Monday, October 3, 2011

Data analysis and life

And ye, verily did the hordes of students return to the hallowed grounds of UQ, and mightily did we curse as lines at the Refectory and Merlos did lengthen accordingly.

This week, I find myself preparing for data analysis, and thus I shall write about it as well.

There are many different words and phrases for data analysis in the sciences. For instance: 'A love affair with statistics packages', 'Listening to music while attempting to break your keyboard', or more simply 'being a COLOSSAL nerd'. Any and all of the above are appropriate. The funny thing about it is that should you have any passion for science, you'll find yourself strangely immersed in not only entering the data, but then running each successive analysis, reviewing the results, interpreting said results and so forth.

It can feel like an anticlimax; you've worked and experimented (for weeks, months or perhaps even years) and now you have this great pile of data that you have to compile and work into something understandable. Not for yourself, as you should hopefully know already what you're doing. But going from having that data to creating a story that is understandable and interesting to other people is a skill, and the entire process is both a privilege and a pleasure. That's not to say it's not stressful and difficult as hell, as it certainly can be. Sometimes things won't go according to plan and you will wish to create a fist-sized and -shaped hole in your computer screen and the wall behind it (much to the shock of the inhabitants of the next room). You will almost certainly have a few late nights in the office. In spite of (and perhaps because of) this, it's totally worth it.

I personally doubt that many of us do this because it's a challenge. I certainly don't. It is absolutely a challenge, and I am expected to run experiments, to publish, etc. But as one of the senior academics said earlier this year, academia is/should be as much a vocation as anything else. So I do it because I love it, and the aforementioned necessities just serve as to legitimise the whole affair as a job.

Interestingly, people look at me funny from time to time and say 'but PhD's make no money' or even more amusingly 'that sounds so boring!'. Regarding money, it's cliche but I'd vastly prefer to do a job I enjoy rather than one that paid well, assuming I had to choose. I once tried working in an office job that paid well. I lasted 4 weeks before my brain melted out one ear from boredom. As for a PhD being boring, each to their own.

I have gone from talking about data analysis to a discussion of my perspectives on PhD's. Rather amusing shift, but I hope it proves enjoyable/interesting/informative nonetheless. I am off to finalise an Ethics proposal, so I shall see you all next week!


No comments:

Post a Comment