Year Four

My early efforts at blog writing were somewhat sporadic, but I did mark some key moments during my PhD, in the posts Year Two and Year Three. In the former, I reflected on the major review that every Portsmouth PhD student must pass in order to progress to their second year. In the latter, I was more forward-looking, discussing my vague ideas for what I would do once I’d finished, and an application I’d made for an internship in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in Westminster.

My application for that internship was unsuccessful, and I left for my long-term attachment with a couple of postdoc applications in the pipeline but little in the way of a concrete plan. Then the pandemic struck and the rest of the third year of my PhD has been spent in a sort of limbo. I count myself very lucky that my life was not really affected by the pandemic and lockdown; I was able to transition quite easily to working at home.

It seemed ludicrous in March that we would still be in this state now, at the end of September, but I fully expect to hand in my thesis via email rather than the traditional hard copy, and it seems likely that my viva will be conducted online too. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the whole sorry saga.

So, what exactly are my plans for this, the fourth year of my PhD? I have two papers and my thesis to finish writing; I’m organising the South Coast Cosmology virtual conference; I’m co-organising a book club in the ICG where we read articles and books on the topics of equality, diversity and inclusion; I’m going to be taking Spanish lessons as soon as term starts again; I’m managing the university symphony orchestra (a task made doubly difficult due to physical distancing requirements). I also have new projects in the pipeline, but these will have to wait until after I’ve submitted my thesis.

I’m aiming to hand in at the end of December. This means I’ll probably have my viva in early February, and I’ll start my postdoc in Madrid soon after that. It is mainly my own fault that I have so much to do precisely at the time when I’d benefit from having less, but I’m a big believer in Parkinson’s Law: that work expands to fill the time you allot to it. I don’t want my thesis to consume my life, so by having plenty of other things to do I’ve rather cannily ensured it can’t!

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