A PhD update: 8 months to go

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It’s 2018! I’m sure each and everyone of you is very aware of that but that means one thing for me!

I finish my PhD this year!

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I still don’t think that it has sunk in that I am a final year PhD student and I’ve been working on my project for 3 and a half years! A part of me feels like I’ve been working in this lab forever and I am a real part of the furniture almost, but the other half of me feels like I started this PhD journey just yesterday! I’ve always been thinking about what it will feel like when we finally hit 2018 as it’s always felt surreal that I would ever get to the end. But now I have months left – not years! It has all suddenly got a lot more real!

While I know I’m finishing in September, I still have loads to do finishing up in the lab and then also tackling that small matter which is writing my PhD thesis. So, I thought it would be nice to share some PhD updates with you this year so you can get an honest and helpful insight into being a final year PhD student, but also so it can help me reflect on how much progress I’ve made – or not made as the case may be – and help me to focus on my goals and priorities between updates.

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So we are already a month into 2018 – and a month closer to submission – so let me share with you my first PhD update.

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How am I feeling?

Despite realising that I will be finishing my PhD this year, at the moment I am completely not stressed out at all – famous last words! I know what I need to get done and how long that can take, and then I can try to do what I want to get done if there is time. At the moment I know I have got the time, and I’m feeling organised and on top of everything! I’ve got my monthly goals set out for the year and so far all is going to plan!

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What have I been up to?

PLURIPOTENT STEM CELL RESEARCH

In case you are new to my blog – the main focus of my PhD research is pluripotent stem cells and trying to understand how low oxygen and metabolism affect their gene expression.

Big news from this section – I finally managed to resubmit my first ever scientific paper! I realise it is not over the finish line and accepted for publication yet, but in a PhD you’ve got to celebrate the little wins and this is one of them! But hopefully we will get some good news soon and then I can share the details of my research with you all!

Back in the lab – I have several what I like to call ‘loose end’ experiments. These are experiments that won’t necessarily be needed for publication, but instead can be added to my thesis to complete the whole picture. The sort of things I mean are that I might have done a Western blot to show any differences in the protein expression, but I need to do some qPCR to look at the mRNA expression too.

These ‘loose end’ experiments though are not going to take me all the remaining time I have in the lab. So, I also want to start a slightly different avenue of research that will give me some more interesting results to add to the big picture, but also give me some experience doing different techniques and learning about a slightly different area – epigenetics! – there will be more on this in blog posts in the future! So, I have been doing a literature search and coming up with a possible research question for my last substantial set of results for my thesis. I’ve had a chat with my supervisor about my ideas and I have got the go ahead so I have been making preparations for that too!

MICROSCOPE BLUR

CANCER STEM CELL RESEARCH

For anyone that might be new to my blog again, or perhaps you just want an update – part of my PhD project has looked at cancer stem cells to see how they compare to the ‘normal’ pluripotent stem cells.

This part of my PhD was never in the plan but one of my project rotations in my first year showed some interesting results so I have stuck with it ever since. It has revealed a few interesting results over the years. In fact, I have come up with a theory to explain them, and I now need to prove or disprove it and hopefully that can be scientific paper number 2! So, once again I’ve been doing my background reading on this to start the experiments.

THESIS WRITING

So, this isn’t a major concern of mine just yet! Since writing my transfer thesis just over a year ago, I haven’t written anymore of my final PhD thesis! Instead, I have been trying to stay on top of my figures to go into the final version by adding them to the end of the document so far.

But you can never be too keen to get a structure for your thesis! Luckily my transfer thesis provides the backbone for me to write around and add to, but I have written out a list of all the figures I have finished, the figures I have the data for but need to put into final format, and the figures I want to include and organised them into my thesis chapters – they are colour coded and everything ๐Ÿ˜› But this has shown me that I actually have a lot of data and is helping me prioritise my experiments. It’s also probably the reason I am not stressed out at all so far!

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Aims for the next 2 months

PLURIPOTENT STEM CELL RESEARCH

โ™ฅ Finish ‘loose end’ experiments

โ™ฅ Make significant progress on my epigenetic results

CANCER STEM CELL RESEARCH

โ™ฅ Perform planned experiments to either prove or disprove my theory

โ™ฅ Either have planned new experiments if disproven, or have written a paper outline if proven

THESIS WRITING

โ™ฅ Make sure to take a short break from lab and finish draft of first results chapter

โ™ฅ Keep thesis structure up to date

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Are you in your final year of PhD? Or maybe you’ve finished, or even graduated, and you have some wisdom to share for that final push? Share any tips or resources in the comments below so we can all learn and benefit ๐Ÿ™‚

Science love.

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7 thoughts on “A PhD update: 8 months to go

  1. Just finished my PhD last week. Viva prep was far more stressful than writing the bloody thesis!!

    My top tips from hindsight would be:
    ~do little and often โ€“ I worked part time because I had just come back from maternity leave but I donโ€™t think I did more than a couple of days a week.
    ~prepare for your viva while you are writing. Make notes of areas you want to read around and make sure you know your methods. I made the mistake of not reading widely enough extra to what I was writing and it was hard going to prep for the viva.
    ~never underestimate the time it takes to format the document. Days and days and days.
    ~enjoy your last few months in the lab. Itโ€™s lonely sitting at home writing all day!
    ~remember you are the expert in your PhD. Excellent advice given to me by my examiner!!

    Good luck!!
    Zoe

    1. Congratulations on finishing! And with a little one! That is pretty amazing!
      These top tips are really great! Thank you for sharing. The little and often one and prepping for your viva as you go are ones I will definitely use when I am out of the lab and just writing. Im worried that I dont have enough wider knowledge. What sort of things did you wish you had done for viva prep whilst writing? Im hoping I can be on holiday somewhere when I start writing so Im hoping that might combat the loneliness.

      1. I wish I had read the important papers more thoroughly… My examiner said, ‘I printed this paper off’ I nearly died on the spot!! I really enjoyed my viva, they are not out to get you and they will guide you if you get stuck. Some things they ask you just because they don’t know and want to find out. Treat it as a chat about your work and not as an exam and you will find yourself enjoying the few hours!!

  2. Hye Soph, i am in the final month toward my thesis submission too. Damn tough. But i just keep going.

    Nway, nice reading your work.

    Best of luck.

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