Thursday, May 31, 2012

Deep Sigh of Relief

Celebrating with a cold one

I don't often drink beer.  But when I do, I prefer....a beer that salutes a long distance hiking trail. :-) Seriously, I can't even remember the last time I had a beer.  But this afternoon I'm celebrating.  And it feels damn good.  This morning another stressful chapter of my life has closed.  Since getting back from Antarctica, and especially since finishing Barkley, all of my time and efforts have been single in focus.  That focus was the preparation for my 2nd compulsory PhD graduate school examination.  A few years ago you may remember me posting a note about the horrible experience of my PhD Candidacy Examination.   During that exam, my committee did everything in their power to make me feel as stupid as possible and needless to say, I passed by the skin of my teeth.  Today was part 2 of that story.  Today, after months of preparation and a 25 page written Thesis proposal, I participated in my 2+ hour PhD Comprehensive Examination.  This was the last academic hurdle that I had to face other than my eventual PhD Dissertation defense.  It was much different than candidacy, but unpleasant nonetheless.  It was structured as more of a in-depth committee meeting where points of my proposal were picked apart.  I don't feel that I did very well, but I didn't feel as stupid as I did following Candidacy.

I spent the time presenting my proposed thesis chapter and detailing the finer points, all while answering specific questions concerning shortcomings and potential issues with said chapters.  After about 2 hrs and 15 minutes, I left the room to sit in the hall alone while my committee again decided my fate.  10 minutes later I was again, and thankfully, greeted with hand shakes.  I passed.  Again.

Thank God.

I understand the merits of having such exams, but they really have an enormous stress impact on me.  I spent weeks studying every fundamental of glacier physics and climate history that I could.  I simply didn't know what I might get asked and it really had me worked up.  How do you prepare for the possibility of "anything"?  I simply had no way of knowing if I studied enough.  My thesis proposal was fairly decent, but I was again terrified of the questioning portion.  My sleep has been terrible because of it too.  I haven't necessarily been the most fun person to be around these past few weeks either.  In the end, my exam ended up having much more over-arching questions, and not so much detailed equation or fundamentals questions.  Whatever...I passed.

Now, I can finally shift my focus back to my actual research and try to get my work written up and published.  My tentative timeline for graduation is 2 more years (Spring 2014).  Preparing for these exams really is a vacuum void that sucks all of your academic time away.  I'm glad to have it back.

With all this said, however, I will first be taking a week off for some personal travel before diving back in to the research.  I think I've earned it.  So without divulging too much of my personal life on this here journal, all I will say is that I'm spending a week in a foreign country....and I CAN'T WAIT!  I'm really excited about this one.  It's been planned since January and it's one of the few things that's kept me going during those long study sessions.  

Also tomorrow, the folks that filmed the Barkley Marathons and are doing the documentary will be on my campus, and I'll show them around a bit.  I may even give them a quick tour of the -36C Ice Lab!  muuhaahaaa.  I'm excited to show them all what I do here.  Should be fun!

Lastly, on a side note, I say bon voyage to a new friend today.  For the past two months I've been cat-sitting for someone and tonight he finally goes back home.  He's been a great companion to have around during my long study sessions (despite having claws), and I'll miss him.  So goodbye Ace, my super ninja kitty...I hope you had fun here with me!

...and now to expand my celebratory beer into further debauchery downtown!

hike on everyone,



jdrfrun said...

Congratulations, John. No one can deny that ice cores are cool !!
Have a great trip.

Eliza Ralph-Murphy said...

I can't wait for the movie. Are you looking forward to reliving Barkley? Congrats on passing your exam and enjoy your well earned vacation.