Life as a Masters student so far

One thing you need to understand about me is that I like being busy, I like making lists, and I like procrastinating. This combination results in me, Emily (Hi! :D), being here writing this blog piece when I probably should be grant writing instead…

I’ve just started (well, now about 1/8th of the way through… *freaks out*) my Masters of Science in Zoology. So far it’s wonderful, although I am having to cut back on various other fun life fulfilling things to make time for it – which is not fun.

I finished my Bachelor of Science (Zoology/Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) this January, leaving me clueless to the very last minute as to what I was going to be doing this year.

Well, now that I’m in my Masters degree, here are some things I have to do:

1. Structure the next two years of my life.

The structure of Masters varies greatly across departments and disciplines, some are purely coursework and some are more research focused.

As a Zoology Masters student, I have 6 blocks of coursework subjects and 10 blocks of research over the next two years. This can be spread out however you want, but since I am potentially doing fieldwork interstate (fingers crossed!), I currently need to block out the whole of semester 2 2015 for research.

It is also recommended that you leave the last semester of your research completely free for writing your thesis as well as any journal articles you want to get published.

2. Pick my subjects.

Within the 6 blocks of subjects I have two core subjects (Biometry and Graduate Seminar in Ecology and Evolution), two professional skills subjects (out of a provided list) and two electives.

The professional skills subjects encompass areas such as written and oral communication, business skills and education.

Electives can be taken from any discipline so long as your supervisor approves them, so they generally must be clearly related to either your specific project or chosen career path.

This semester I am doing my core Graduate seminar subject, Communication for Research Scientists as my professional tools subject and Wildlife Management as my elective. All of these are absolutely brilliant so far!

3. Figure out what on earth my project is going to be.

I mean…I have a supervisor, I have a topic, and I have a project. But I’m not sure of the exact question I’m trying to answer or test and I’ve no idea what methods I’m expected to use and I’m meant to be reading but what else should I read and that reading probably isn’t so relevant but ahhhh…

(Please note: This is indicative of the first few weeks of Masters – thankfully things are becoming clearer now…) 

4. Talk to my supervisor/s. 

I’m lucky enough to have two fantastic supervisors who are both quite easy to get into contact with, either via email or in person. They’re easy to talk to and happy to answer any questions I have.

There does seem to be quite a lot of complications when it comes to supervisors. If they go on leave or have other responsibilities such as running classes etc. it can be hard for them to provide the guidance that most of us new Masters kids sorely need.

At some point in the next two years all of us will be desperately chasing them for help with project proposals, statistics and thesis drafts.

5. Strut through campus like a grown-up.

No joke. I feel like such an adult when I’m walking through Union House now. I can look around and know with some confidence that I am probably older (or at least at a higher level of study) than most of those in the room.

And I know that doesn’t make me any better! It’s just a strange feeling.

Especially since I’m the type of person who will be mistaken for a first year until the day I die. At least now I can be relatively confident that whoever is trying to politely inform me that there’s a free BBQ on Tuesdays is probably currently struggling with the same subjects I was in second year. Poor kid.

6. Try not to make a fool of myself at lab meetings.

So I walk in from outside where I currently feel like Queen of UniLand and I’m too terrified to even enter this room because I feel like an imposter.

I am probably the most uneducated in the room, even if there’s nothing particularly wrong with that.

And these people probably know infinitely more than I do about the area my project is in. But I will (hopefully) come up with something new and interesting to say sometime in the next two years.

If not then I’ll just sit here quietly soaking up all the knowledge and desperately praying that I’m never called on to speak.

7. Read. 

Thank goodness I love reading. Most of my study time is now purely reading. Reading journal articles and reviews, popular science articles, researcher blog posts, and instructions on how on earth to use this strange new modelling program.

8. Marvel at the incredibly small class sizes. 

It may actually be possible for me to learn names for all the people in my classes this year. At least in my tutorial classes.

Will I though?

Probably not.

Either way, these smaller classes are great. It feels a lot less intimidating to participate in discussions and the coordinators/lecturers/tutors actually get to know you individually.

9. Attend the weekly Biosciences Seminar.

As Masters students we are expected to attend the weekly Biosciences Seminar at which a scientist will give a presentation on their research.

While some aspects of the talks go completely over my head, they have all been really interesting so far and help to make you feel more a part of this new School of Biosciences (formed from the newly merged Zoology, Genetics and Botany departments).

10. Enjoy still being a student.

I’ve always loved learning and studying. While exams are certainly not my favourite thing and I have definitely fallen asleep in lectures before, I do really love being a student.

The lifestyle, the environment on campus and the opportunity to continue to learn is just fantastic. I’m so excited to have the chance to keep learning and meeting new people who are just as keen as I am!

Hopefully the next two years proves just as valuable and fun as the first few weeks have been!

– Emily

1 Comment

  1. Fellow master student here! I like your post. I recognize a lot from last year… I’m in my second year now. Trust me, you will figure out your project bit by bit. Try going to conferences, I went to SCCS this year and had to introduce myself and my project so many times I can dream it now :)

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