Tuesday, May 11, 2010

April: a SNAFU is better than a FUBAR

SNAFU: Situation Normal - All F* Up

FUBAR: F* Up Beyond Any Repair

I think my anxiety reached a head in April. I had a lingering migraine, complete with aches all over my body, for the first two weeks! I met with my stats prof, and wrote another missing section, handed the latest version over to my adviser to read on her trip to Tanzania (she is a jet-set HIV prevention doctor), evenings were spent napping and nursing the headache.

When I started to feel better I engaged in a bit of displacement activity: I unclogged the slow bathroom drains, ran de-scale stuff through the dishwasher and cleaned the oven. My gods, the oven. I did a second round of cleaner foam stuff on the the bottom the first round couldn’t get it all off.

Thesis Chair kept saying “simplify it, drop some variables, don’t try to do it all!”, and the Principal Investigator kept saying “you should include this, and this and THIS, and are you addressing this other thing?”. Then it turned out I was offtrack with my specific research question, a classic case of my committee of four, and me all thinking we know what’s going on, and are on the same page…but we weren’t. The bottom line is that the chair wants me to get a thesis together so I can defend and be done, the investigator wants it to be as close to a publishable paper as possible so that it’s more useful to her. My intention is to keep in touch with the investigator after I'm done and help her produce a paper or two out of this dataset anyway, it will be good to get my name on a paper or two from this project.

Thesis Chair was surprised I didn’t freak out, hopefully that’s a compliment. Most of what I have written is still good and useful, and the committee is going to work with me to try to get me done asap, but I will have to re-do the analysis with the new question. I met with the Principal Investigator (Dr in charge of the project at the hospital) to go over the database and consult on a better research question.

The new analysis already looks a lot better, and I'm plugging along. Analysis is the fun part actually, after some hair-tearing getting my database migrated onto the analysis computer. I actually resorted to calling Mr Riveter in to pat my shoulder and talk me through troubleshooting the data migration, I kept getting the same error message over and over and over…

The commencement ceremony is on May 21st, my parents fly in on the 20th. I can participate in the ceremony because I applied to graduate this semester, you don't have to be completely wrapped up to participate, since they have the ceremonies right at the end of term, rather than after all the results are in and processed like for my BSc.