Friday, November 12, 2021

My PhD Journey (after 40 months)


Hi semua...dalam sibuk sibuk dgn urusan dunia reality, I wanna squeeze this morning to jot down few things about my PhD journey. I started the study in July 2018, with full-time mode. Dengan izin Allah, I got the study leave that I applied, along with sponsorship to further this PhD. Syukur! Ada yang sudi sponsor my study since Foundation to PhD. Alhamdulillah #doaandsacrifices comes along. 

Literally, the first semester was spent to acquire the data from the data owner. I started requesting the data in May 2018, two months earlier than my enrollment date, worrying the process would take longer. Alhamdulillah, data request process was smoother than I thought. So, when I started the PhD, the first few months were focused on arranging the data, checking their quality, sorting and writing the literature review part. I have also loaded the data into specific software to view and play around with them. 

In November 2018, both husband and I along with our parents and sister went to Saudi to perform our umrah. It was the first time for me and the best experienced I had so far. Rindunya Madinah & Mekah. I have written one of the unbelievable experiences I had while in Madinah in this entry about Raudhah

Right away after returning from Saudi, I boarded another flight to Paris for an international workshop with research members of the International Geoscience Correlation Program (IGCP) for our 667 Project related to The World Map of Orogens. I just realized that I have not written anything about my Paris trip in this dear blog of mine. I spend merely two weeks in Paris and took the opportunity to finish my proposal write for the PhD. I also spent most of my time in Ecole Normale Superior (ENS) where my supervisor is leading a geological lab. 

Participants of the IGCP 667 first workshop in Paris

Following my return to Malaysia, I had submitted the full proposal and defended my research ideas in February 2019. I had shared some tips for defending PhD proposal in this entry. In the same semester, I have to present the progress of the PhD since I was already in the second semester of the study. During this time, most time was spent working in the university, with my workstation (which my husband helped to carry and set up in my office, Thank you You!). It involved lots of frustration because I have to re-do the work many times. 

Before I forget, by July 2019, a year into this PhDJourney, I had to change supervisors twice due to unavoidable matters internally within the university. The first supervisor was Prof Ghani and Prof Michael. Both of them left the institution around the same time (end 2018), and Dr Chow took over as the main Sv with Dr Benjamin. By June 2019, Dr Chow left UTP and Dr Benjamin had become my supervisor along with Dr Mirza. So, most of my works were assisted by Dr Benjamin. By December 2019, where the world had started to worry about newly form virus in Wuhan, China, I begins to prepare a manuscript for publication. This was elaborated from my second progress report presented to the department in Nov 2019. I continue writing and working with the seismic and well data, preparing for the next semester etc etc until one day before I delivered my youngest on 13th March 2020. 

Then, the world pandemic begins and things had turned virtually and online all over the world. So as my PhD study was mostly done at home after the arrival of Imaad Hafiy. Pandemic and lockdown is another story that affected us in many ways. I am lucky that I have completed most of the major workstation research by that time which I no longer need to use sophisticated software to analyze the data. With newborn baby and three elder children at home during the lockdown, I took it slowly with my PhD until June 2020 where I realized I need to start submitting the manuscript that I have written earlier. So, while the baby and the elder three were sleeping, their ummi was working with her first publication. I feel like a zombie for several months. In between writing, I will run away to bed to feed Imaad who is a milk junkie even until now.

After presenting in Virtual Conference (July 21)

Long story cut short, the first paper was published in early 2021 after a series of traumatized reviewing processses. I almost gave up. During the submission process, I have started analyzing and writing the other sets of data to meet the second objective of my PhD work. The second manuscript was ready for submission by April 2021. I am more confident with the second manuscript and as expected, reviewers liked what we wrote. In one month plus, the manuscript was published. The experience with the second manuscript was a pleasant one as compared to the first one. But both of these papers are dear to my heart because I have sacrificed and put my tears into the analysis and writing processes.  Call me over reacting, but I'm emotional like that. If your want to take a look into these papers, just search my name in Google Scholar or Research Gate. 

My study table at home. I decided to buy one for myself after lockdown started and I know most of my PhD years will be spent working from home. 

After the publication of the second manuscript, I begin to focus on the last part of the work, focusing more on the quantitative analysis. I am lucky to get help from a researcher in South Korea. We developed a relationship as a friend and share the same interest in geological subsidence. Over a few communications and video calls, I have finally been able to produce results from the data. I am indeed thankful for the technology that helps to connect ppl for this good purpose. I quickly get in touch and tried my luck to discuss the results I had in the last part with one of the expert matter we have in Malaysia. Alhamdulillah, had gotten such supportive feedback. Again, thanks to technology for connecting us. It took several weeks to finally come to the correct result and presentation and get approval to proceed with writing. 
Well, some may wonder why do I have to connect and find bits of help from the external parties while I already have my own supervisors in the university. To be honest, along the way, I changed supervisor again. 

Dr Benjamin had to left from France because he needs to be near to his family during the pandemic. So, Dr Mirza had become the main SV for a short while, before his contract with the university was not continued. I get too used to the change of supervisors and I feel numb to the process. I am lucky because all supervisors accepted the work that I am doing and do not interfere much with my research ideas and styles. By January 2021, I discussed the situation with the Head of the Department and expressed my intention to appoint him as the main SV because he is the only one I feel had a secure position in the department at that time. He was a bit reluctant because the work that I am doing is not within his expertise, but I convinced him that I will not make much trouble. So, he agreed. and Dr Ahmed who knew a bit more about what I am doing as the co-SV. To my surprise, Dr Ahmed had to leave the institution by Nov 2021 before able to see me complete my study. I am still lucky because the main SV had helped with the thesis corrections. 

And I am luckiest because I still have Prof Manuel from day 1 until today. Prof Manuel, who is fully based in ENS, Paris had been my field supervisor. He was my main SV during my MSc study (although he had to be back to Paris earlier in 2014, but we maintained the relationship until present). Of course it is not easy to maintain a long distance communication with time and cultural differences. I always end up waiting in front of the laptop when Prof Manuel could not make it to our online meeting. I even feel traumatized to set up a meeting with him at one stage of this journey because I know I will feel frustrated at the end since he will not show up or I don't meet his expectation. 
Prof Manuel when he visited my workstation in Sep 2018

in Manu's office (ENS) when I visited Paris in Dec 2018

The only one who will keep on pushing me not to let myself goes deeper into the frustration or anxiety is my husband! Sorry abang for all the throw-ups. Thanks for lending me your ears and shoulders. Also for always being so pushy, I can't even tahan, so I will just do it so you will stop pushing me. Because at the end of the day, I will come back to you smiling and happy when Prof likes what I have been working for. 

This picture was taken on the first day I registered as PhD study
11th July 2018 with the pushing factor. 
Love you suami!

Well, November 2021 is my 40th month as a PhD student. I had just finished two dry-runs (rehearsal) sessions with Prof Ghani and Prof Manuel (along with my Chee Meng, my PhD buddy) in separate sessions. I would say I am feeling a bit relieved after listening to their feedback on the work. InshaALLAH,  with a little bit more improvement, I am ready to go. 

Thats my phdbaby, Imaad Hafiy!

He always "teman"ummi work late at night. 

Next week, I will be presenting the research works for this 3.5 years for Research Completion Seminar to panel of examiners within my university and I am hopeful that I am able to make them understand the work that I had done. I hope the thesis will do justice and I can get a green light to proceed for viva nomination. 

Those reading, thank you. 
Please make your doa for me to be able to deliver the work dengan lancar dan mudah untuk the examiners to understand what I wanted to deliver.