Friday, 6 November 2015

The PhD: A Marathon, not a sprint....well until the last month or so.

Only two months ago, three years to the day after I arrived in Manchester, I successfully defended my  PhD thesis. One month after that, I submitted my final thesis and was awarded that magical prefix, "Doctor."

I do have to say, getting a PhD was the most stressful time in my life, but it opened my life to so many opportunities. I met loads of new people, experienced a new culture, traveled to beautiful places, and drank a whole lot of beer along the way. But it was really tough in other ways: I moved even further from my friends and family (seriously, trying to find times to chat with a 5-8 hour time difference is tough!), sold my horse, watched from afar as a friend battled breast cancer, lost my grandma and both grandpas, and ended a four and a half year relationship.

But something magic happened in the final push toward submitting my thesis. They say you never lose friends, just find out who your true friends are, and my gosh I have some incredible friends. I had loads of places to stay, dinners made and delivered so I could continue working, and countless tea and biscuit deliveries. Every time I got frustrated, I'd have a phone call or text from someone down the road or around the world, just when I needed it most. This support gave me the energy to keep calm and carry on. At 2 am on 11 August 2015 ( 2 hours past my deadline), I submitted my thesis.

On 10 September 2015, the day I had been working towards and dreading finally was time to defend the thesis. It was surreal sitting in the room with my water bottle (in case I needed to think long and hard about a question and felt awkward sitting in silence), waiting for my examiners to arrive. I was convinced there was a glaring error in my thesis and that I would fail my viva. Then, more magic happened. The viva, which I assumed would leave me scrambling to the bathroom in tears within five minutes, was actually a fun and fruitful scientific discussion of my work. The examiners and I had good fun discussing my results and making connections to past and future work, just like you do over a beer at a conference. Before I knew it, two and a half hours had passed and I was asked to leave the room. A short while later, I was called back in and congratulated on passing my viva with minor revisions.

A month of adding sentences here, reworking a figure there, and I had resubmitted my thesis. I'm now Doctor Kelsey Mulder.

I wanted to share this little tale because I couldn't have done my PhD without you, my dear friends. The cups of tea, text messages, phone calls, pictures of your pets (or just loaning me your pets!), and cards meant so much to me throughout the last three years, and especially in the past few months. You picked me up and helped me find the energy to finish. Words are failing me, but all I can say is thank you for your love and support, I owe my PhD to you.

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