Your PhD: A Nipple on the Surface of Human Knowledge

So I have finally (more or less) finished with my wanderings for the summer.  Back among my fishbones and unfiled papers, and ready to start the last year of my PhD.  Scary stuff.

I won’t lie. Doing a PhD is (as I am sure anyone who has been through the mill as well will agree) both delightful and exasperating by turn.   Having come back from fieldwork, I am filled with motivation to do things and the pressure to do it before I forget what the rocks looked like, but this is coupled with an inescapable exhaustion from an intensive week of camping, hiking and battling midges in the Highlands.  The same Catch-22 goes for just after conferences, meetings with my supervisor, or watching science documentaries where ‘scientists’ are all busying around being busy.

All in all, I think it is pretty tricky to keep perspective on the world when you are in the middle of a PhD.  I say this primarily from personal experience, but recently I stumbled across a fabulous infographic, from which I can only conclude that I must not be the only one.

This artistic rendition of a doctorate in persective was conceived by Matt Might, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah, and it was brought to my attention in this article on Gizmodo.

Because I have been away from the drawing board for 6 weeks, because I have itchy fingers (like itchy feet, but with less wandering), and because I wanted this fabulous concept in a single image, I have reproduced Prof. Might’s circle of human knowledge, and the ‘nipple’ produced by three years of hard work, with slight edits and additions….

Your PhD is a nipple on the surface of human knowledge. Concept by Prof. Matt Might, image copyright Leila Battison 2010

I’m not entirely sure how this is meant to make me feel.  At times, when it is easy to lose faith, it can make all the effort seem so pointless.  At other times, when you worry about the little things, it is a refreshing perspective, and one that can help show you that life, and no doubt research, will go on.  After all, even a nipple is a nipple we didn’t have before.

So I will tell myself, in the words of Prof. Might himself, that to make that all important, tiny nipple on the surface of human knowledge, you just have to ‘Keep Pushing’.