Wednesday, October 10, 2012

6-Month PhD Progress Report

Today, I met with both supervisors and a convener to discuss my progress.  The meeting didn't start so well because my computer wasn't connecting to our network printer, which meant I didn't have copies of my self-report and I forgot the document that we were supposed to sit down and fill in together.  Oops!

My supervisors said that my progress so far is "fair" - just above "unsatisfactory" and just below "good".  I'm definitely disappointed in myself.  I've borrowed $25,000 to fund this year's tuition and living expenses, moved away from family and friends to live on the other side of the world, and allowed relationships to fall apart to pursue this PhD.  No one wants to be told her progress is only "fair" after all that!  But, the bright side is that I still have 2.5 years to get my act together and get some awesome stuff done.

To date, I've survived my first nationwide mailed survey of mid-age New Zealand women: the 3-year survey is complete.  We had just over 1,000 respondents and our response rate was just shy of 80%.  Also, the intervention development is in its infancy.  We've begun analyzing the predictors of weight gain to target in the intervention; I began looking into the pros and cons of using a free program where I'm in charge of content and design versus using a web developer for creating the intervention website; and, I've contacted researchers who've shared materials from their interventions with me so that I can possibly adapt their content for my intervention.  So, I'm happy with what I've done so far.

Aside from the research, a noticeable theme to my blog topics has been tramping.  I think this is where people get the impression that I'm having too much fun and, hence, why my progress is only fair.  But, if that is the case, so be it! New Zealand is too beautiful to leave unexplored.  If my progress has been hindered by hiking majestic mountains then I will happily accept ho-hum reviews!  I still can't get over the breathtaking landscapes here.  Even on a clear night, I've found myself looking up and thinking Wow, this is amazing!  How'd I get so lucky to be here?!  I'd be a fool if I allowed myself to be chained to my desk 24/7 when I can be doing this:

Yes, that's a photo of me from this past weekend's tramping expedition to Mt. Saint Bathans. 
Photo credit: Asbjørn Knutsen Romstøl

What are my plans for the future?  Well, for starters, I better get plugging away on that intervention!  I will also finish a manuscript that I started back in...March.  Then, maybe writing up a thesis chapter or two should go on my "to do" list, and, heck, sitting down to analyze our 3-year data some more wouldn't be so bad, right?  So, it's been a combination of needing to get all this work done plus simply not being ready to go back to New York, for a variety of reasons, that I've decided to put off a trip home.  I think I'll be in a better position to try for a visit some time in July.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me get this far into my PhD journey - my supervisors who have reassured me that my quantity and quality of work will keep on improving, my friends who have reminded me that I'm missed (particularly the ones who've taken time out of their busy lives to send me warm loving from home - a.k.a. cards and care packages), and my family who have reminded me that I'm not only missed, but loved a whole bunch.  My mom, in particular, has been a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope.

Now that I'm fired up, I better redirect my energy into thesis-related business rather than venting.  


  1. I'm stunned that you got an 80 percent response rate! No one gets that! You have a great resource to work with.

  2. Dillman's tailored method is awesome: mail questionnaire with incentive, send follow-up postcard, mail replacement questionnaire, send reminder postcard. Worked pretty well!