The I-Science Society kicked things off in style with a society meal at their new sponsor, boasting food from all over the world. It was a great chance to properly meet those just starting the degree, along with everyone else that have long been a part of it. It’s funny how a small department means the whole feel of the community can change year on year. Strange too how now my year is on it’s way out!
As part of the final year, fourth year students have to give a presentation on their third year project to those about to start their own, along with a workshop on time management. It’s a cliché that students leave work to the last minute, but this often rings true, and nowhere is it more damaging than in trying to complete and write up a year’s worth of work. The result of this is that every year students are told seriously, do not leave writing up your project to the last minute, but this rarely seems to help (at least in my experience). So what can you say to a room full of students? And more importantly, what can you say that’s not condescending and actually genuinely helpful?
What we tried to do is, rather than focus on scare stories of finding the limits to working on no sleep, attempt to map out the year in a tangible way, and get students to outline how they think they’ll be dividing their time. Taking this as a starting point, we then discussed key aspects of projects that often aren’t considered, such as time spent ordering and waiting for equipment, or the possibility of restructuring the entire goal of the project in light of a set of results or unforeseen complications (with plenty of horror stories from our own year). We then presented two case studies of the kind of projects natural sciences students could be doing, highlighting how time is split been short and long term goals throughout a given week. This can vary extensively between terms one and two, and will depend heavily on if the project is lab focused, computational, or something else entirely. Lastly, the workshop ended with encouraging the students to make an action plan of what they hope to achieve over the next week, to hopefully get a strong footing for the rest of the term.
It’s interesting approaching this issue from the other side, and I think quite difficult to actually deliver something that can change how you approach a project as a student. Involving masters students in the process seems like a step in the right direction, as this helps make the workshop specifically targeted towards students based on previous experience. Hopefully passing on things we wish we had known will have some benefit!