PhD progress is like the weather in Norway – unpredictable

  30 May, 2016

I am enjoying my PhD work, but there are many challenges to handle on the way. Photo: Per Henning/NTNU

After a long time without writing any posts, I am still here, ready for some new words. Last time I mentioned that I would say something about scientific life. I am at the same place, in the same conditions, surrounded with new scientific challenges, which currently stops me from writing my paper.

I would like to introduce PhD candidates’ most common opponent before the official defense and its name is time, which runs so fast that you cannot keep up. To me, it seems like the amount of work increases with time while challenges remain in spite of good progress. I am very sure that most of you immediately got the point why I have not written any posts since last summer. I am not trying to justify myself, but that is reality. Anyways, I think it will be useful (at least for some of you) to have an overview of PhD life and activities at NTNU Trondheim after more than one and a half years from the start (middle of the PhD programme).

The first thing that came to my mind when I passed the last exam was that I will have more time for myself and my research, which will exponentially influence the development of my PhD work. This is logical, it makes sense, but now I see that logic does not work all the time.

It takes a lot of time

Mostly, this looks like sine and cosine functions, which goes up and down. I can say for myself that things are going more or less ok, but not with the same acceleration as I was expecting. Now I see that PhD progress is unpredictable and it is good to be aware of this before starting. Sometimes things do not look so difficult, but it takes a lot of time, and sometimes huge issues can be solved quickly, sometimes by picking up a new idea after an unintentional mistake which was made during an experiment. As one of my colleagues always says: “You never know why it is good”.

Bad results are also good results

Each time you don’t succeed with an experiment, and struggle for a long time, think twice before getting upset, because “bad” results are actually “good”. This is the chance to figure out something new, maybe to discover a new phenomenon, or to realize a “missing element” in your knowledge. Since PhD work is a learning process, like everything else in life, a positive attitude and good ideas followed by a proper plan will usually give good output sooner or later. My motto is: keep on going, be patient and keep it positive.


Here I am in the lab preparing for one of my experiments. Photo: Per Henning/NTNU


Exciting research

My research topic is based on thermoelectric materials, which is part of the national project called Thelma. Thermoelectric materials are able to transform heat into electricity and vice versa. The project is based on nano-structuring for improving the energy efficiency of thermoelectric generators and heat-pumps, where my aim of work is focused on studies on developing technology for new generators for commercialization. This project is interesting and in spite of many challenges and tough goals, we still have good fun.

Besides the Thelma project, there are many other amusing projects where other colleagues are working. Some of these are related to batteries, solid oxide fuel cells, biomaterials, piezoelectric, etc. As far as I know, several new colleagues will start soon as new PhD and post-doc. positions will be available.
Currently, I am waiting for June when I will visit the summer school in Limoges (France), then a conference on a cruise through the northern part of Norway, which will probably be exciting. The plan is also to go somewhere on an internship by the end of the year. Next time I write, you will find out more about it.

Best regards

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