General round-up - John C. Kirk
May. 6th, 2002
01:26 pm - General round-up
Hmm, not many entries lately, so a quick round-up of what's been going on.
I hung around the flat from Tuesday-Thursday, then made it back into work/college on Friday. It's just a few cuts and bruises - mainly my right knee that's the problem. It is definitely getting better - I can now walk up and down stairs vaguely normally without using the banisters. The thing is, I tend to heal quite quickly, but it drains all my energy, so I need to eat/sleep a lot more than usual. I'm now investigating body armour, kevlar jeans, etc. The main issue is that I'd prefer not to buy leather (veggie thing), which narrows my options quite a bit. Also, I've been gradually losing weight over the last couple of years, so my jeans size has gone down from 40" waist to 34". That's fine with normal jeans - I've just been buying the 15 quid Burtons own-brand rather than Levis. However, I'd prefer not to spend 100 quid on protective clothing until my size has stabilised. Admittedly, I've been at this size since I moved here (last September) - I think it was all the physical exercise of shifting furniture that gave the push. My target is 32", which is what I used to be at university, but that's when I used to go running 2-3 times a week, so I really need to start doing that again. Of course, I'm not doing any exercise until my knee is better...
Had a fairly lazy weekend so far, but I've cleared a few things off my "to do" list. Also had a chance to be quite sociable with flatmates - played Magic with M&M on Friday night, then last night played StarCraft across the network with them and Lorna (Simon's away at the moment). It was fun finding something that we can all do together, even though I came last by a very large margin.
Meanwhile, the quest for academia continues. To summarise the story so far, my big goal here is to do a PhD, so that I can move into research. However, the big problem is that I only got a 2:2 on my undergrad (BSc) course, along with the fact that it's a Bachelors degree rather than a Masters degree (they weren't doing the four year undergrad courses back then). So:
Plan A - get onto a PhD course directly.
Plan B - do an MSc, to improve my qualifications (preferably getting a distinction), then use that to get onto a PhD.
Plan C - redo my undergrad degree, get a 1st, then use that to get onto a PhD.
So, I applied to Imperial for their MAC course, for admission in October 2000, asking for funding. I got rejected, but they wouldn't say why, so I assumed the money wasn't available. I then spent the next year saving up, and re-applied for admission in October 2001, but got rejected again. Again, they wouldn't say why, but the informal word I got back (by phoning around the department) was that my 2:2 was getting in the way. I then investigated the conversion course, which Michelle is doing, but I'm not elegible because I already have a degree; I'm basically caught in the middle.
So, time for plan C. Slight hitch there - my A levels were ACC, whereas the undergrad courses were asking for at least 2 As. So, I started a part-time Physics A level in September, at Barnet.. Assuming I get the A in that (which I should do), that boosts my basic qualifications a bit. On the plus side, I got onto the Physics course without any trouble at all, which gave my confidence a bit of a boost. This seemed a bit silly in one sense, since I already have a degree. However, I wasn't sure whether this would count for me or against me. Besides which, the Physics is quite interesting, and means I can keep up with conversations in the flat a bit better :)
I then applied through UCAS (bah - it was UCCA and PCAS last time I did this) for the MSci courses at UCL, Imperial, and Kings. I've had rejections from UCL and Imperial, and an offer from Kings (conditional on the A in Physics). So, looks like the A levels are the key point after all. I guess when they have so many applications, the admin staff will go by the numbers, rather than messing around with unusual situations. I didn't have an interview at Kings, but I went along to an open day to find out more about the course. The trouble is, lots of it seems to be "We'll teach you about Java and web pages so that you can get a well paid job when you graduate". I already have a job, I know about the web, and I could learn Java over a weekend, so it's not hugely relevant to me. However, it does give me a backup plan - I now know that I'll be out of my job and back at university by October, one way or another.
While I was at the open day, I was speaking to one of the PhD students there. She agreed that since I already have a degree, I'd be better off on an MSc course, so she gave me the email address for the MSc admissions tutor. I emailed him to ask some preliminary questions, to avoid wasting everyone's time with a futile application (as with my previous MAC attempts at Imperial). However, I haven't had any reply back yet, so I've sent another copy of the message to the address on the web page.
So, that's plans B and C running in tandem at the moment. For plan A, Michael suggested that I should email potential supervisors directly, rather than sending applications to admin staff. The key point is that on a PhD, I'm helping the supervisor with his research, so I'm making myself useful, whereas on a taught MSc course I'm a drain on resources. That gives the supervisor an incentive to help me with the application process. Status of that so far:
Emailed a professor at IC, but it turns out he's semi-retired now, so I've emailed someone else there, who I'm waiting to hear back from.
Emailed two people at Kings - one of them wants a good 2:1 or 1st, so that's out. I'm waiting to hear back from the other one.
So, there are possibilities...
And I'm now watching "Space Camp" - good film, except for the exceptionally implausible robot.