Saturday, July 05, 2008

Summer research project

I'm working on a summer research project, as part of the requirement for PhD program. Very early this year (like in the 1st week of Jan), I managed to connect with a company that was (and, I hope, is still) interested to work on a project together. However, the communication with that contact person was kind of slow... due to his workload, he would take couple of days, sometimes weeks, to respond to my email, etc. Nevertheless, there was some (slow) progress.

My plan was to collect the data through the company during the summer - by June, but not later than July. Give myself 2 good months to do data analysis. A shocker came in late May, just after my final exams, that person whom I have been talking to over the last 5 months was leaving the company. Given that he was my only point of contact in the company, I had to quickly find someone else to liaise with. It took two long weeks of silence before I received the confirmation from the company, that the project would proceed. The communication with the new contact person was going pretty well, and I thought we can do a pre-test in early July (slightly later than my initial plan).

But somehow during the last two weeks (late June), things kind of slow down once again. Early July is now here, but we are still a few steps away from a pre-test. Hopefully, we can pick up steam over the next 2 weeks... 

So many  ups and downs, so many factors beyond one's control and influence. I have learnt two things through the various periods of waiting. First, always be hopeful. During the 2 weeks of silence in early June (when my 1st contact left, and before the 2nd contact responded), I was stubbornly hopeful that the project would go on. In fact, my advisers were kind of concerned about the possibility of doing the study with the company, and suggested that I think of alternatives. My first response was that I would not give up until I hear a definite "no" from the company. I continued to work on the ideas, etc., albeit at a slower pace.

Second, silence presents opportunities. Even before my advisers asked me to think of alternatives, I already had some thoughts on how else I could get the data, or what else I could examine. The time of waiting allowed me to put more thoughts to develop these ideas, which are possible projects for the future. Also, during the last two weeks, as things slowed down, I managed to enhance the data collection procedure. Had the pre-test have gone on as planned, I might not have been able to realize some possible blind-spots or work on them. Even during the early part of the year, because the communication with the first contact was kind of slow, I had the opportunity to fine-tune my ideas - so much so that the model I have now is quite different from the one then. 

Just some learning points, that perhaps could be useful in the situation that you are in. Disclaimer: being stubbornly hopeful involves risks... so calculate your risks properly.