Category Archives: Piano

A day in the life…of a Clinical PhD student

Wordmark of The Beatles, originally painted di...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, what does a typical day in the life of a Clinical PhD student look like? Quite frankly, I don’t know. In fact, I’ll tell you a little secret. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a ‘typical day.’ If you asked me, my answer would depend on the day of the week and how my thesis and assignments were progressing. I’d also wager that if you asked my comrades who have the same coursework and thesis commitments, you’d get a different answer again.

I will concede  that  a ‘typical week‘  exists. On a weekly basis I attend a day and a half’s worth of classes, a faculty seminar and  a meeting with my supervisor. In between these bouts of structure I can be found doing ‘homework’ for my classes, working on assignments, reading, writing, bouncing ideas off the others in the ‘Nerve Centre’ and of course, thinking. But this bland description doesn’t capture the half of it: birthday cake days, campus wildlife spotting, occasional escapes to the grand piano round the corner, a-ha moments, thesis/computer/coursework/admin trouble shooting sessions, training seminars, inductions, lunchtime rituals and social get-togethers also punctuate my typical week from time to time. And then of course, there is my life outside uni: my casual job, family and friends. Variety is the spice of life and ironically, the one constant in my life as a Clinical PhD student.

Take today, it started out with me driving to uni belting out ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay in my car, and ended with me writing this post while munching on a chocolate snowball (for the uninitiated, this is a chocolate and coconut coated marshmallow). In between, I attended classes – applying ethics concepts to counselling scenarios, listening to others’ research progress and discussing statistical power; worked on my thesis – reviewing the latest articles in one of my ‘pet’ journals, writing my research proposal and having an a-ha moment about where my thesis is headed  and, lastly, the ‘miscellany section’ of my day today – debating the inner workings of EndNote, why I like research, why some academics wear blue robes and why the writing on the bottom of lipstick is ridiculously tiny. My theory is that they try to save money on ink!

All in all, the unstructured elements of a Clinical PhD aren’t a bad thing. They’re an opportunity for flexibility, to call my own shots within reason, and to develop a system that works for me. I’ll probably blog about my day to day experiences from time to time now, so watch out for my ‘a day in the life’ category if you’re interested.

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Filed under A day in the life, classes, Clinical Phd, Piano, Reflections, research proposal

Psychology Honours – The Musical

I’ve played the piano since I was eleven years old. It’s been years since I had my last lesson but I teach myself now, finding sheet music where I can*  or learning songs ‘by ear.’ What does this have to do with psychology? Well, in Honours year everyone seems to have developed their own way of dealing with stress, frustration and thesis stalemates. Some people crotchet, others get hooked on television sitcoms, bake or peruse Facebook. Does this sound like any of you? Mostly, I play the piano (or blog). If I’m hitting a brick wall with a thesis draft, can’t get my head around SPSS or just need a short break you’ll hear piano music coming from the room I do most of my thesis work in. Not only do I enjoy it, but when I return to my thesis after these fifteen minute interludes, I often find that things seems more manageable or an unruly paragraph begins to cooperate.

After almost four years of studying psychology, I guess its only natural that I’ve noticed some patterns between my playing and studying behaviour. For instance, if you hear me labouring over a new piece of music, easily identifiable by my stilted playing, I’ve likely just started or finished an assignment or thesis draft. On the other hand, if I’ve turned my hand to one of the pieces I can play with my eyes closed, played in various styles or at breakneck speed for a bit of variety, I’m probably in the middle or towards the end of an assignment or draft. Does anyone else notice their ‘coping’ strategies change? Perhaps your ‘procrastibaking’ reaches fever pitch right before an assignment is due, or you have a Big Bang Theory marathon once you’ve submitted a draft?

I’ve included my Honours ‘soundtrack’ or repertoire below. They say that music can draw you back to a certain time and place so I am sure that these songs will always remind me of this year.


The early days; finding a supervisor and starting classes

  • Brick – Ben Folds Five
  • Bella’s Lullaby – Carter Burwell [Twilight]
  • Superman – Five for Fighting
  • 100 Years – Five for Fighting
  • 1000 Miles – Vanessa Carlton
  • Mad World – Gary Jules

The Research Proposal

  • River Flows in You – Yiruma
  • Comptine d’un autre été: l’après (Life is a song) – Yann Tiersen [‘Amelie,’ though I’ve yet to watch it]
  • Miss Clare Remembers – Enya (learnt by ear)
  • The Meadow – Alexander Desplat [New Moon]
  • The Heart Asks Pleasure First – Michael Newman [‘The Piano,’ I haven’t seen this either]
  • Fix You – Coldplay
  • Postcards From Far Away – Coldplay
  • Falling Slowly – Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová [‘Once,’ a great film]

Thesis Writing – all the aforementioned songs plus…

  • Take 5 – Dave Brubeck
  • 1st Gymnopédie – Eric Satie
  • Someone Like You – Adele (half improvised because I can’t find sheet music for the melody, only the accompaniment)
  • Lord of the Rings Main Theme – Howard Shore
  • Wherever You Will Go – The Calling

*For any fellow musos out there, this site is fantastic for free sheet music: http://words3music.ph/

I’m off to play ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First,’ so until next time…

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Filed under A bit of fun, Honours year, Piano