My PhD: 1st year in review

As we near October and the start of another academic year, I thought I’d share some of my experiences and highlights from the first year of my PhD here at Lancaster University.

Looking over my notes, I have:

  • Read a lot of novels.
  • Spent a lot of time in the library.
    • And even more time typing in my room.
  • Held down multiple jobs:
    • Work for Student Based Services at Lancaster:
      • Weekly term-time newsletter to all students.
      • Edited an AUA Good Practice Guide.
      • Managed and published a book of condolence.
    • Migrated the Graduate College’s website to a new CMS with new dynamic templates.
      • Also assisted Bowland College in finishing off their own website as well.
    • Continued to work a day a week for the IT department at CCCU.
  • Helped start the TTAC21 research group, and made significant contributions to blog articles and face-to-face meetings.
  • Learnt some interesting things in diverse disciplines include: law, ethics, cognitive psychology, philosophy, cultural studies, history, and military / war studies.
  • Joined the Sci Fi and Fantasy Anonymous Reading Group.
  • Helped organise this year’s AHRC North West postgraduate conference.
  • Attended several conferences and workshops.
    • Gave papers at two conference inc. the CRSF in Liverpool and the Iredell Law Conference, here in Lancaster. (With more to come later this year…)
  • Met some really smart people.
  • Written and contributed to a host of blogs and blog discussions including:
  • Expanded my social media profile.
  • Visited some interesting literary places, including:
    • Whitby (Dracula)
    • Grasmere (final resting place of William Wordsworth)
    • Haworth (home of the Brontës)
  • Seen a whole host of world-class musicians at Lancaster Arts and the Liverpool Philharmonic.
  • Started work on my first joint paper.

PhD progress

Thus far I have almost four chapters drafted to roughly 12k words each, totalling 48k, with another chapter to come, plus several significant additions. (Not bad for my first year!)

Interesting finds

One of the great joys of doing a PhD is following the various trails your research takes you on. One of my most interesting finds was a series of pictures from the 1930s of the Westinghouse Mechanical Man, Elektro, and his dog Sparko. I especially like the fact they made the robot smoke in order to appear more human!

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More images can be found via the New York Public Library.

I’m also particularly taken by this cover from Time Magazine from January 1950. The text says: ‘Mark III: Can man build a superman?’

Time Cover 23 Jan 1950

Finally, here’s a cover from Military Review 1993. The US Military does like its future-gazing, and super-soldiers have featured prominently over the years:

Military Review November 1993

Top five novels I’ve read this academic year

I’ve easily read over a book a week since starting my PhD, though this in itself is nothing new for me. From my reading in this last year I particularly enjoyed:

*Not for my PhD(!)

Top five academic books I’ve read this year

(That I haven’t read before…)

Lessons learnt

  • Seize opportunities: a PhD is a wonderful opportunity, so make the most of it and the time it gives you.
  • Coffee is the lifeblood of the student: I cannot count the number of meetings I’ve had in coffee shops that have led me down new paths of investigation. Thanks to the (many) campus coffee outlets I have had chats about all sorts of things from surveillance and space colonialism to autonomous weapon systems, queer theory in Star Trek, and the law of human transplants.
  • Don’t stress: there are far bigger things in life to worry about.

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