Despite being part of an integrated masters, so far the fourth year on the natural sciences course has been considerably different from the last three. One of the most striking changes is the reduction in contact hours. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, as most projects demand a lot of attention, leading to (in my case) the majority of days spent entirely in the lab. I think what this does do though, is exacerbate the feeling of guilt. Having more freedom to decide what to spend my time doing always leaves me feeling like I could be doing more. And with every module now also running simultaneously, keeping pace with everything else while feeling like I need to spend all my time on my project has been difficult.
I think it’s all too easy burn yourself out with open-ended project work that goes on for months at a time – as nearly everyone on my course found out last year! So with the maths, lab and core module weekly hand-ins now gone, this year I’ve tried to dedicate time away from work at least part of the weekend (though this went out the window as it got closer to Christmas…). Consciously making the effort to take a break from work feels more and more as important as getting things done, so hopefully that guilty feeling forever in the background will get easier to live with.
Alongside studying habits, the scope and approach of each module really feels like it’s putting the student at the centre. In the Science of Complex Systems, Advanced Study Topic and Scientific Computing, emphasis is increasingly placed on what we’ve found in exploring and building on models or topics, shaping how the modules progress. Having so much time to spend on your masters project also means it quickly becomes your own design. This makes everything all the more engaging, and gives the impression that all the modules are much more personal than before.