Friday, March 28, 2008

Proposing a Thesis Thing, Part the First

Sometime in November or December I started writing a blog post (most of which is included in this one, with the tenses slightly changed) on how I have to do a thesis proposal this year and what all that entails. So this is going to be a roughly five month saga compressed into a multi-post few week funfest, seeing as how there's been this Date set for April 18 or somesuch.

As I alluded to at the time, I spent several days just after Thanksgiving at a conference in Tucson. One of the ironic aspects of attending a conference on galaxy and black hole evolution is that I have done very little work which could be construed as directly relating to most of the topics discussed those three days. And yet I kept being drawn to galaxy evolution and I kept saying it is what I want to work on... The idea, I supposed, was to actually get around to doing just that.

See, I was supposed to present a "thesis proposal" in February, as the next step in this whole getting a PhD thing (the previous step being the candidacy exam last summer). (Or so was the case at the time. April is the new February, apparently.) The thought of choosing a thesis topic somewhat terrifies me, mostly because of the stereotype that choosing a thesis topic is equivalent to choosing what I'll be working on for the rest of my life. My aversion to such a decision stems from the same aversion I have to say, traditional marriage: it's not that I can't see myself working on something for the rest of my life, it's that I wouldn't want to work on one thing to the exclusion of all else.

Luckily, real life isn't a pure manifestation of stereotypes, and what a "thesis" (or, more relevantly, a "thesis proposal") should be varies from advisor to advisor. If all goes as planned, I'm essentially halfway through graduate school (or at least I was in December), which means that I will be applying for jobs in (eep!) about a year and a half. My advisor seems to think that the thesis proposal should basically be a default plan for how I am going to write enough interesting papers in that year and a half so that people will want to give me a job. In other words, it's not so much what I will be doing, but what I can do if nothing else more interesting comes along. Yet, despite the seemingly nebulous nature of said proposal, I was still somewhat freaked out over the whole thing back in November. And December. And January. Then in February and March I just kind of ignored the problem, hoping it would go away ...

1 comment:

Laura Dickerson said...

I'm entertained at the idea of a nebulous idea about galaxies. Alternatively, your thesis could be a galactic idea about nebulae.