Saturday, 29 October 2011

Comparing myself to others

Went to a Ph.D. completion party last night, for Frank, who is the awesome and very sweet boyfriend of the awesome and very sweet Erin, who is doing her Ph.D. on the animal side. Frank's Ph.D. was in Comp Sci and it sounds like he kicked some thesis defense butt. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

We went to dinner (that's three times in two weeks, yikes - but there keeps being things to celebrate!) and over to someone's house for drinks. And this is where I wish the dept was less segregated to so I could actually talk to other Ph.D. students more often. It really helps to have some idea of how other people work things and what their experiences have been.

First of all, I found out that some people who I thought would be kicking butt financially (due to having got one of those big scholarships that I have no hope for) are actually living on credit and begging for TAships to at least pay tuition. It seems that being insanely cheap and putting up with a not-great living situation because it's the least expensive option is actually working out pretty well for me, relatively speaking. At least I haven't taken on any new debt since starting the Ph.D. (not saying anyone else has, but I think that is still a win).

That said, I'm seriously considering giving my notice at the house on Nov 1 (they want two months notice of moving out??!!!) and finding something else for next semester... since it seems to be pretty clear that sticking around even after the writing up is done and collecting more data is probably a wise career move. Going straight to Oxford would be awesome but leave me with a pretty large CV and productivity gap. Sigh.

[The house isn't so bad, but it isn't great either. The undergrad housemate (UH) told me he was going to "have a few people over Thursday night" a couple of weeks ago. Come home Thursday night to find a raging kegger and screaming undergrads puking on my lawn. Awesome. Our neighbours hate this sort of thing, understandably, and I for one had to get up Friday morning and work. So, Mark and I tried to corral them into the house and convince them to stop screaming. Sort of worked: now they were screaming outside the door to my room. Apparently one of them puked in the sink and another broke Mark's expensive vase and another spilled a pitcher of beer all over the downstairs couch. The UH, when confronted, said, "oh yeah, I didn't think there would be that many people" and wandered off to class to leave Mark to clean up.

This was also the night I heard about poor Matt, so needless to say I was not in the mood to deal with screaming morons... kind of a bad night, all in all.

Anyway, that isn't typical, but the lack of cleaning (mostly by UH) and the boyfriend slumped on the couch seven days a week using our electricity but not paying rent ARE. Not the end of the world and the non-UH housemates are pretty respectful, but I'm about ready to get gone.]

Anyway, next semester will necessarily be more expensive, so saving like crazy now... we'll see how it goes.

(Speaking of finishing up soonish, I forgot to send my proof of student status to the student loan people this semester, resulting in a repayment notice - reversed, of course, but yikes, gotta be saving hard for that too in case I don't have a postdoc to jump into right away!)

Apart from that, seems like most people are taking at least four years (plus) to finish, despite Guelph's weird assertion that three years of guaranteed funding should be PLENTY to get a Ph.D. done. This leads to a lot of financial stress at the end. I'm still (knock wood knock wood) more or less on track to hand in at the end of my third year, plus a semester for the committee to read it and a defense committee to be formed and all that rigmarole. So that's only a semester over the three year funding guarantee, and they will probably throw me a TAship for it.

That said, getting through quick necessarily leads to fewer pubs (one girl is graduating with NINE of them) which might hurt me. Not more than sticking around Guelph for an extra year for that reason would, though. Am still hoping to get at least one from my practicum, and have started a number of collaborations that might be productive enough to get a few things out the door. Fingers severely crossed.

Did I mention, though, that we have two in press?? Both online now, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance and Acta Psychologica, woo hoo!

So yeah, could be doing better, could be doing worse... but nice to know what the rest of my cohort is up to rather than totally having to guess.

(plus - they are good to talk to and throw fun parties!)


Judith said...

When you said that someone had 9 pubs, I was a bit confused, because I interpreted that to mean drinking pubs, not being published.

lisaandrichard said...

Me too!
Are you going to Oxford when you are done?? Like as in moving, or as in visiting?

Anne said...

uhhhh, let's just say I'm looking for UK postdoc opportunities. But if something awesome comes up elsewhere, then I guess I'll see...

And Jude, I wish I had four actual public houses as well as four publications, but I will take what I can get!

baker-kitty said...

Congrats on the publications in press!!!!

From what I've heard at U of A (and heard about some European schools), the whole "three years should be plenty of funding!" is less a statement that they think it is, and more a way to pressure the faculty/supervisors to get their students through faster. It works about as well at U of A as it apparently does in Guelph...

The idea is to avoid the exploitation of grad students by excessive demands and unreasonable expectations (you must have 8 publications before we can let you graduate!) which result in promising students burning out, and even those that make it through living in poverty and racking up debt for longer than they should have to.

I shrug. I outlasted the generous TA allowance U of A has, though in my case because of medical issues... But really, I haven't seen a single initiative that actually works in preventing exploitation of grad students, given a bad supervisor. :(

baker-kitty said...

I add: U of A science has a generous TA allowance, but they're trying all kinds of tactics to get students through faster. Average over 3 and a half years for a MASTERS and over 5 for a Ph.D. is nuts. (also, getting longer by the year)

Anne said...

Wow. That is crazy. I have my own motivations to finish, but the fact is my CV will be more impoverished than someone who stuck around for five years, publishing all the while. No point in worrying about it though - and I have to say, I'd rather that than burn out and NEVER finish. (This is all knocking wood that I don't get sick or have some other disaster befall me, as obviously that changes everything).

I agree with you about the effect of the supervisor. Luckily mine is relatively awesome, but if you have a bad one there is not much you can do - if they don't want to let you graduate, you won't graduate. It's amazing how much power they have: if they wait an extra month before they'll look at each chapter, pretty soon you're half a year behind and there's not much you can do.