Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Leaving the shallows...

So I recently have experienced a huge change in my research direction, and for those possibly going through the same thing, I thought I would share the hows and whys.

Last year, my original research project began taking a serious nose-dive. I knew what I wanted to do and thought I had a good plan of attack, but I simply could not account for some variables. Amongst other issues, there was some crucial information I was going to need to make it work, and I was not going to be able to get it. Lesson learned: beware projects involving potential proprietary information. However, if someone wants to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars so I can buy my own plane, lidar system, and hire a pilot, I may still be able to do it though...

Anyway, after a couple months of feeling like I was drowning in trying to find another project, I was getting scared. I was nearing the start of my third year and I had no project. Sure, I had like 45 credits worth of class that I had taken, but my research had basically gone up in smoke. I got to the point were I was considering taking a leave from school to give myself time to decide what I wanted to do and if I even wanted to continue in grad school. The best advice I got was to talk to some of the faculty outside my department, particularly young, fresh-faced, faculty that were still full of excitement. I did so, and it saved me.

Now, I have finally came across a project that I think is a perfect fit. It brings me back to my undergrad days of awe when I was first learning about oceanography and geology and everything amazed me. I am leaving the shallows and heading into the deep! My new research focuses (in a nutshell) on using high-resolution multibeam sonar data to determine fault structure and earthquake potential along oceanic transform faults. I am so excited. My committee is also very excited and very supportive. This is key, as last year this was not always the case.

I am sharing this because I think it is important for other grad students (especially the PhD-ers out there) to know that sometimes setbacks happen, and sometimes they are for the best. This new project definitely has me more excited than my old. There is much more room for collaboration, and I am going to get to work with some great folks down at Woods Hole! My committee changed slightly as a result of the new direction, and is more excited and supportive than ever before. Did I lose some time? Probably about 6 months of research time. Does it matter? No. In the long run, who cares? As one of my committee members said to me, "the setback itself matters not, what does matter is whether or not you bounce back." Setbacks in grad school are common. They happen to the best of us. After all, we are still learning how to ask the questions that lead to great projects in the first place.

So 2010 certainly has been a fresh start for me. A new year, a new project, and now, a new blog layout.

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