I always thought uni. would be all fun and games until you reached your dissertation. I have to say, having that looming over you as you mess around in first year is a bit daunting. It feels like it’s a problem for much, much future you, but it’s there in the back of your mind. So let me explain a little bit as to what’s going on.
I am currently writing my final year research project. It’s not called a dissertation so don’t use that word out loud as some staff get very triggered (haha, I’m not joking). For the purposes of this blog, it shall hereby be referred to as a ‘diss’. So, as I said, I am doing my diss right now which means I’ve done everything else. You heard me, exams are done and dusted and no more lectures! (Mixed feelings because the end of my time at Warwick is nigh *sob*). That’s what’s cool about studying at the School of Life Sciences at Warwick: you get a special designated time to write your diss when everyone else on main campus has to suffer throughout the year. I reckon we’re doing it right!
Not only do we have time carved out to write it, we have a title selection process much like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. Rather than plucking your own title out of thin air (gosh, could you imagine?), we have a method which my peers have agreed is miles better. When the time comes (I think it was around January-time), you get a very special link to choose your favourite 15 options out of ~400 titles which the lovely staff at Gibbet Hill have come up with. I found the organisation to be heavenly and spent a wonderful evening making lists and cross referencing my options *happy sigh*. Of course, you don’t have to go overboard like I did, but my point is you select your top 15 out of a number of titles and then the staff at Gibbet work their magic and try to assign you one you’ll like. The page not only gives you titles, it also lets you know who the project supervisor would be and provides a cute description of the project if you click on it. Obviously, you don’t want to spend a week reading every single entry so I went through the list once and jotted down titles I would be interested in (they have a numerical code also to make things easier) and then went back and read the description to narrow my choice down. Some more good news is that you are not restricted to your degree stream; you can choose titles from any Life Sciences degree.
Now for the main bit. I might be nearing halfway of my diss time, but my word count remains low. Why? We are not given a title and sent off alone! I have had video calls with my supervisor every week (another very nice man, someone find me some mean staff at Warwick because I haven’t found any in my 3 years) and right now, I am tasked with data sorting and number crunching. Of course, your title and project will absolutely vary and so might your experience, but I want to reassure you, you aren’t left to your own devices and told to whip up a sexy 10,000-word document alone. I have been given a beautiful mini list of things to do before each call and as long as I get it done, I feel good and am on track.
One last thing is you have a choice between wet and dry lab projects. Wet is lab coats on; dry is usually either data, surveys or pulling together research from online. There are fewer wet lab projects than there are dry, but with the pandemic the vast majority of people opted for dry anyway.
Main points to take away: you don’t have to invent your own title, you highlight your top choices from a list; you get all the scary uni. stuff out of the way first like exams so you can have 5 gorgeous weeks free to bang out your diss; and lastly, you have a wonderful supervisor who is with you every step of the way and lets you know what to do. I might still be nervous about my diss, but that’s because of my quality of writing, not because I’m thrown in the deep end all alone. GOOD LUCK!