Thursday, March 01, 2007

Masters to PhD Conversion

I returned to work on the 18th of February (I went on leave for the first half of Feb) and my return, I have been working furiously towards my official conversion from Masters by Research to PhD. At The University of Melbourne, the process usually takes place between 12-16 months after the commencement of a Masters by Research. I officially started with the university on 1st March 2006 so I thought I'd like to have it done by 1st March 2007. Also because for extra funding to my next conference/workshop, I have to be a confirmed PhD student before I can apply. So anyway, today is 1st March 2007 and I have been given the okay to continue as a PhD student. The forms are in works and it is now just a waiting game.

So how does the process work? Well, there needs to be a department seminar that is advertised as a conversion talk. Then there is a meeting with your committee members. For my conversion, I had the meeting right after the seminar. I know friends who have or are converting right now say they've had their meeting already but they haven't given a seminar or they've given their conversion seminar but they haven't had their meeting yet. But I just did everything all in one go so it was all fresh in everyone's mind. I think that's the best way to go about it. Either way, you have to have written and given your conversion report to your committee before the meeting. This was what has kept me busy for the past week or so. I originally wrote 5-6 pages for my conversion report but James, my new supervising member suggested it would be better if I put more effort into it. So I changed it to 65 pages. Yeah, a bit of a jump, but as long as you talk about the work that you've accomplished in the past 12 months and what your plans for the next 2-2.5 years are, it's all good. You also need a project time line. I drew up a gantt chart for what I hope to accomplish in the next 2 years and then discussed it. I also talked about when I want to accomplish what and future work in my current algorithms and what I can do about generating test data and such. So that was the report. I sent it to Rao, James and Tim (my committee).

After my report, I prepared my slides. I didn't have enough slides and I regret not making some more. I finished in about 35 minutes for a 50 minute presentation. However, questions went for about 15 minutes afterwards to that was good. I had lots of interest from the audience so I'm very happy. At first I was a little bit worried about the turnout. I was hoping for about 5-6 people but there was at least 30 there. However, this meant there was a wider range of questions from different research backgrounds as well. Some of the questions were very interesting and raised issues I had not previously thought about. Usually, the person giving the conversion seminar has to take notes on all the questions that is asked.

Straight after my seminar, I went upstairs to a little meeting room with my committee. They asked me more questions when I answered more satisfactorily than my seminar questions. They asked me to leave the room and then about 5 minutes later, they asked me to return and said congratulations. They asked if I have forms for them and I said no. If I was to do the conversion again, that's what I would have done differently: to speed up the form process, I would have filled out my sections before my meeting and during the meeting, if they agreed to let me convert, they could sign off on it right then and there. But anyway, I filled out the forms later that day and appended the committee meeting minutes as well as a list of questions that were asked at my seminar. I left these forms at reception yesterday and now I'm just sitting tight and hoping things go through before 15th April (the Istanbul workshop).

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