Tag Archives: PhD

I’ll be better next time, I promise!

So, how much time has passed since my last update? Basically half a year, I think!… This is definitely not going according to plan πŸ™‚ .

Anyway, my last update was immediately after I handed in my thesis (end of April). I started my new job as a post-doc researcher the week after. The new job is still at the same place, with the same people — but with additional responsibilities (and without the pressure of a thesis to write…)!

I had a slight break in between, though – my dad came to visit and we did some sightseeing (Dover Castle in extremely foggy conditions, but we powered it through anyway – I’m becoming too English πŸ™‚ ) and at the end of his stay I had my first coastal regatta (@ Worthing) of the season (well, there had been one in Deal in early April but that didn’t count). Funnily enough, we ended up winning our Nov 4+ category that day (unfortunately that was the _only_ win I had during the whole season – we did get quite a few third places, though!).

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Some of the HBARC squad after prize-giving in Worthing regatta! (photo by M. Marques)

So yes, most of my summer weekends were spent on several different beaches around the Kent and East Sussex coast – with all culminating on the South Coast Championships which took place precisely at Herne Bay! It has definitely been fun, if tiresome at times.

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We like the rough water! πŸ™‚ (although in my opinion rough water is fine for sweep rowing, not so much for going out on a single scull! But I guess I just need to get some proper sea legs…) (photo by J Dining)

One other ‘big thing’ that happened over the summer was our house move. We finally moved out of the student digs in Canterbury we were in to a nicer place in Herne Bay. Not only am I now only 10 minutes away from the clubhouse by bike but we now have a proper garage and workshop where I can work on my bikes and other assorted projects! (it also has a nice kitchen, with a 5-burner gas hob and everything! Luxury…)

Oh, and there is also the viva. Yes, that should actually have been the first thing on the list, but I am trying to do it in a chronological fashion (it does make more sense in my head than in the actual text…). So yes, according to my supervisor, when confronted with the size of my thesis (obviously… πŸ˜‰ ) my external examiner required the whole 3 months to read it. (he did also say that my thesis was probably the heaviest item in his luggage – but I blame the university policies for that, which prevented me from printing on both sides of the paper, making a 250-page book as thick as the Bible!).

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Everything ready for the viva! In the UK the PhD viva is only attended by the two examiners (one internal, and one external) and obviously the candidate. Makes it for a more one-to-one conversation; and even though I had prepared a 30-minute presentation, that ended up being an informal conversation about my work. And no, I did not bribe my examiners with Lidl biscuits, although they were quite welcome πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’m digressing… so, my viva. It took place on the 2nd of August, and everything went according to plan – I had booked a nicer room (our group’s meeting room, which has a proper meeting table, AV facilities and also the kettle & coffee maker: these two are very important!), refreshed my memory by reading the thesis and checking relevant papers (and spotted quite a few mistakes in the process – outch!), so everything was properly prepared. The questioning wasn’t that bad, really – I was just surprised to be asked to compute matrix multiplications and simple signal theory concepts – and in the end I got out with minor corrections (could have been just typographical but since I wanted to change some diagrams, they allowed for that a bit more time). I felt quite honored to be told by my external examiner (who is a very big name in the field, and the editor of one of the biggest journals in the field as well!) that he had actually learned something from my thesis. Amazing stuff, especially considering he started his academic career more or less when I was born!

After properly celebrating with my workmates, my supervisor, and Sally of course, August went on, with a couple more regattas, followed by a lot of water sessions in preparation for the South Coast Champs. By then our crew was coming together – there were sessions when the boat felt really, really good, timing- and balance-wise. It was a long time coming but we felt really happy when it finally happened!

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At the end of a training session with my mate Carlos on the coxless pair. There are few better ways of finishing the day… πŸ™‚ (photo by N Tricks)

Naturally, during all this time my research activities were carried on – we finalised a paper which is now going to be re-submitted soon (issues with reviewers being silly, nothing new there), and I’ve developed new systems, new software, and obtained lots of pretty pictures in the process. Hopefully if I become a bit more committed to updating this thing more images will eventually surface here…

I also bought a new road bike that month. It was a bit of an impulse buy – we had gone to Halfords to buy L-plates for Sally’s car so she could practice and naturally my gaze was diverted to the bike section, where I spotted a big discount on old stock. Ended up getting a low-end Carrera (but with carbon forks and half-decent wheels) for Β£199 – quite happy with it so far, although I haven’t done any very long rides with it yet (mostly 20 miles-ish each so far). The N+1 rule does not apply here, at least not until we have our own place and not have to worry about moving everything, so I had to get rid of one of my bikes πŸ™ . But I wasn’t really riding the hybrid Raleigh that much, especially considering that the bike itself was a bit too small for me! Ended up selling it to one of my co-workers, which was probably the best thing I could have done – it went to a loving home and I still see it from time to time. πŸ˜‰

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My two roadies enjoying the sun. I took this picture after finishing fitting a new fork on the Granada, since the original one had been damaged during a head-on collision with another cyclist earlier in the summer.

In late August I flew to Porto for a mini-holiday with my family, followed by the customary week-long Physics summer school at my old university, where once again I mentored the LEGO robots project (this was probably the last time I’ll be involved in this, though – I think it is time to move on and let new faces take over and create a whole new project!). Away from my crewmates and the training sessions, and with the Championship looming, I ran and I cycled as much as possible, and I was treated to some nice rides with nice people, as the picture below shows!… πŸ™‚

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Great time!

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Brilliant time!

September came and went, with a very welcome mini-break with Sally to Portugal – it was her first time there, and we had a very tightly-packed schedule, so things were a bit hectic. Still, we enjoyed the countryside, Porto, the river, and the nice food (not to mention having my family around). And on Easter next year we will return for more!

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In the Douro valley with Mum, Dad and Sally!

After returning to the UK, winter slowly started to set in. We fought for a bit, still had our Indian summer for a while, not really wanting to swap the summer with the winter clothes or turn the central heating on but we ended up capitulating on early November (although theΒ  icy weather only really started around here last week!). And with November a few more things appeared in the horizon – I became qualified as a session rowing coach (I have completed a British Rowing course – the first one on the coaching ladder – alongside a few people from HBARC and Spitfire), and I had my graduation ceremony where I finally became a doctor of philosophy in Physics (woo, fancy title! πŸ™‚ ).

Naturally, for this momentous occasion I had to have my family over, so my parents came to visit, and after graduation day we took a couple of days off to show them around. Despite the torrential rain in one of the days (there you go, England!) we still enjoyed ourselves.

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Me and my parents at the Cathedral on graduation day. (photo by S Makin)

And now it is finally December, and Christmas decorations are sprouting here and there, there’s Christmas music on the radio, and today I bought my very first Christmas jumper! πŸ™‚ This year I’m actually spending Christmas and New Year in England, for the first time in my life. My brother and sister are actually spending Christmas with us (which is also going to be a first for them), so I’m quite looking forward to the festive season. But there’s so much to finish before that happens… better get on with it, and hope I still have some time to keep this updated. At least let’s hope it won’t be another 6-7 months until the next update… πŸ˜‰

After a number of visits from the evil lab fairy…

… it turns out my lab was visited during my absence by her cousin, the good lab fairy! Not only were the windowsills cleaned (cobwebs everywhere, one could hardly call that a clean room!), but the issue that was affecting my system seems to have magically vanished.

I’ve documented it, tested it, wrote a case to present to the NI engineers so that they could help me sort out my issue, and yet… it healed on its own!

One has to say… I should go on holidays more often and leave things sort themselves out! πŸ˜€

PS: apparently the windowsills business was actually the cleaners who came during the time I was out. But again the good lab fairy was there, as no fibres were broken nor is the system misaligned! πŸ™‚

Going north!…

Yeah, really. I accepted the PhD post in Kent, and I will start there by the end of this month. Right now, I still have my viva to complete and some time to enjoy the good Portuguese weather (even when it is rainy like today, it is still a lot less miserable than the “standard” English weather – and I’m talking about Kent, not some soggy northern county! :)).

Of course it is hard to leave friends & family, but it is something that must be done… and I’m not embarking in a journey towards the unknown, I’ve been there already for 6 months, it is almost like my 2nd home! πŸ˜€

Updates, or why I haven’t posted anything in the past weeks.

Well, let’s see… first there was the MSc dissertation and its numerous corrections & over-deadline edits (I don’t recommend that to anyone, by the way).

Oh, but wait, there’s more… before that, I had one very busy week mentoring high school students in a Robotics project integrated into the activities of the Physics Summer School for high school students (year 10 to 12…). It went OK (it is my third time coordinating the project), but it is *very* time-consuming and demanding (both physically and mentally).

Add to the mix some very regular marathon training (a friend of mine at my rowing club managed to convince me to sign up for the Oporto marathon, even though I still don’t know whether I’ll be in the country by then – more on that later), and you can imagine that with all of this (our trainings oscillate between 1h-1h30 run sessions and some weights) there isn’t that much time left.

MM, the strokeman

But there is always time for a Douro river descent! (of course!) This year we started in Caldas de Aregos, a bit upstream from Carrapatelo dam (approx. 10 km), and in total we covered 66 km in two days, using our old, battered but always fit for the job 8-Yolle. Almost perfect weather (a bit on the hot side, but we rowed mostly in the mornings & evenings, and also a bit windy, but the Yolle can take it all with ease!), and everything went smoothly apart from the night camping at Melres – apparently all people with tuned cars and loud music within a 20 km radius seemed to have converged to that particular river beach that night, and it was long after 4 AM that they either fell asleep or drove somewhere else. And our senior coach had no problem in waking us up at 700 for us to move and get the boat ready! πŸ™‚

Since I came back from England, I’ve been rowing a lot, spending some time with my friends and family, all things that I missed while being 2000 km away in that green corner of England. However, it seems that I will probably miss all those things again in the near future, because one of my PhD prospects (so far, the only one confirmed) involves a full 3-year stay at Kent. Honestly I am very inclined to take it, but it is very hard to leave Porto just 2 months after I got back home – my friends, my family, my beloved Douro river, the lovely climate all year round (even those chilly mornings in January have their charm!), all that weigh hard on the other side of the scale. But one must follow what is good for him, and it may not be the easy, comfy option (almost never is!).

So now I am facing a return to Kent in perhaps one month’s time. But first there are still some loose ends to tie, namely my Master’s degree – the dissertation was (finally!) submitted last Friday, but there is still a lot to be done.

Let us see what the future holds. Like we say in Portuguese, “vamos indo e vamos vendo“!…