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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Art of the Avalanche: Starting a PHD



I have been reading a few books lately and these are Dr No by Ian Fleming and My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin. 

You might be wondering what these books have to do is starting a PhD and and the first answer is that there's a quote in My Career Goes Bung. Miles Franklin says "I rebel with all my living force against sitting down under life as it is".

So basically I could be retired, and  I could be doing more things that I want to do immediately, but I would like to grab life by the neck and and shake it and do as much as much that's interesting and worthwhile as I can. For now, for me that is a maths education Phd.

So getting in to even start a Phd is no easy task.  Basically you need to convince an entire University department that it's worth while taking you on and I've had a few attempts at this. There was a fairly serious one at the beginning of the year.  It's September now and in February I was engaged with a supervisor who was willing to take me on but then that fell through at the department level.

 It was explained there weren't enough resources to take me on. So I had to get over that but I gained experience negotiating with departments, and writing about my work to the supervisor. As well I read a few education papers.

During the year, I engaged with a few other academics from different places and didn't get anywhere except for learning a bit more (topology!) But just in the last 3 months my friend Simon Batterbury sent an email on my behalf to Federation University. And he actually managed to start something!

 I think the first email sent to a University department or academic is a bit like throwing a rock at a cliff face and attempting to start an avalanche. Now if you throw a rock at a cliff face you may not start an avalanche, but you may see  a few small rocks falling off the cliff face in response.

But what you actually want to do is have those falling rocks fall on other spots and have more rocks falling in response, and eventually you will get a collapse, and you will get something happening, a movement of department,  and the end result is a phd candidature.

 This candidature can be seen just as much as a problem as a solution. You are actually under that avalanche and you'll have to dig your way out!

 Anyway Dr No has a bit of a avalanche scene near the end, or as the climax, where James Bond basically tips birdshit over the evil doctor know and causes his death.  So I was thinking of the PhD in in avalanche terms already and Dr. No sort of cemented the idea in my head.

 So anyway we'll see how I go in the next 3 years. Wish me luck!