Setbacks

It’s been a long week.  I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in front of a computer fighting with R.  For the uninitiated, R is a statistics package which can invoke both satisfaction and swearing, the balance of each depending on your coding ability.  With help (and some swearing), I managed to analyse a dataset and use it to create a lovely model last week.  This week, I used the model and another dataset to predict other parameters and started analysing them.  It all looked good and I was feeling like I would end the week on a high – this was serious progress towards what will be the first paper from my PhD. Unfortunately, just as the clock was about to strike 5pm yesterday, I noticed something unexpected in the predictions.  Perplexed, I went back to the original model, ran some plots and saw a big problem that somehow managed to escape me in my joy at getting the model to work.  This means it’s back to the drawing-board with the model and that everything I did this week will have to be re-done when a new model is ready.

I’m feeling more philosophical about this now than I was last night.  I am slowly becoming more comfortable using R, I learned some new techniques that I will undoubtedly use again, and at least I noticed the problem before my supervisor, or worse, a journal reviewer.  Everyone has warned me that PhDs are full of setbacks – and with unprecedentedly bad weather and a plethora of broken equipment this summer, I have experienced this myself already.   However, it is still hugely frustrating!  Of course I’m sure I’ll be able to work through it and get the results I need, but I’ve decided I need to take a break from it to regroup first, so I’m going to ignore it until after the weekend.  Luckily, I have the excuse of a few things little jobs in the lab and field, as well as preparation for my first year viva, which is on Monday.

I think dealing with, and moving on from, challenges, delays and obstacles will be one of the most important things I take away from this project.  To do this though, sometimes you need a bit of space to think about something else for a while.  Maybe a couple of easy wins in the lab with help put me back on track?  If not, I’ll find solace in chocolate and cats.  Actually, that’ll probably happen regardless.

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