of my work, and in about eight months’ time, starting my long term attachment. I’m going to Leiden and Trieste (SISSA) for three months each, to work on developing my computational and statistical skills.
I’d like to update this blog weekly, but we’ll see…