Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A PhD-like semester?

The Spring Semester 2014-15 officially ended for me today, after I handed in my last exam, which just had to be a take-home exam. There is still a possibility of some sort of 'exit interview' for this course, but that won't need much preparation beyond reading my own term paper again. By all previous measures, this was a massively challenging semester, possibly my first inkling of what a PhD-semester would be like, although not exactly.

In terms of courses, while CEE 506 was quite an excellent course, a lot of what I learned was more for the sake of it, because almost none of it had any bearing whatsoever on my research. More importantly, I learned a lot about how a good course is managed, lessons that will certainly come useful in a few years. The opposite can be said about CEE 517, which I absolutely regret taking and am sure will drag down my GPA (which really is becoming an irrelevant metric as I will easily cross the 3.5 needed for the QE). From that course I've learned how not to conduct a course - ever. This will certainly be my last systems course, at least for a few years, as I transition to Mechanical Engineering courses for my research. For CEE 506, I expect an A, although it could go down to A-, while for CEE 517, I expect an A-. Yes, bad semester.

Coming to research, it was quite a semester, in fact. I submitted my first ever journal paper, which is currently under consideration. Writing that paper was an experience in itself, having taken well over six months, but in the end, I think (hope) it came out well. I finally wrapped up all data collection for my research and also set the stage (although not on purpose) to two more conference papers. I received my rejection from MIT as well, and the day I realized I would be in Champaign for a few more years was quite a day, actually. Overall, I think I have improved substantially in my research this semester, and my adviser is certainly pleased (9/10 on the review!).

Is this what a PhD semester is like? A few challenging courses and many challenges in research, including the actual task of writing papers? It could well be. The only way to know for sure is to move on and come back and read this in a few years. 

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