Busy times ahead

First off, I must apologise for the long gap since the last post. The truth is there hasn’t but anything of interest for me to say, and I’ve been kept busy enough just keeping on top of work life, social life, and house-maintenance life. Hey, I don’t know why I’m apologising – the less I write about, the less you have to read, right? This post will shortly be followed by another with some nice photos and a story about my adventures in London last week.

Anyway, today I received an email encouraging me to enrol on a host of courses offered by the university as part of its Doctoral Development Program. The is the scheme by which the university is trying to make sure that everyone who graduates with a PhD is employable and well-rounded. I know a lot of people will agree with me when I say I think it’s a load of balls, but it is compulsory and the courses are free, so I thought I’d take a look at the options.

Whilst most of the modules and seminars could easily be identified as a waste of time, I did start to get carried away with some interesting choices. Besides a compulsory “Research ethics and integrity” seminar, the world really is your oyster when it comes to what extra courses you can take. From high performance grid computing, to fires and explosions, polar and alpine climates, Dutch colonial, post-colonial and migrant writing and the fundamentals of cognitive neuroscience, you really can learn about anything.

In actuality, a PhD student has very little time for other areas of interest, as my supervisor carefully pointed out to me. As exciting as it would be to become an expert in the fate and transport of pollutants in ground water, I don’t have the time (or energy) for it. With the additional skills I’ll be learning and employing in making observations, commissioning instrumentation, and attending conferences, I could probably get away without enrolling on any of these courses. Nevertheless there were a few that caught my eye as useful things which I’d like to do now whilst they are free and not in 5 years time when they will cost me £1000. The first is an introduction to Object Orientated Programming using Java. This seems like a really useful tool, and Java seems like the new most popular programming language, so how could I resist? In addition to this I’m hoping to enrol in a slightly-above-entry-level Spanish course to brush up on my vocabulary, and the Sheffield University Grad School, which I’m assured includes very good lunch.

In other news, there’s isn’t very much other news. Whilst not partying with the next generation of astro PhD students (see next post) I’ve been working hard on the automation software for pt5m. We now have a working “listener” program which awaits alerts about transient events, and submits observation jobs the queue if it hears about anything interesting. I’ve made good progress with the program which will automatically analyse and upload any transient data to the relevant follow-up servers, but this still requires lots of work. Unfortunately Stu is on holiday this week, so I’ll be struggling to get much further until next week, I think.

I’m not entirely sure what the next month or two will involve, but the big trip to Thailand is drawing ever closer, and I’m becoming increasingly aware of the many small and intermediately sized projects I ought to finish before then. The next big-ish task will be to conduct a literature review into the current statistics of optical transients, and the current and future surveys involved in the field. This sounds pretty fun, but unfortunately my absolute least favourite part of science is reviewing literature, so this will no doubt be a drain on the enthusiasm levels.

I’m sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. It’s hard to find cool and quirky pictures related to the Doctoral Development Program, or the Python and SQL interaction commands. Instead, here is a reminder to take it easy, from Yumi Sakugawa.

Chill out.  Yumi Sakugawa

Chill out.
Yumi Sakugawa

Finally, this blog was initially designed to be an easy way for me to explain to you what I’m studying and why. I also hoped it could be something that helps non-astronomy folk understand the universe a little better, like a lame agony-aunt / internet forum version of public outreach. So on that note, I’d like to invite you to please give feedback, and ask me questions. Particularly if I’ve written something you don’t understand, but also generally anything about astronomy, space or the universe which you’d like to know more about. Of course, you could just google it, but interaction is more fun, right? Anyway, this way I’ll probably learn stuff too! I appreciate that few people bother reading this anyway, and even fewer will make it this far into the post, but there’s no harm in asking. I’ll try to collaborate all/any questions and comments into a later post. Now, ask away!

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2 thoughts on “Busy times ahead

  1. I think I’ve said before but on top of the general comment from the last post that I’m enjoying reading the blog, I’d add that I think you write really well – It’s quite engaging and interesting! If I think of any things to ask I will try and do so, though it kind of feels like adding more work to your already busy life…. 🙂

  2. Agree with you Pip – I really enjoy the posts and its great to know a scientist who can also write. I’m told they are a rare breed.

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