Thesis Life: The Process of Thesis Period
Now, I would like to share my experience in doing my thesis at HAP. It was a long and winding road for me since I faced a lot of challenging situations. I had never had any experience in the lab before I started my thesis. Hence, I encountered many problems that often even made me break down and cry. However, at the end of the day, I made it. It was satisfying to look back again to know that I am strong enough to get through Master’s thesis in WUR.
I would like to share some tips to get through the thesis period. It might be slightly different from other majors, but the whole idea should be applicable.
1. Take your time to make a good proposal
I started my proposal writing right after I arrived in my thesis department. To achieve a good proposal, I had to read a lot of journals and tried to understand my topic thoroughly to make interesting research questions. I started from nothing since I came from a completely different background. My topic was about metabolic programming in adipose tissue. I had never studied molecular and metabolism pathways before I started my thesis. However, it was not an obstacle for me. The key to surviving in the proposal phase is to have a good communication with your supervisor. We have to get our point across clearly to them so that they know what to expect from us.
A proposal does not have to be long and complicated. The shortest it is, the better, as long as everything you would like to achieve is there. Even though the proposal is not count in your final grade, it is still very important, especially for your supervisor’s impressions. Proposal presentation is also a good way to practice your presentation skills in front of many audiences. Prepare before you do a presentation because there most likely will be a lot of questions await!
2. Keep your lab journal up-to-date
At my department (HAP), we have to update our lab journal. Since we are doing lab experiments, it is important to write down the steps we did, the results, and the problems we encounter during the experiment. Keeping track of our experiment is useful for future usages, such as writing report. It can also be useful for future experiments that will be done based on our experiment. So, try to keep your lab journal as detailed as possible.
3. Balance your experiments/data collection with other activities
Thesis life is an ongoing battle for at least six months. Thus, it is very important to balance it with having some fun and relaxed time. Like for example, I used to have two coffee breaks during the day. We usually get to get free coffee or tea which is good! Take 15-30 minutes with your fellow thesis friends to sit down and be away from the laboratory for a while. Also, keeping up with your fellow colleagues at the department is important to broaden your connection. Don’t be behind the desk all the time, just mingle!
Not to mention that, according to my experience, I put two weeks holiday off in between my thesis period. It was helpful for me because I could recharge and start fresh again with my upcoming experiments. If I did not get a holiday in between, I would have felt saturated and it might have affected my performance in the lab. Plus, it was summer so might as well enjoy sunny Southern Europe 😉
4. Maintain a good relationship with your supervisor
This is very important! You will have two supervisors, one is for daily/weekly (usually Ph.D. students), and the other one is for half period (usually the professors). There will be a weekly meeting with your daily supervisor and a mid-term meeting with your second supervisor. In this meeting, you can discuss your overall thesis progress. It would be nice if in the first meeting you discuss personal goals and expectations. It is going to be a base of the setup you’ll make with them. Be critical, assertive, and of course prepared in every meeting because they will see your progress from the meetings. Update your supervisors about your current progress, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
There you go, four tips from me to get through thesis life. It is sure a roller-coaster experience, however, if you do it with passion and persistence, you will make it. Let me know in the comment section if you want to ask further about thesis life. I hope this article is helpful!