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PhD - Year In Review

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Overview

Purpose

The purpose of this blog is in one part self reflection, the other in sharing advice and/or experience in the hope that it may help.

Topics

  • Progress - A description of progression on the PhD itself, listing the advancements made.
  • Learned - Several points that have been learned so far and how I think they will affect future decisions.
  • Going Forwards - What is planned for the future.

Progression

Idea

The idea was developed mostly within the first three months, bouncing around around four completely different (but related) topics, before arriving closely back the initially discussed topic. My supervisor's background is in Wireless Sensory Networks (and networks in general), my interest is in robotics and we have an expensive resource of drones available.

The conclusion we came to seems to be a nice compromise that touches on many areas of interest, although it isn't strictly clear which journal this work will go towards - although as long as it is impactful, this is not too much of a concern.

The area selected (which I won't discuss on the site quite yet) appears completely untapped from both a practical and theoretical front and seems to have many areas that can be used to branch out and evolve the problem. This seems to be the better place to be, some PhDs strictly rely on some concept working (thinking particularly of medical and psychology). I can imagine getting it very worried if the main concept turned out not to work, but there is little risk here.

Proposal

The proposal itself, not yet complete but getting there, took 3 months to write at almost 30 pages including almost 100 references. This was a slow process as my academic writing is not what it should be and it was initially unclear the level of detail that was required. At this point, it seems as though it will only take one or two weeks to completely fix and be ready for the initial acceptance stage of the PhD - fingers crossed.

What is evident is that writing the final work will take a long time unless I start writing up what I'm doing as I'm doing it. Fortunately, the stuff I'm working on could easily takes weeks to simulate in order to get statistical significance (even with lots of computing power), plenty of time to write up about experiments and algorithms.

Code

The code itself involved writing a "simple" simulator, which as time goes on will become more and more feature complete. I am certainly aware that as it grows, it becomes much harder to maintain. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that anything I found was appropriate for the level of work I am currently doing, were proving ideas conceptually are important at this stage. Later on, more realistic environments could be used in order to get a better real-world example of how these systems will behave - potentially leading to deployment.

Learned

Breakdown

Not to mentally breakdown in response to large amounts of work, but actually breakdown the problem itself. Three years to tackle a large problem is a long time, there's no way in which it can all be tackled at once and breaking down the problem is absolutely essential. A timeline breakdown is required for most people in order to logically think through the entire project.

Holiday Work

It's not going to happen.

Coffee Break

Decaffeinating for a while helps the affects of caffeine at lower levels work better. It also seems to have been generally positive for physical and mental health (or at least after the first few weeks of doing it).

Health

You can't live off sugar highs indefinitely, they will come back for their owed due. You need to select a sustainable diet and lifestyle in order to make if through the three years, otherwise you may not make it to the end - despite how well the work itself is or isn't going.

Going Forwards

Timeline

Below is a rough timeline for the project:

  • 2018-May - PhD (one-year) acceptance, official proposal hand-in and hopefully have a paper submitted by this point.
  • 2019-May - Another two papers written by this point.
  • 2020-May - PhD finish and within any luck, become a Doctor within my field. I hope to have 5 papers written in total by this point.

General

In the future, my plan is to:

  • Start working on my final thesis write-up.
  • Better my personal health in preparation for some tough times ahead.
  • Travel around New Zealand more.