I have the…moves?!

The very first post, an entire post dedicated to the theme of this blog. Hi, I am a researcher, a scientist, a psychologist. Before I started my PhD here in Germany, I asked a number of people what a 3 year research project is like. Will I be able to do it, I asked them. I got a lot of frustrating responses. ‘Don’t do it’, they said! It’s a mess. It’s dirty. It’s torture. You will go crazy! It also did not help that everyone I knew in a PhD program had a psycho-somatic problem of some kind. In the midst of all this though, I realized that none of the people I was talking to had taken up the PhD because they liked research. So I said, no..hey…no, you’ll be different. You like this stuff!

So then, I went on speaking to other researchers who actually seemed happy with where they were. Not funnily enough they responded with ‘Sure, do it!’ This was usually followed by some motivation, organisational advice. All good. (Yes, yes, I’m getting to the theme of the blog!) The best advice I got though, was from my then Post-doc, Chris – ‘you need a certain tolerance to ambiguity, the rest will be fine’.
Me, being all Indian, thought, tolerance to ambiguity… Sureee! How tough can that be! I mean, India isn’t the most predictable place, and I survived there as a child and through my teenage-turmoil-years. I’m so much wiser now. Ha! Right!

Although Chris got it bang on with the one skill every PhD Student needs to learn really fast, others weren’t that far off either. The majority of advice I got revolved around organization and motivation. If you are or have been in an unstructured PhD Program like me, you know you have your go-to motivation tactics. You probably realized early on that, no matter how much you love your project and team, self-motivation would be a challenge.

If you are not a researcher, and wondering why we lead such stressful lives, lets play a game. Imagine any study program you have ever undertaken. Lets say a degree in Psychology. Now imagine enrolling in your masters. You have all the knowledge from your bachelors degree. You know you want to major in say, clinical psychology. You know you will have 4 semesters. Everything else is up to you (and your supervisor). You can define how many books you will read, which authors, what your assignments will be, and if you will have exams and results of any kind to judge yourself. Fun, right? All this brilliant flexibility! Only catch – Your peers, or the scientific community in general, will decide if the program you designed was any good! So once you do finish everything, its out in the world for anyone from any corner of the world to say – Everything you did was crap!

So yes, you need to motivate yourself every day, to set, and then meet your own goals and deadlines. Now if you are wondering why we need organization advice, go back to the same masters program above. Are you the student here? The professor who structures each class? The admin guy who makes sure the material, exams, results are all running smoothly? Exactly…all three!

Long story short, this blog is dedicated to everything that followed Chris’ advice, and is still happening, since I confidently took up this PhD more than a year ago! Small anecdotes and stories that give you a realistic picture of what “my” research is all about! The science itself, yes, the many failures and peaked successes, the laughter, coping, and a toast to ambiguity!


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