Havey’s PhD Survivor’s Guide + Liquid Drum & Bass

Introduction

Well there’s a first time for everything and seeing as I have never mentioned my PhD before, why not write a blog about it? I am of course joking because 80% of my tracks were born from the 5 and a half year struggle to get through this life changing experience of the Doctorate.

I wanted to create a “PhD Survival Guide” and share my experiences, motivations and what life was like during the PhD to help those of you who are thinking of doing one, are half way through or maybe approaching the end and wondering what the “End of the Tunnel” feels like. You may wonder why I keep referring back to the Doctorate but after reading this blog, I think you’ll see why and it’s definitely not to gloat (even though I consider it as a badge of honour). Let’s start by looking at how I even got involved with this PhD in the first place.

The End Of The Tunnel – My PhD Graduation

Why Did I Do a PhD?

Ah yes, the question that takes me back all the way to beginning of the journey – why did I even do one in the first place? Let me be frank here. The reasons for me doing a PhD all fall in to the “reasons why you shouldn’t do a PhD” category! I was struggling to get a job lined up after my undergraduate degree in Sports & Materials Science in Summer 2008. No graduate scheme or other employers were willing to take a bite of this very delicious bait so I was starting to despair.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Universe throws me a lifeline, or so it seemed. My undergraduate dissertation supervisor asked if I would be interested in continuing my research as a PhD. Here’s how the conversation went:

Supervisor: “You’d be fully funded with tuition fees paid for if you obtain an Upper Second Class degree Classification (i.e. 60-69% for the Undergraduate Degree)”.

My thoughts: “Hmm, well, I don’t have anything else so may as well!”

Me: “Sure, I’ll be happy to continue as a PhD”

Was I passionate about the research topic? Not overly but from where I was sitting, it was income for the next 3 years at least and may lead to something. Plus I was thinking “paid to be student, sounds good to me!”… well, that turns out to be a poison chalice of thought. You do need to be passionate about what your researching and, to be honest, I wasn’t, but I could never have predicted the events that unfolded in the 5 and a half years after.

University of Birmingham Campus Square

First Year

It Wasn’t All Bad…

There was a time when I was pretty buoyant about the research I was doing. I embraced it, “This is my life now”, learning and researching a relatively new process, I was getting some help from lab managers and supervisors were enthused about what I was doing.

I had 2 supervisors, my main one and a co-supervisor. My co-supervisor had all the tools I needed and his research group’s equipment worked in a lab run by a different research group. I was getting some good results and I was feeling positive about it all whilst witnessing collaboration at its finest… for the first 9 months anyway.

Unforeseen Events

A couple of weeks before my first year assessment, I needed to get some final tests done to tie up loose ends so I went down to the lab and started setting up the equipment. No sooner was the equipment all set up (which takes a few hours), the lab manager comes over and drops a bombshell. Here’s how the conversation went:

Lab Manager – “Sorry, you can’t use this equipment here”.

Me – “Sorry, what?”

Lab Manager – “Yep, sorry, this equipment isn’t safe”.

Me – “It’s been safe for the last 9 months, why isn’t it safe now?”

Lab Manager – “We have one of our sponsors coming over and if they see that, they will stop their research projects with us. It’s not safe to use with the exposed wires”

Me – “Well, we can cover them up with insulation tape and wait until the visit is over to resume our tests”

Lab Manager – “Nope, sorry. You’re going to have to redesign your system.

Me – “Are you absolutely 100% sure about this?”

The lab manager gave me a look as if to say, “Don’t argue with it kid, just get out of the lab”. I had no idea what happened to him or if this sponsor story was true but I was in a state of shock and utter confusion. How is it that a previous PhD student from my co-supervisor can use this same set up for nearly 4 years but now it’s a massive issue? It still baffles me but little did I know that this was going to be the first in a catalogue of major issues.

Abandoned

I brought this matter to the attention of my co-supervisor, thinking he’d be a bit “miffed” at the idea that one of the students he’s supervising has had any potential research stopped dead in its path and using his equipment no less.

We went over to the manufacturer of said equipment and asked if it’s possible to make it all safe. They gave us a quotation for a grand total of £300 to get this all done. For reference, £300 is not a lot when it comes to research costs and a small price to pay for something that would last a few years, look more professional and most importantly, be safe for me to crack on with my work!

Co-supervisor: “It’s too much”.

Me: “Too… much…?”

[I was getting a sinking feeling]

Co-supervisor: “We can’t pay for this”.

Me: “What am I going to do then without any equipment?”

The look my co-supervisor gave was one of nonchalance and a shake of the head as if to say, “Good Luck”. Abandoned.

Starting From Scratch

The implications of that nonchalant shrug of the shoulders were colossal. Not only did it mean that I didn’t have ANY equipment now to do my tests but if I did somehow manage to find equipment that I could use, it wouldn’t be the same as I couldn’t compare my results “like for like”. It’s important in research to be using the exact same test conditions to reduce your variables so without the same equipment to use and compare results, I was stuffed!

First Year Assessment

Still, I had some results that I could use to get through the first year assessment, which in itself was torture as I had the two harshest assessors in the department tearing me a new one. The assessment, I was told, would only be 30 minutes long… it lasted 90 minutes. It was a bloodbath but ultimately they said that my work was fine… “amateurish”… but fine and they allowed me to continue with my project. I was in tears at the end of that but it was a wake up call. I needed to do a lot of research to get a better understanding of the science as things just weren’t sticking. Although what was sticking was the elephant in the room, “I need some equipment”!

Second Year

If You Want To Get Things Done…

It seemed that we had to do it ourselves, following a conversation with my supervisor after my first year assessment. It turns out he also wouldn’t pay for the £300 alterations as it wasn’t his equipment so instead he proposed us to spend thousands of pounds and man hours to make or buy our own equipment! Riiiiight…

Seeing as a I didn’t have a choice though, I cracked on with it, along with assistance from my supervisor to design it all. 6 months later, we finally got ourselves our own magical equipment all manufactured and ready to be tested! We had a big 500 tonne capacity hydraulic press in our other lab which would be essential for my work. So, in this equipment went, turn the hydraulic press on, lower the top platen to do our first test run and…

BANG!

“What the hell was that?! Switch it off!”

We raised the hydraulic press top platen, checked to see what was going on with our metal block (which had two halves fixed together by 6mm diameter screws – i.e. tiny) and it turns out ALL the screws had snapped in one go! I ended up picking up the pieces and knew we had to go back to design – we needed bigger screws and a tighter unit! 1 month later, the bigger screws and tighter unit idea did the trick! Hurray, I can carry on… hmm… maybe not…

Moving Labs

A month or so after our first successful test with the bigger screws, there were bigger problems on the horizon as we had to move lab. Yep, the department decided to go through the massive undertaking of a refurbishment on a Grade 2 listed building but we were told it would only be 6 months for our block. “OK, as long as my equipment works in the temporary lab we’re moving to, I guess I can live with that.” Guess what…

Trip Ups

The move itself took 2 months to get our equipment moved over and just as I switch on the equipment in the temporary lab…

BANG!

“What the hell was that?! I haven’t even done anything!”

Turns out the equipment I was using wasn’t electrically safe at all in the old lab and in our new temporary lab, it was tripping the circuits every time. Well, didn’t I feel safe haha! 5 months it took of going back and forth to solve this one particular problem and with my second year assessment looming, all I had was some design work to show my assessors!

Second Year Assessment

As you can see, things weren’t going too well…at all! The second year has taken a bit of a tumble but I had to be smart in order to make it through this next barrage of questioning if I wanted to survive.

The second year assessment was a 15 minute presentation with Q & A at the end and a separate 15 minute discussion in the afternoon with the 2 assessors (one of which was even harsher than the one I had in the first year – brown trouser time)! Thankfully, there were 3 other students being assessed in the same session so we could share the pain haha!

Anyway, I spoke to the other students in my presentation session and came up with a plan where we would share some questions to ask each other and deliberately take our time answering those questions so we didn’t get a roasting from the official assessors as they’d be out of time. Part 1 – done.

Part 2 though required a little more in the way of “thinking on your feet”. This is where the assessors have 15 minutes alone with you… yikes! I saw the timetable and I was first in, which meant the assessors were bound by a time limit (unlike my first year assessment where they had the whole afternoon free to hound me). My self-appointed task was to find a way to not talk about the science and research of my project to date! Hmm… 😀

Opportunity Strikes!

Assessors: “How are you finding your PhD then Nick?”

BINGO! This was what I was looking for and I wasn’t missing out on a chance to “run down the clock” as I prattled on about my experience for at least 5 minutes and the conversation continued about the difficulties I was having.

They only had time for one question which began probing at the science (which I still wasn’t grasping at this point likely because I didn’t have many results to research the science for)! It was starting to get heated as holes were beginning to get picked until…

KNOCK KNOCK

“Oh thank goodness”, I thought to myself as the next student was knocking on the door, eager to have their assessment. That was it, they had to wrap up the assessment! One of the assessors even said, “It’s a shame we didn’t get to ask more about the science”. “No, no it definitely isn’t a shame” I was thinking as these relieved thoughts were dancing around in my head! I had a big smile on my face as I left the room with the knowledge that I survived the second year! Phew!

Third Year

But Not The Final Year…

In most PhD programmes at the time (I started mine in 2008), you had 3 years funded to do any experimental work and then 1 year unfunded to write up your results. But as you can see, I’d lost nearly 1 whole year because of politics and lab moves gone awry – in other words, things happened that were out of my control.

However, the situation may have been starting to change for the better. A new PhD student joined, who I affectionately nicknamed “Chelle” (and he called me Cass after we spent far too many lab sessions together – don’t ask haha) and he had an immediate positive impact on my feeling towards what results I can get for my PhD. We have stayed good friends since.

Chelle

Chelle was being sponsored by his company to develop an Aluminium alloy, a “soft” material that I knew would be more suitable for my equipment. I asked if we could try out his material on the process I was researching and then share our results. That turned out to be a great idea as the original alloy I was researching was far too hard for the equipment I was using.

My supervisor agreed, told me he spoke to Chelle’s manager and we got the green light for me to include any results I was working on with Chelle in my thesis. I was a little bit wary so I kept asking in quite a few meetings in the next two years that it was still OK for me to include these results – my supervisor said, “Yes, it’s all fine, carry on”. Amazing! (This is an important paragraph to remember).

Well, after this amazing development, I now had the motivation I needed to lift me up from what I thought was rock bottom.

False Hope

It was looking good. We were doing tests and getting some comparative data that I could start putting in my final thesis but time was running out as this is supposed to be my “final year”. However, another crushing bit of news.

Remember this refurbishment that was going on? Well, work on our block had finally been completed but it turned out to have taken 18 months for them to complete – a little longer than the 6 months initially stated – oops! When we found out we were getting a much smaller lab AND we’d lose our second lab with the hydraulic press I needed, well… my heart sunk… again. Why?

Simply put – I’d be losing the hydraulic press I relied on to do my tests and we’d have to wait 4 more months for a new one to be built. Where do we go from here?

Extension

So really, after 3 years, the research I’d done in the first year and bits and pieces up to this point had amounted to…. well… nothing haha! Slacker I know 😛 Nonetheless, I was at the end of my tether with the amount of “tomfoolery” (I’d love to use a stronger word but that’s reserved for the offline world). I had to take this higher up to the Postgraduate Committee and request an extension by documenting out in detail what I’ve shared with you so far in this blog.

Thankfully, the University granted me the extension and I had an additional 15 months added on to do my experimental work, with funding for an additional 6. Well, at least that’s something to enter the 4th year with. 3 years in, this is just the beginning haha!

Fourth Year

Superstitions

In the research group I was in, there was a Chinese lad called Tao who I’d been helping out with for his first year. About 2 months in to my 4th year, he had recently returned from his holiday in China and brought back 2 gifts for me.

Tao told me that one was for good luck, the other was for happiness – two things I’d distinctly been missing out on the last 3 years with this PhD! He gave them to me to show his appreciation for my help and I was taken aback by it all. I’ll never forget this moment as things started to change but on a much deeper level. I wasn’t superstitious until this point but now I take these charms everywhere and I’ve been happier in spirit ever since.

As if by magic, the PhD was beginning to fall in to place. The equipment I needed arrived and I could now soldier on to get those final experiments done, ready for writing my thesis at home when the funding ran out.

The gifts from Tao – the left is for Good Luck, the right is for Happiness

The Importance of Planning Experiments

I had to plan everything that I needed to do, including repeating my first year work with this new equipment seeing as I needed a “like-for-like” results comparison. Then I had to do all the tests on the two new materials discussed with Chelle. 7 pages of to-do lists and matrices later and I could see my whole practical work laid out in front of me. I felt like a boss. Except now, I had to do the work haha! I would highly recommend you make plans like this though so you can see what you need to do and tick things off as you go along – it’s very satisfying when you do!

I spent the last months of funding staying up overnight, running tests and doing analyses to make sure I had everything ready for the final thesis. Now it was a just a small case of writing everything up in a 50,000 word limit book and then we can hand this all in before needing to go in to a Fifth year. Or so I thought… but first, here are some essential things to consider for the write up.

The Write-Up

Writing up is so mind numbing and with the sheer volume of work to document, you may ask, “Where do you even begin?” Let me tell you what I did and see for yourself.

1 – Contents Page

For me, I worked back from the end goal so I knew that in order to get a beautifully constructed thesis, I’d need to know what I’m writing about and how to structure it. What’s the best way to structure big documents? A “Contents Page”!

Now, how can you shortcut a contents page structure? Simple. Ask someone who’s already been in your shoes and ask to see their thesis structure because if they passed their PhD, then they must have had an approved thesis.

In my case, someone in my research group had passed her PhD a few months before on a similar subject so I could certainly benefit from her thesis here. Much of hers was from the person before and so on and so on. Why try to reinvent the wheel?! As you start writing, the contents page headings may alter slightly and that’s OK but it’s good to have something to aim for first.

2 – Method

Once you have made your contents page, start writing the “Method” section as it is by far the easiest to get through. It’s short, you know what you’ve done and you don’t have to explain anything here. Plus it will motivate you as you have made a start with this beast. Make sure you include detail on the equipment you used, settings, test parameters etc. to the best detail possible.

3 – Results

Next up is the “Results” section. Again, it’s relatively easy to write although it will take a bit longer. It’s all based on the data you’ve collected and you won’t need to explain anything here either. Just present the results in a “matter of fact” style using figures, graphs, charts, tables – whatever’s best.

4 – Literature Review

Now it’s time to get in to the meat of the thesis, the “Literature Review”. What work has been done already? What can you criticise about what’s out there? How is your work going to be different and add to the research field? This part will take you the longest as it requires finding the right references, articles, books, seminars and anything else relevant to your work from a trusted scientific source (sorry, Google and Wikipedia don’t count – at least it didn’t when I was writing up 😀 ).

My advice is to look for a way to minimise the time you spend getting buried in journal papers with a tenuous link to your own work. Remember, there will be someone in your research group who has done a thesis beforehand, ask your supervisor for it or better still, ask the actual former student. In your quest for research papers, you’ll see a lot of them reference the same articles from their literature review as well. Just make sure it’s relevant to your work, remember your contents page to keep you focused and you’ll have a literature review done in no time.

How many references should you have in total? Usually anything between 200-300 is a good amount. I had 265 for mine. Less than 150 and you haven’t done enough research, more than 300 looks suspicious – let’s face it, who actually reads that many references? Once you’ve done the literature review, you’ve broken the back of the thesis now, it’s a good feeling, embrace it.

5 – Discussion

The biggie is the “Discussion” section as this is where you need to link your results back to your literature review that you’ve done. Are the results suitably explained by the research you’ve presented in the literature review? Has your hypothesis been met? If not, why not? Does it all make sense? These are the kinds of questions you need to answer and remember to reference EVERYTHING you explain with multiple sources because that’s your evidence! One source isn’t enough.

6 – Abstract/Synopsis, Conclusion and Acknowledgements

The other little bits like “Conclusion”, “Abstract/Synopsis” and “Acknowledgements” can be written after you’ve done all the above, these won’t take long to do in the grand scheme of things. “Abstract/Synopsis” should be about 500 words, “Conclusion” about the same and “Acknowledgements” should show your gratitude for all the support you received (even if you feel like you didn’t get much) from various people to help finish your work.

7 – Appendix

The Appendix is where you will put in all of your “other data”. Only put your best results in the “Results” section for the different testing conditions that you used. All the other data in graph or table form is for the end. How many results should you put in? It’s up to you but I put all relevant graphs and images in that I got results for but if you start getting a page count of 500+ pages, maybe tone it down a bit 😉

8 – References

References of course are a must! Make sure you follow the guidelines set out by your University as that will have the requirements for you in terms of format and which system you will need to use. You can use a reference manager software for this but I just used the one in Microsoft Word and modified it to suit what I needed.

9 – Formatting

Formatting was a right pain in the butt when converting from word to pdf (which is what I needed to do to submit to the printing and binding company). Make sure that you use headings, page breaks, the correct margins, alignment/justification settings to give your conversion the best chance of success! I created individual word documents for the individual sections and bolted them together in one biggie ready for my supervisor to read it and then I could complete this damn thing once and for all.

Juggling Act

I did most of the write-up in the evenings and weekends whilst working a temporary day job to keep some money coming in and to keep me from losing my mind by getting me out of the house! However, it was proving to be pretty difficult to do the two and I ended up just doing a little bit at the weekends, which was taking a long time! So I had to leave the day job and focus solely on writing up and this was when I managed to get a lot of work done on it although finances were looking grim again. Despite this, it seemed like the Universe had other plans for me…

Back On Site

I wasn’t living near the University at the time so the pressure of the PhD felt quite distant, which probably helped me get in to the right frame of mind to blast out as much of my write-up as I could. However, one day I had a random email from my PhD Supervisor asking if I would like to work back at the University doing a different project, which would still allow me to use the lab equipment I needed for any final tests. Well, that solved a lot of problems for me in terms of where the money was going to come from and being able to sit face-to-face with my supervisor to go through corrections. Is it home time yet? Nearly! Let’s find out what happened as we enter the…

Fifth Year

Final Twist

So here I am, back at the University – the “soul vortex” where you can see corridors of grey faced post-graduate students bearing the weight of endless dramas only a post-grad would know about. However, I was buoyant that I was on the verge of finishing, making corrections to my literature review and method sections based on feedback from my supervisor (which took a few months) and then, as I was about to leave my results and discussion section with my supervisor to read, we had the most remarkable conversation in his office:

Me: “I’ve got a thesis for you! All the results I’ve been working on with Chelle are included as well”

Supervisor: “Did you check you are allowed to include these results from Chelle’s material?”

[My supervisor didn’t call him Chelle but I’m using the name for ease of this conversation]

Me: “Erm… you told me you spoke to his manager and said it was OK?”

Supervisor: “No, I’ve not spoken to his manager”

Me: “So you haven’t spoken with his manager at all?”

Supervisor: “No, I haven’t I thought you had”

[My heart was starting to rapidly sink and blood was beginning to boil. Remember what I said in the “Chelle” section of this blog?]

Me: “Well, can you ask and find out?”

Supervisor: “I think you need to go to Chelle and find out as I don’t have his manager’s contact information”

I was in shock with this situation as I knew straight away that I may have just wasted months and months of time and effort getting these results and writing up having been under the impression that could put them in! I had to find out. Thankfully Chelle was about:

Me: “Chelle, I have got a really horrible feeling that I’ve been lied to for 2 years. Do you know if my supervisor spoke to your manager about putting these results in?”

Chelle: “Sorry Cass, I don’t, I’ll give him an call/email now to check what has been said and get it cleared up”

He’s a great mate is Chelle, always lends a hand when in need. We heard back from his manager and the email went something like this:

“Hi Chelle,

Sorry I’ve never spoken with Cass’s supervisor but to clarify the situation he can only put in half of those results due to commercial protection”

Simply put, I was screwed over and the cursed PhD, like this blog, felt like it really was never going to end haha! I really only had one option – I had to re-write my thesis from top to toe, take out half of my results and get corrections back from my supervisor… oh and did I mention I only had 2 months to do all of that? No chance!

Going In Blind

I only had enough time to get corrections back for half of the literature review from my supervisor! We did apply for another 2 month extension which was granted, but time had run out. I handed in a mostly uncorrected thesis and had to go in to the final assessment “blind”. Ironic then that the day after I submitted my thesis, this conversation happened:

Supervisor: “I think it would be good for you to include a few more equations to help explain these results.”

Me: “I can’t do that as I’ve already handed it in”

Supervisor: “Oh, you’ve handed it in? I haven’t read it all though.”

Me: “Sorry, I didn’t have a choice, the deadline was yesterday and I have to hand it in! This is it!”

Supervisor: “Well that’s risky, it’s uncorrected”

Me: “Yeah well, it’s handed in now and I’ll deal with whatever happens from the viva.”

Can you tell I was at the end of my tether? How much “tomfoolery” would you have taken?

Submitting Your Thesis

When submitting your thesis, I’d recommend printing off an additional hard copy for yourself as well because you’re going to need it for your own sake. You’re likely to get a date for your viva 3 months in advance but your University will let you know. Don’t even look at your thesis for a week after handing in. Just do nothing, chill, go on holiday, have a break and then read through it again at least 4 weeks before your viva date.

This will give you enough time to make notes on anything you think is unclear. I had loads of notes in my printed copy just to help put my mind at ease – preparation is a great way to calm nerves for the big one.

Viva

How It Works

The final assessment of the PhD, the viva, is an interview assessment. I had 1 internal assessor (lecturer from the University I was at) and 1 external assessor (lecturer from a different University) scrutinising my thesis page by page. There was also an independent “adjudicator” to make sure the assessors weren’t being too harsh. It was intense but ultimately, the assessors’ job was to make sure I understood the science, the research and probe my knowledge about the work.

Here’s how the marking/scoring system works for a PhD viva final assessment:

  • Pass with no corrections (i.e. perfect but this rarely happens)
  • Pass with minor corrections (small changes to paragraphs, clarity on some points)
  • Pass with major corrections (could be more experimental work, rewrite a chapter etc.)
  • Fail (this rarely happens, it would have to be seriously TERRIBLE)

So in a majority of vivas, either minor or major corrections are the likely outcome. Dress up smart, take a deep breath and in you go. You’ve got this!

The Assessment Itself

I was fearing the worst with this as the only corrections I had back from my supervisor was to include details about the magnification at which the images were taken in my “Results” section! I personally didn’t think the magnifications were necessary because there was a scale bar on each image so magnification was irrelevant. Nonetheless, in the 2 and a half hour assessment, the biggest debate was about why I included magnification in all my figure captions!

“Isn’t it important to have the magnification in?” I asked in an attempt, for some reason, to defend the feedback I had my supervisor to include them. The assessors categorically said “No” and even the independent adjudicator stepped in and said “You should not put in magnifications for your images, scale bars are enough”. I laughed to myself knowing that I should have stuck to my guns and not listened to that feedback from my supervisor!

Final Verdict

At the end of the assessment, I was sent outside for a few minutes whilst the assessors discussed what mark to give me. They summoned me back in to deliver news I never thought I’d hear:

Assessors: “Well congratulations Cass! You’ve passed your PhD assessment with minor corrections!”

Me: “Wow! Thank you!”

Final Corrections

I couldn’t believe what I heard! Genuinely, I was speechless and trying to hold back the emotion as I knew that this horrible experience and passage of my life was nearly over! The corrections they gave me were things that I could easily do in a day or two. Rewrite a couple of paragraphs, add another one in and of course, remove all the magnifications from my captions haha! Once I did that, the assessors checked and they gave it the green light – I could finally graduate after 5 and a half years of hell! Get in there! Yea buddies!!

What did my supervisor make of all this? Well, when I told him that I just needed to take the magnifications out and make a few minor changes, he was naturally shocked! How is that someone can hand in a mostly uncorrected thesis and get out with just minor corrections? Maybe he did me a favour by choosing more gentle assessors, some of his friends, (as it’s up to the supervisor to recommend assessors) to help me get through? Perhaps. In that case, I’m grateful.

However, as I write this, those emotions are coming back and the sense of confidence this has given me that I got through it all despite everything that happened and handing in something that was 95% my own writing – priceless. The PhD is more than just an extra title for me – it’s like a badge of honour that I wear proudly with the feeling of “I earned that and I’ll have it for the rest of my life”. Plus I can now put Dr as my title 😉 And finally folks, we’ve reached the End of the Tunnel .

End Of The Tunnel

If you’ve made it through this far in the blog then I extend my congratulations to you! What a roller-coaster of a journey and that was just from the PhD itself! I omitted a lot of details on what happened personally but the tracks I made (and never finished) during the PhD will tell their own story when I get around to completing them.

Thanks to Laura Witherden for the awesome single artwork

Once all the corrections had been approved, I handed everything in and on the 24th May, 2014, I found out that I was graduating in July 2014, two months later! It was time to celebrate by making this Drum & Bass track, which is my own badge of honour and sign-off for the PhD. If you can’t see the player below, click here to listen in:

I wanted to use a dark, gritty bassline to show the feeling of that grit and determination I needed to get through such an ordeal. The high energy from the off represents the intense feeling that this is nearly over with the party really happening as we get to the drop. Join me in the celebrations!

End Of The Tunnel is the 4th track of the Foundations EP, which I have more information about below 🙂

Foundations EP

Story So Far

I began with a rock pool analogy somehow for the first track of the Foundations EP so let’s continue with it then haha! Each of these 6 tracks are like individual “rock pools” of music, loosely connected together on a small part of the beach that represents my PhD life. The first rock pool held secrets to a “Magic: The Gathering” world as we found ourselves being influenced by this fantasy card game with “Broken Magic“.

As we follow the water trail to the 2nd rock pool, we discover a new species of “Havey Crustacean”, which appears to be whizzing around at a frenetic pace. When we get closer to him, we can hear his thoughts to himself, “I Got Something to Say“. But as things settle down, this crustacean has heard from other creatures in this rock pool about the UK “3 Peaks” Challenge which was not for the fainthearted so he set his sights on that.

Clambering out of this rock pool and feeling like the worst of it was over, this crustacean found himself stuck in the middle of a vicious storm causing huge waves that swept him in to the deep blue sea. This was his biggest challenge yet with sharks and other predators out to get him. Despite the odds stacked against his favour, he found an escape route and knew there was a long journey ahead but the ultimate reward was there, ready to greet him at the “End Of The Tunnel”.

If you’re on my website, you can listen to the EP below, otherwise, click here to play it on a new music streaming platform called Choon. If you don’t have a Choon account, you can set one up here.

Of course a big thanks to the Audio Animals for their mastering expertise on this one. It’s great to officially release the tracks from the Foundations EP, they’ve been a long time coming! And it wouldn’t be complete without the awesome artwork skills of @gabrielatravels and Laura – thank you!

Where Can I Get The EP?

Take your pick of course but the website is probably the best bet – click here to be taken to the store. If you’re more of an iTunes, Spotify or Amazon person, I have you covered there too although you may have to hold on to your hats for official release day on April 12th 2019 – here’s the “pre-save” link for you.

Thanks to everyone who’s streamed, commented, added to playlists and shared the love on all the music I make – stay awesome!

Coming Up Next…

Well, it’s been another colossal post and I hope anyone involved with a PhD found it helpful, you’ll be surprised how many students are going through the same thing! I promise the length of blogs will get less now…. maybe haha!

Up next, I’m going to be working my way through the rest of the Foundations EP in the next couple of weeks before I go away so keep a lookout for Hasten To Forget! Music for the next few weeks, then it’s travel blogs after that! How’s that for a plan?!

Until then, take it easy!

Nicky


1 thought on “Havey’s PhD Survivor’s Guide + Liquid Drum & Bass”

  1. Pingback: Rounding Up The Foundations EP [Liquid Drum & Bass]

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