Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The feeling of doing nothing

I seem to spend a lot of my time waiting. Waiting for simulations to run. Waiting for calculations to complete. Waiting for analysis finish. Generally waiting for the computer to do it's own thing.

I guess it wouldn't matter what form of science I was doing, I would probably spend about as much time waiting. I guess every scientist in the world is waiting for something; mostly waiting for their results to come through so they can see if all that waiting and stress and headaches were worth it in the end.

It's probably only a problem for me because I permanently attached to a computer and thus only a few clicks away from the internet in all it's glory.

The direct result of all this waiting (and internet browsing) is this nagging feeling that I'm not doing anything, tht I've not achieved anything in my first few months of my PhD. This worry builds and builds until I'm convinced that I won't achieve anything at all in the entirety of my PhD studies, if I'm lucky enough to pass first year.

Then, usually in the space of a few hours of furious activity, I realise that I have actually achieved something. Because instead of having gigabytes of files filled with random numbers or binary, I've finally got the holy grail of science.

A graph!

And suddenly all the doubt melts away if only for an instant. Because that graph isn't just a few pretty lines with some words and numbers. That graph is real, tangible proof that I'm actually doing something. I have been doing science this whole time!

At the moment I have furiously analysing the simulations that have worked so far, trying to produce a few graphs for next week. Why next week? Well next week I'm in Glasgow for a conference (Glasgow in December, lucky me) and it just happens that a number of our collaborators are going to be there. My supervisor wants me to have something to show the progress I'm making.

These graphs I'm hoping to have aren't just to convince me that I've been achieving something worthwhile this whole time, they have to convince other people as well. Other people who are far more knowledgeable about everything than I am and who are probably responsible for securing the funding so I could do this PhD in the first place.

So no pressure huh?