37 weeks til thesis

A far less eventful week than usual – so a shorter post than usual.

I finalised my figures for the paper on my new isolation method, complete with statistical analyses, and sent them off to my supervisors requesting a meeting at the end of the week to discuss them. Then I set out to find a conference or two to attend and present my work-in-progress-paper (once it’s finished). That was a rabbit hole and half!

My project straddles two research areas: biomaterials and retinal degeneration (particularly macular degeneration). There are SO many societies and associations and institutes, all around the world, that hold their own conferences on biomaterials, let alone including all the eye research conferences too! Needless to say, I am spoiled for choice and currently short-listing a collection of about a dozen conferences covering the retinal/biomaterial realm. I took this short-list to the meeting for feedback, too. Supervisors have (you would hope!) travelled the world attending conferences in your area, so why not get their opinion on which ones are most worthwhile!

The university offers travel grants to enable graduate students like me to fly to cool new places and represent our research groups on the world stage. These grants have rounds, like any other grant, and the sooner I know what my travel, accommodation, and attendance fees will be, the sooner I can apply for the grant. Proper prior planning is applicable, yet again!

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I love flying. If only it was always this smooth! (via giphy)

I am obviously only looking at conferences that align with my research, but within those options I am particularly interested in meetings that strive to include women on their expert discussion panels (I chose not to support manels – all male panels – when non-male experts exist in the field but have not been included), and especially those that have networking, forums, activities or workshops specifically dedicated to the development and furthering of new talent (read: PhD students and early career researchers). To my delight, I found several that fit my criteria. They are now at the top of my list and if my supervisors agree that one of them is best to attend I will be beyond stoked. USA, Japan, China, and Taiwan are in the running, with several European cities in the next tier.

The timing of some of these meetings is also fantastic. Two are within the final three weeks before my thesis due date so by that point I SHOULD just be doing final copy editing and proofreading for the Discussion and Conclusion sections. It should all be written, and it will just be a matter of going over it with fine-tooth comb. The other bonus is that these conferences are just a hop, skip and a jump away in Japan so the jet lag between time zones should be quite manageable and not put too much extra pressure on my deadlines. Besides, being in plane for 12+ hours each way is pretty great distraction-free proofreading time!

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Fast forward a few days… (via giphy)

The supervisory meeting has come and gone and all we got to talk about were the figures for my upcoming paper. I approached one of my supervisors later that day with some more targeted questions regarding the cells, methods, and controls for Aim 3 that I will be planning out in more detail in the coming months. Between those two meetings, I managed to get just about everything I needed from my supervisors for that week. The narrow focus of the main meeting also meant that I had more time to investigate the details of the student travel grants – they are even larger than I thought, so I have less restrictions on which one I attend than what I was allowing for. Win!

With the new grant info, I have decided to further short-list the conference options I found and present a much smaller list to my supervisors, including my main reasons for wanting to attend each one. I will then take on board any input my supervisors have regarding their experience of these particular meetings, especially if I have omitted any that they think would be a particularly good fit for my work. I’m trying to do as much of the thinking and leg-work for them as possible so that they aren’t having to add that onto their To Do List. It also allows me to have more of a say in how things happen, which is a bonus.

Manage your supervisors, and all that!

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