I’m not one to boast but…

…I’m a Doctor!  Don’t worry, not a useful one, unless you want someone to look over your ancient fossils (not your grandmother). On Monday I passed my viva voce, a three hour examination that marked the end of the four year trial by science that was my DPhil. Given leave to supplicate, you can apparently now call me ‘Dr Leila Battison’.

The last few months have been completely crazy.  After my last post, I spent another month at NASA, made some truly unforgettable friends in San Francisco, then skipped town with a friend from England to tour around the western USA.  I came home at the beginning of October, and sat still for just over a week before I skipped of to tour the UK and Ireland with a friend from the US.  It’s just been one long adventure, and the date of the viva completely crept up on me.  Best way probably, as I didn’t have time to get worried about it until about half an hour before!
Anyway, with all of that out of the way, I’m finally starting to catch up with the many things that I’ve abandoned over the last 2 months of adventuring.
Also expect a flurry of updates over here.  Having travelled around ten thousand miles in the last month in the name of adventuring, I have stories to tell and photos to share.
Yours,
a very relieved Dr Leila.
(here’s a picture of me looking drunk and happy with my lovely friends who celebrated the day with me)
me being drunk and looking smug

me being drunk and looking smug

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’.