Thursday, 6 October 2011

Earning your keep

I'm aware I keep saying this, but I still find it really hard to believe that already we're nearly done with September. Now it's really time to start putting my skills to use.

One way I'll be doing that very soon is to start earning my keep. The deal with a studentship (at least within my own School) is that PhD students funded by the School earn a certain amount as a stipend no questions asked with no work involved, other than your PhD of course. In addition to this, you can earn extra income through marking undergraduate essays/reports or teaching undergraduate research classes. This year I’m doing marking and I’ve been lucky or unlucky depending on how you look at it in that all my marking falls within a four week period this semester, then another four week period next semester. Good because it gets it over and done with, bad because that’s a really big chunk of time where I’m going to have no time for anything else. I’m sure you will soon find out just how well I’m managing that particular dilemma.

The other way in which I’m starting to use my accrued skills is to run my first experiment. This is exciting and terrifying in a way I can’t seem to convey in words. I think most likely actually “doing something” is exciting because it feels like progress, but terrifying too because I’ve not really run my own experiments since my undergraduate dissertation. Let’s just say, they don’t exactly feel comparable.

My pilot is nice and simple with just two participants. I have a magic trick selected and I’m intending simply to find out what happens when they try to learn it. Well, I might add that it sounds simple, but the amount of data that’s going to come out the other end is ridiculous. It’s certainly giving me an appreciation for why natural-environment eye tracking studies have fewer participants. You’ve screeds and screeds of eye movement data to get through and doing that for 100 participants would be a close approximation of a “kill me now” situation.

I’m not sure how soon I can get it up and running as I’ve yet to find out the ethics situation, but it’s more than likely going to be after my marking marathon. I’m getting prepared though, and with perhaps one more meeting with my supervisor, I might even start booking some time slots in the lab. Exciting times!

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