Saturday, May 31, 2014

Time and Money

I am approaching the end of my PhD, after approximately a decade as a graduate student. What can I say, speed is not my forte when it comes to large-scale academic projects. This time comes with a large number of interesting thoughts and emotions, which I'm going to try to make sense of here.

1. Money
This is the big issue at the moment. My PhD at the University of Saskatchewan was supported by a scholarship from NSERC, the "Canada Graduate Scholarship - Doctoral" (CGS-D). This was for 36 months, the last of which was April, 2014. I didn't get paid at all in May (today being the last day of May), though through a weird little side project and some creative financing by my advisor I'll receive around $350 once the casual-labour paperwork gets sorted out. Similarly, I'm not expecting (as of right now, things can change) any real income in June, aside from a similar amount from the casual labour I will devote (probably around 20-25 hours) to that side project.

The other inflows of money I'm expecting in the near term are all reimbursements for things like conference travel from the last few months. I beat my head against the particularly rocky wall of the university's expense-claim system last week, apparently successfully and I'll be able to pay down a large majority of my credit-card debt (where those expenses went - airline tickets, conference registration, hotels, etc.) as soon as that clears - probably this week.

So, while my income is close to zero and my debts are several thousand dollars (and tied to obnoxiously-high interest rates) I'm not actually feeling too money-stressed, yet. If things go to THE PLAN (see below) over the next month I should be able to avoid anything too nasty on the financial side. 

I've been to the real world, and found it a dark and scary place. Thus, my overall career goal is to barricade myself inside the Ivory Tower of academia; the view is nice, at least. Anyway, a key sub-goal in this is getting my PhD. There are some who know me who believe I can finish my dissertation by July 1 - that I can hand in my dissertation to my supervisor by that date. Such "deadlines" have come and gone before, recently and further back, so I essentially have no firm opinion of that opinion - it's possible, I suppose. That doesn't sound very optimistic, so I'll emphasize that I also think it's very possible, and a good, useful goal to work towards.

My dissertation is not *yet* finished, but it's close. I like to quantify things, it's a side-effect of training as a scientist, but I can't really say any numbers that would have any meaning in this case. Anyway, there are a few components that need finishing, or starting, including the Introduction (here's a number: 95% done), the Literature Review (85% done), the third data chapter (a manuscript to be submitted to a journal around the same time I hand in the whole thesis, call it 40% done, though as many readers might know, writing a scientific paper is a very non-linear process), and the overall summary of my dissertation (0%, not started yet). That non-linearity and large uncertainty is why I'm uncomfortable talking about an overall "this much completed" value for my dissertation, but it does exist and represents a series of solvable problems.

3. Uncertainty
My life at the moment is made of uncertainty. Obviously, there are many things I'm quite certain about, but some of the things that I'm used to being able to answer questions about in an intelligible manner leave me shrugging and muttering. I've got a few post-doc applications out there, though of course those are highly uncertain (mostly in the sense of not-bloody-likely), but without a solid offer I have no idea where I'll be living and working in a few months' time - nor do I know how many months away my eventual move and job change will be. One possibility, for example, is that I move to Australia for a 2-year appointment (though that could be more accurately stated as 1-year with [strong] possibility for extension) starting in September. Another possibility (more likely? less?) is that I stay in Saskatoon until December or January, then move to some other university in Canada. 

It's an exciting time, both in the sense of the many, equally-possible possibilities (Australia! United States! United Kingdom! Germany! various parts of Canada!), and the stress and inability to make plans that come with this impending change.

Anyway, there's some blather to fill space on this chronically under-used blog.

1 comment:

SusanB said...

Martin, you know that you have great friends and family to support you through this stressful time. It's also very exciting and we will certainly be by your side always.
Love MOM & DAD