Farewell to my Research
I spent two and a half years doing research for my Master of Philosophy degree. I did this on day release while working as a technician. They were paying me a pittance but I enjoyed most aspects of looking after the Animal House. I can’t say the same thing for the research – it was boring, tedious and extremely time consuming.
My task was to study the biostratonomy of Lake Windermere, through the fossil remains of indicator organisms Chironomid larvae, with a view to establishing its evolution of eutrophication. Put simply I was seeing how murky the lake was by looking at what midges lived in it.
I had to get a huge core of mud about sixty feet long representing the whole evolution of the lake (mud being laid down sequentially), cut it into sections representing different age, and then find and identify every single midge larva in it. That had to be done through a binocular microscope. I had to make slides of all the head capsules.
I took a whole year learning how to find every single bloody one in a mud sample and identify it from its tooth plate. My supervisor had to be confident I could find every one or else the results were dubious. By the time I had finished I was one of the leading experts on chironomid midges. Strangely I have not found a lot of application for this skill or knowledge in my everyday life and never once has anybody struck up a conversation with me regarding the tooth plate of heterotanytarsus.
I spent eight to ten hours on my day off hunched over a microscope examining a petri dish of mud in alcohol (I can’t remember why it had to be ethanol) teasing mud grains apart, picking out head capsules and mounting them in slides with xylene and canada balsam. Fun eh? My head was full of fumes and not in a pleasant way. I had to be very methodical which is not really a major part of my personality.
By the time I had finished I had thousands of slides and had results from the beginning of the lake right through to present time. I made tables and wrote the whole thing up in a long document. After two and a half years of tedium I had my report written up and my conclusions made. Lake Windermere had started as a crystal clear Alpine oligotrophic lake based on boulder clay. It had rapidly silted up to become eutrophic and then settled back to being mesotrophic. Interesting.
Well at least the sodding thing was done and dusted.
I handed it in.
The Research boss wanted a rewrite. I produced a rewrite.
We had a final meeting to discuss my submission and viva.
He informed me that while my research was good it did not correspond with a similar study that had been carried out using crustacean fossils. I shrugged. He seemed concerned by this. I wasn’t. I think we will have to bolster your findings he suggested.
I did not know what he was inferring.
He wanted me to do another complete core same.
I sat there stunned. To do another core sample meant, even though I’d become faster, another year.
I then became annoyed.
I suggested he told the crustacean crew to do another sample. I was doing an M Phil not a PHD. I’d already spent two and a half years on it. My results were accurate and I had carried out my work diligently. My conclusions were valid. Who cared if they disagreed? We had a little disagreement.
He told me that he could not submit my thesis without another core sample.
I told him he could stuff his research, go fuck himself and stick my thesis up his arse and walked out.
I handed my notice in at the front, ceased to be a lab tech and gave up my research. My supervisor was distraught. He wanted me to go back and apologise. I never went back. I left them with a core sample in jars of alcohol and thousands of slides and walked away. I wonder if they are still there.
I threw my thesis in a drawer and probably still have it somewhere.
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