I’ll do a PhD.

March 11 2017:

I’m ​thinking of asking my supervisor to let me do a PhD under his supervision. I’ve already had some sort of discussion with my group head regarding this and there’s already a PhD position available with him and Dr Semenov as supervisors. The topic is also interesting, but the only reason I’ve not applied to this position is because I want my current supervisor as my PhD supervisor.

July 2 2017:

So this post has been in my drafts folder for a long time (~5 months) now. I left it in there as I was not sure whether I should publish this or not. I had this feeling that it would be very awkward for me to “log” things publicly on the internet before even I achieve the goal.

I felt I would never make it for a couple of reasons. First the topic had to be approved by some internal committee of CNRS. Later I would have to write a lot of letters and fill up forms while I worked on my thesis. If that went smooth, I would be called upon to defend my master thesis in front of a huge jury from the doctoral school of Strasbourg. Moreover the proposed dates for my “real” defense and doctoral school defense were so close that there was a high chance I could fail in one of these.

But once I grew balls to talk to my supervisor about my interest, he came across as very supportive! In one week, or so, he prepared a rough draft of a topic he was ready to supervise me on. The topic seemed very doable as it would be something more advanced, but within the limits of my then experience. The topic went through the internal committee, and got listed on the doctoral school website. I almost prepared all my documents for the doctoral school with 1 week left for the deadline — then came the plot twist — another guy applied to the same topic (means competition). For some reason my supervisor advised me to apply to another senior researcher in the group who also had his topic approved for the doctoral school. I came to know that the candidate had a very strong theoretical background, which kind of made his profile more interesting.

So I talked to this other supervisor about his topic, and the topic had something really interesting going on — the simulations would be based on an experiment by another group in ICS — this was the same motif that Dr Baschnagel proposed with his topic! Now I had two topics to decide from, but my interest towards each of these topics were based on unique reasoning. One had some experimental motivation and would be mostly theoretical with some level of programming, the other gave me this opportunity to play with different kind of systems and would be more computational than the former.

I did not think much about what I wanted to do; both were fine for me — but I had to decide soon, and decided to do the theoretical (possibly the more challenging) topic — I changed my motivation letters, and associated documents to match the newly found topic. I reached my breaking point the day before my master thesis defense when I sort of lost consciousness while at work, even worse — during a discussion with my supervisor.

Thesis defense day.

I pulled myself together, fixed all corrections suggested by my supervisors (now I had two people to look at my work — my master thesis supervisor and my PhD supervisor) late in the night. Slept.

An hour before my defense a colleague of mine emailed me saying I qualified the doctoral school defense. YUSS. I went through a tough grind (weeks 24, 25) and emerged out of this alive. My master thesis advisor also confirmed this to me after my defense. I did well for my doctoral school presentation as well as my master thesis and defense! I felt like I did something impossible — but then realised I’m not the first one to do this.

The theoretical physics guy did not qualify the doctoral school defense — and then things got a bit twisted for me. One of my colleagues told maybe I should talk to my original supervisor with whom I planned the PhD initially (now that his student did not qualify) and try to change my supervisor — we did the talking just to see if this is possible. But then we came into consensus that it would be very weird (paraphrased) for me to change right now.

So yes. I’ll do a PhD at one of the CNRS labs called Institut Chales Sadron (Strasbourg). I’ll work with Dr Joachim Wittmer (PhD supervisor), Dr Wiebke Drenckhan (experimental advisor) and Dr Manish Kaushal (experimental advisor) on the molecular dynamics of comb copolymers in confinement.

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