DPhil Diaries #5

There’s a great quote in the movie ‘Gone In 60 Seconds’ by Memphis Raines (played by the one-and-only Nicolas Cage) that goes like this:

Without disappointment, you cannot appreciate victory.

Let me tell you this: the above line is just as true for doing a DPhil as it is for stealing cars!

Late last night, I finally got one of my analysis scripts working after struggling with it for the last couple of months. I still need to do some tests to make sure that the data generated by the script actually makes sense, but so far everything looks good; in fact, I can’t wait to show my supervisor these results next week!

Anyone who’s done any sort of research work can tell you that progress is often slow. Days, sometimes weeks, go by without you getting any meaningful results. And yet, every now and then, you do score a tiny victory along the way. How you value these moments says a lot about how well you are suited for life as a scientist. Often, these results don’t mean anything to anyone without specialist knowledge of the field, but you as the researcher should be able to judge how important your work is in the grand scheme of things.

Being able to put things into perspective is important because you will inevitably face many challenges and disappointments along the way.

My biggest disappointment right now is with how difficult it is to get proper equipment for my research work. I’ve been using an ancient (by now) MacBook Pro from 2015 for most of my neuroimaging analysis and it is painfully slow.

I can’t help but wonder: why is it that people can earn tonnes of money doing relatively unimportant things? I mean, sure, I suppose being a banker is somewhat important, but ultimately it’s just shifting money around for other people. Compare that with trying to understand a disease, or developing a treatment for a medical condition, and to me at least, it becomes obvious how these things are more important than simply looking after money. Despite that, I find myself having to beg for funds to buy a new laptop to do my analysis. To me, this shows how little the world values our work, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not fed up with this nonsense.

One way to deal with this disappointment is to tear my eyes away from the research work and gaze instead at my surroundings. I went out for a jog this morning. It was cold, -1 degrees Celsius, and I don’t think we’ll have that many more frosty mornings like these before spring kicks in. True enough, there were pockets of spring in and amidst the frosty landscape, for anyone willing to stop awhile to let everything sink in.

Oh well, c’est la vie, as the say. Without disappointment, you cannot appreciate victory.

Cutteslowe Park
Cutteslowe Park
Cutteslowe Park
Cutteslowe Park


  1. Try being an entomologist. I have a similar Mac Book problem.

    1. Imran Idris says:

      Wait until those insects start taking over the world…then they’ll know your value for sure!

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