The Pressure Is On! - Julia Faerber

This blog is about the Sonopill project from the view of a PhD student: “the pressure is on!”

Being part of a big, well-funded project as a PhD student has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand you have more opportunities available in terms of purchases of equipment, going to exotic conferences etc. You are improving your presentation skills due to the frequent meetings, which also make you record your data regularly for your future thesis (and they provide you with free food to save you money as a chronically skint student). You are learning how to team- and network which are also very valuable side effects.

But on the other hand you would rather be in the lab and continue your work instead of attending all those meetings, preparing presentations, writing reports or blogs as the lost time just increases the pressure on you while trying to finish experiments, write a thesis, publish papers, make posters, go to conferences, engage the public and sleep every now and then.

Your work and mistakes are probably tolerated more, unless you are responsible for one Sonopill part which is rather crucial for an autonomous system (antenna). Then you are a “risk”. That’s another one of those things you learn in a project: risk management, communications and interconnections of all individual parts. Things you would never have to think about in a normal PhD, but which you will most likely need in the future.

I must say, I am very happy to be part of this project, although I am considered a “small risk”. The great thing about this project is that it affects everyone you talk to about it. Most of the times when a PhD is asked the question: “So, what are you working on?” the listening minds usually shut down after the first sentence. But in my case it’s so easy to be enthusiastic about the project. You can see adults’ and childrens’ faces light up straight away when you start describing what you are working on. I always have a little video of the first Pathfinder and the PillCam® on my phone, for the people who can’t get enough. The reactions make you aware of how important your work is.

These facts make me just more ambitious to develop a working device so that it becomes an actual application and does not just remain a futuristic device.