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The advisory shuffle

Friday, October 13, was my adviser’s last day.  He remains as an adjunct professor, but as such he cannot directly advise or supervise graduate students.  Thus, just a few weeks into my official life as a PhD student I find myself adrift.  While I started adrift, over the past 10 months I stopped drifting and began focusing in a specific direction.  It is a peculiar thing – to be adrift, then to find direction and focus, and then be adrift again.  Humbling, certainly.  When adrift the first time around I didn’t know what to expect, or how good it is to work with someone that encourages crazy ideas.  I touched on this in my last post. But life doesn’t always go the way we anticipate.

I spent a bit of time going through an existential crisis of sorts because being adrift meant that I had to once again consider all the various directions I might go. So that’s what I’ve been doing.  Considering externalities (they’re trying to recruit someone that would be an awesome match from a research perspective).  Considering crazy options (applying to go somewhere else).  Of course, there’s also the option of considering other faculty to serve as adviser, but that is surprisingly challenging.  One of the best fits isn’t in the same department, which creates other potential complications.  Sorting it all out takes time.

Then I realized that this is part of the challenge of completing a PhD – the willingness to persevere in the face of factors beyond my control.  Hence why I found myself asking why I wanted to do this.  I’m not a brilliant researcher though I like to think I’m at least a competent one.  I can write reasonably well.  My hope is that the insights I do have can be used to contribute something.  I’m also pragmatic enough to know that it is rather unlikely I will change the world.  Still, I’m idealistic enough to want to try to change the world.

The good news is that none of this is an emergency.  I have time to look at options, to consider what I wish to achieve.  In the end, it will force me to look for clarity.  My hope is that I will actually find it.  Only time will tell.