Research update: optimism and pessimism


With about nine months to go until I am due to hand in my thesis, I am periodically cycling between optimism and pessimism as to how I am progressing. I know that I have managed to pull together a reasonably solid body of work, which my supervisors assure me will be sufficient to complete my doctorate. There is still the small matter of finishing this off, and writing it up in a coherent manner, which I know will take time and effort, but I do still have a few months for this.

That said, there is a nagging concern that I’ve not done enough. I have often heard it said that after a Ph.D., one knows everything there is to know about a tiny specialised area of knowledge, having pushed the boundary of human knowledge in a small but measurable way. This feels like the opposite to my research — I have looked at quite a broad range of topics, but covered none of them in that much detail, or so it seems.

As I am working towards an Engineering Doctorate (Eng.D.) it needs to be focused on the requirements of the sponsoring company, and as such producing a portfolio of work is quite normal, as far as I understand. I am also lucky to be based at a new and unique facility, working in a relatively little studied area of marine energy. Therefore it is perhaps easier in some respects to do novel research, as fewer people have already published on similar topics. Conversely, my research doesn’t fit into a well defined gap in existing knowledge, so setting limits on what is and isn’t important becomes more critical in order to produce a coherent piece of work. In the words of Steve Jobs, there’s always “one more thing”.

The insomnia isn’t helping though…