“Approved for Award”

*Insert squeal here*

*Insert squeal here*

This took a long time coming (approximately a year?). Not because I had to extend my research or writing, but because of an external reviewer who didn’t fulfill his responsibilities and couldn’t be bothered to inform anyone about it.

Nevertheless, today is a very happy day. I heave a sigh of relief and contentment. :)

Prospective advice?

This article which purportedly advises potential PhD candidates went somewhat viral on my Facebook newsfeed, with some sharers acting holier-than-thou in their additional accompanying notes to the link. I admit, the points raised by Prof. Dr. Vethamani are sound but at the same time, it came off sounding slightly self-righteous.

There are many who want to pursue PhD studies NOT because of the “Dr.” title, nor are they attempting to race towards the finish line (although IMO, this is commendable if it is feasible). I pled ignorance to the act of “farming out” dissertation work to others – I have heard of it but I don’t know how widespread the practice is in Malaysia. I most certainly don’t know anyone who chooses an institution where it is easy to pass in PhD research. Are there any respectable universities that do that? Do the supervisors have no pride? Are there not guidelines as to what certifies as a successful examinable outcome when it comes to postgraduate studies? Don’t these outcomes undergo peer review of some sort?

The advice is most probably well-meant, but it seems like a result of frustrations on the part of the supervisor. Personally, as a student in research, I do not know anyone who expects an easy ride when it comes to PhD. Heck, even getting a research Masters is hard most times. Some are lucky with projects and titles landing on their laps at the right time, but others like me had a slightly longer and harder journey. Reading the article didn’t feel like a validation towards our experiences although the second last paragraph encourages people to take up the challenge. I am probably taking this very personally, but this is because I take my dreams and ambitions very seriously.

Alternatively, prospective students could maybe ask these questions to their potential supervisors. It’s less funny when fingers point towards supervisors not pulling their weight, eh?

Making friends with biostatistics

Biostatistics is not my strong suit. I struggled with it during my undergrad years and only with much persistence and patience from my biostats lecturer did I manage to get a pass. For my dissertation, I think my supervisor was aware that I had an aversion towards biostats so we kinda skirted around it. Thank goodness the research committee responsible for passing my viva deemed my results and discussion sufficient enough to let it slide without any quantitative analysis.

For my M.Sc. thesis however, one of my reviewers pointed out how I had more than enough data to do simple statistics. Alas, my university did not have SPSS which I was used to so I had to do most of my calculations manually via Excel. As I have mentioned in my first sentence, I am a biostats n00b so thank God for YouTube and awesome instructors sharing on there!

Besides Shannon and Smith & Wilson, I also used Margalef which was easy enough without having to look it up on the tube.

Much later on, I was pointed towards PAST, a freeware “with functions for data manipulation, plotting, univariate and multivariate statistics, ecological analysis, time series and spatial analysis, morphometrics and stratigraphy”. It is easier compared to SPSS and all it took to calculate the more commonly used biodiversity indices was just a click of the mouse. It is also able to do multivariate tests like ANOSIM and SIMPER which was initially suggested by the aforementioned reviewer but I had no way of doing. Now, I can! All that is needed is to read up the manual to find out how I should arrange my data so that this awesome software can calculate for me. :D

New pages

I have added new pages at the top to show work I have done. I do realise that what I have is very amateur in comparison with more established science communicators and fellow scientists but I do hope that as time goes by, there will be visible improvement in the quality.

In the event prospective collaborators are to stumble across this blog, HI! I have yet to publish a paper in a good journal but I am working on it. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the research work(s) I have done.