Thursday, 21 August 2008

It's Not The Size That Counts

So, I've gotten back from my supervisory meeting, and the news is mainly good. My first paper will finally see the light of day next March, and I'm apparently am going to appear in a book as well (which is nice).

The one thing that worries me (and it really worries me) is the plan to put together a series of papers as a tribute to Dr P. Now, obviously, in the abstract, I think that's a brilliant idea. Idl certainly buy a copy. The only problem is that Dr F wants me to write something for it.

"It will be very nice to have her former student contribute to the collection," he told me nonchalantly. "If it gets accepted".

If. That's the scariest pair of letters I've come across for quite a while. As if the pressure isn't already bad enough making sure I don't stuff up the PhD and in the process render a non-trivial proportion of her last two and a half years a total waste of her time, now I have to worry about being rejected as too feeble a mathematician to be allowed to honour my supervisor's life and career?

Days until exile: 17.


Pause said...

First, congrats on the successful meeting, and on the paper. I take it this means you can stop worrying about certain larger issues.

Second, everything a researcher does is subject to the caveat "If it gets accepted." While I'm sure it's nice for the few true geniuses that populate the academic world not to have to worry about such things, the rest of us always have those few words hanging over our heads. On a purely doing-the-research-and-getting-down-to-the-hard-work level, nothing differentiates this project from any others you've done; it's the worthiness of the end result itself that makes it special.

I hate to put it so bluntly to you, but you're making a mountain out of a molehill. You've had one sword removed from your throat and you've immediately grabbed hold of another. Do the work, do your best, and hopefully it will get in. If it doesn't (which is a crazy thing to be considering yet when it's still so far away) then it will naturally be a great disappointment, but the fact you're getting this PhD (and you are getting it) is a wonderful demonstration that you've wasted neither her nor your last few years.

You're an excellent mathematician, an able researcher and an all-round decent bloke. I can say so because you've demonstrated all these things repeatedly. Stop looking for things to go wrong. This is an opportunity and a chance to pay tribute, not a potential disaster.

SpaceSquid said...

Points taken. "Excellent mathematician" is pushing it, though.

And what am supposed to do other than go from one panic to the next?
Enjoy myself?

Pause said...

Gosh, let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet, eh? :)

In fairness, it was a silly thing of Dr F of say, in the sense that it's true but something you should be always aware of and not need reminding about. But then, I'm sure we can forgive his mind being focussed elsewhere.

Kim said...

"If it gets accepted" is indeed the standard addition to all written academic work, including conference abstracts, papers, grant submissions and PhD theses. And it isn't always the quality of the work that matters; just the right subject, at the right time and someone knows your name or owes you a favour. PhD students are meant to do research (that they don't get the credit for) and last the course. Not write nobel prize-worthy papers, carry the weight of the group on their shoulders or kung-fu style following several training montages 'become the master'. Chill. Give it a shot. Then go back to your actual job, the one your supervisor actually expected of you. And treat that thesis writing like the fickle bitch it is.