Recently, I’ve had a 3 letter word allot on my mind – it doesn’t, for once, begin with an ‘S’ and end with an ‘X’ (joke intended). It begins with ‘P’ and ends with a ‘D’. Yup – that’s right it’s my PhD research.
I bet many of you have probably forgotten that as well as everything else, I am, still, a (part-time) PhD research student and if you didn’t know – now you do. Majority of you, I know, don’t have a ephemeral memory – thank god.
One main reason why I’ve been away, especially from this blog-platform, is purely because of my PhD. I realised and it hit me hard, while I was in India (business-pleasure vacation) (Dec 2013 to Jan 2014) during a Skype meeting with my University supervisor, that I needed to scale down my travelling dramatically, especially seen that I am now entering a critical demesne phase of my research – the dreaded practical lab work.
I use the word ‘lab’ loosely (and you can probably see the academic PhD language coming out here) as it covers a multiple areas including recording the physical behaviour of subjects (which is another academic/scientific name for human beings) including their vital signs.
In a perfect world:
- I’d be able to complete my ethical approval request with ease (by the way is a thesis in itself).
- Submit it to the University ethical approval department.
- Where the ethical approval board/committee would meet, sit and approve it in record time.
- Which would then be forwarded and thus allowing me to repeat the same process again but this time to the public healthcare service (trying to avoid using the name here but you might just get the idea).
- Who would meet, sit and approve again in record time and I’d be on my way to the next step.
However, and unfortunately, the world I live in isn’t so damn perfect, and having submitted my ethical approval request (or rather thesis) for the second time earlier this year, I am yet to hear the verdict (either its granted or more information is required) – talk about wanting this to be more cynosure. I have, however, been assured, after knocking on a few doors, that a response will be with me soon. In an academic dictionary the word ‘soon’ has no definition (according to me).
Once I have the ethical approval from both the University and public healthcare service, I will then need to spend a considerable amount of time, close to about a year, with subjects (remember real human beings) where I can perform some activities with and record their behaviour (from both close proximity and long distance) thus fusing together technology and medicine to help subjects with various forms of clinical illnesses. I was told during this time by my supervisor that I will be mentoring some final year under graduate students – a total of 3. I asked “do I have a choice?” he laughed and after a long pause replied “No”. I then said to him “give me all female students, or, let me pick my 3 students”. He responded with a raised eyebrow.
So I guess you kind of get the idea of what I mean by lab work.
On this very blog, excluding the other two (remember I do have two more blogs where I’m the author and run with the help of a team) I haven’t talked much about my PhD research other than mentioning it very briefly in my ‘about me’ section. I don’t want you guys to get the impression that I’ve suddenly woken up in the middle of the night and said “damn, I have a PhD research to do” which in a panicking fashion led me to manufacture this blog post.
The fact is that I have been hard at work and it hasn’t been just a dalliance or halcyon approach.
Not only handling my business(es), a newly started venture (well by that I mean just over a year old venture), existing property development and expanding my portfolio, travelling and career in the healthcare sector, I have been engaged in studying and making a conscious effort in doing so. Having an apartment in Leeds and Knightsbridge London where I tend to stay during the week and where I commute between the two, and a home (an actual house) in a nice part of Leeds, it can become extremely challenging and imbroglio to study everyday, especially since my study and research material is scattered and can be anywhere (Leeds or London) along with my equipment and journals/papers. In the past it has been a tremendous amount of pain in the backside having settled down to study only to realise I’ve left something behind at my last location. So now I have to ensure that no matter where I am, intend to stay, travel to, or how I travel – I need to take with me everything (books, equipment, laptop(s), journals, research papers and more books) even when travelling to Florida or India for vacation – Yes it’s been that crazy.
Speaking about India, on my last visit to India I screwed up by leaving a large about of study material (all very important) at the apartment of my acquaintance. Although we had spent plenty of time together she ended up in Maldives with her family (a break well deserved considering how hard she had
performed worked) and during the 2014 New Year celebrations she ventured off to New York, which meant my study material was locked at her apartment as I headed home – but thank god, after having scraped myself off the ceiling and virtually crying to her over a Skype call, once I got back home in the UK she arranged for the material to be DHL’d and was back with me in around 10 days. You see, no matter where I am, or go, I am still a student. My acquaintance in India finds it fascinating that I am so dedicated to so many things in my life and she doesn’t falter in constantly reminding me – especially when, at times, she has woken up 4am and found me studying in a surreptitious fashion outside the bedroom in her kitchen only to look at me slightly bemused and left scratching her head as to the sight of me scattered all over her kitchen. She is right and I am totally dedicated. Once I’ve committed to something I need to see it through come what may? I’m just like that.
My supervisor, who I need to see desperately face to face as oppose to Skype and phone, is always concerned about my progress and at times does give desultory and evocative hints. He’s not the only one – I am too. With so much to do, read, work on, plan and discuss he finds that I am all of the place, by that he means physically not academically (I hope). The truth is, when I first embarked on this PhD path, part time study was my personal choice – why – because it allowed me to keep a balance between family, life, business, money, work and everything else. Yes, being full time ‘could have’ meant finishing my PhD research allot quicker, but imagine what else I would have missed out on? So, when he complains I am left scratching my head (even on Skype) thinking “well you knew I was going to be all over the place – hence why I did it part time”. I have to, however, remember and take into account his concerns, after all he is a Professor as well as my supervisor, and has seen it all before and knows the signs of when someone is on the path of screwing up badly. So to ensure I am not going to screw up I have made some extremely critical and vital decisions, all which aid me in becoming more of a research student (that too at a PhD level) and less of a – well – everything else I’m known as. My cohorts on campus find it funny and amusing that I arrive on campus in a large four wheel drive, suited up and carry a briefcase (yes I do, I’m old school) and a rucksack. Other than to the cohort I appear to be a young lecturer of some kind (as the old folk usually appear to be wearing a 20 year old cream/brown coded trousers, a jumper and a 20 year old bottle green jacket). The truth is, I’m just another student on campus who 1) hasn’t had the time to get changed into something-more-student-like-wear or 2) simply can’t be asked getting changed from Professional into something unprofessional clothing.
I embarked onto this PhD research, not because I didn’t know what to do after I graduated with a Masters, or because I need to up my qualifications to get a better career, the fact is, I have a good career, I own and run multiple businesses with good (outrageous) turnover, I have no money worries. My PhD research was a ebullience challenge I set myself – and despite having contemplated quitting a couple of times – I know how important it is for me to complete it.
As my father once said, before he left me at the gates of my boarding school – somewhere in Berkshire “Son, remember, don’t trail and track money – trail and track your passion”, and so, this one statement has guided me to where I am today.
Once I’m in I’m in.
Note: This post was written via a iPad and my smart phone – both I find unconventional in writing and churning out such material, so if you find lack of creativity or errors than please do excuse me, I can only get better while using such technology and tools.