First and foremost, I would like to thank the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) along with the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) for giving me the opportunity to share my research and my life story for the past year with the connected world. It has been a journey filled with fun, learning and a lot of self-actualisation.
It’s great for a young researcher such as myself to be exposed to initiatives that improve their writing as well as their communication skills – these skills come in very handy when communicating research findings or applying for funding. I would, without a shadow of a doubt, encourage people to apply for such programs and be in the lookout for more programs run by SAYAS. Often we don’t apply for competitions or grant funding opportunities because we are scared to put ourselves out there, to be at the mercy of other reviewers or editors. Being one of the 2016 SAYAS bloggers has trained me to be more open to other people’s opinions, as well as confidently communicate those opinions without fear or prejudice.
One of the best stories that I’ve been privileged enough to share on this platform was when I got an email from Prof Muchenje saying that the Senate had approved my dissertation and that I would be graduating for my MSc in Poultry Nutrition, next year in May. That’s the happiest I’ve been in quite some time. …however, there is no rest for the wicked. Such a triumph has left me wondering on what I should focus on next year. Having worked so hard this past year has given me a few options for next year. “Epilogés” is a Greek word that means options. Sometimes we have all these options and then struggle to choose! What if I choose the wrong option???
As things stand, I have 3 options for 2017: 1. Register for my PhD full time, 2. Go to work at DSM Nutritional Products as an Intern or, 3. Pursue both my PhD part time and also work as an intern to get some industry work experience. All these options (like most) have their own virtues and vices.
The first option is registering for my PhD full time at the University of Fort Hare. I feel like this is the best option but it competes with the sense of obligation that I have towards my family. I have to contribute towards the livelihood of my siblings and parents but this gets hard if I’m cooped up in a poultry house raising chickens and writing review articles. You can read more about this on my first blog. The benefit of this option is that I can do my PhD in 3 years; I can also benefit funding wise because full-time students tend to get better bursaries than part-time candidates.
The second option is working at any company that will be lucky enough to get me (Chuckles). The major benefit of this option is my monthly salary, which will improve my own socio-economic status and that of my family. I can also start working at a young age; this means that I can have more experience and progress through the food chain whilst I’m still young, as opposed to doing my PhD and going into the work force at an older age. Most people will say that you can always go back to school when you are financially capable to support yourself and your family. The problem is that the longer you stay away from varsity, the harder it becomes to get back. Once money starts to come in, the need to have a PhD decreases because a lot of people believe that post graduate degrees help them to get promotions and also guarantees a higher paycheck.
The last option would be to be a jack of all trades but a master of nothing (Laughing out Loud). On a serious note though, the third option is to pursue both a career in industry and to also do my PhD simultaneously. Many people fall for this option but this option for me has the most disadvantages. It sounds nice: you benefit from gaining work experience, a salary, AND a doctorate at the same time, as well as using your work experience to develop a novel PhD concept. But you probably won’t get a bursary while working full-time. Also, you have to be realistic about time and energy that I can devote to this option. Starting a new job is one of the most stressful things in life – and so is a PhD!
…something will have to give. And that will probably be my PhD. Most likely, I will start with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but seeing it all the way through? Maintaining a ridiculous pace, filled with work, experiments, and writing, for 3-5 years???
The best thing to do would be to write all those down with the different options and chose the most likely to stress you less.
I’m just thankful that I still have a little time before I can decide. And luckily DSM Nutritional Products assists its employees to study towards their academic aspirations. So funding might not be a problem entirely, until I need funds to buy cholesterol assays, send samples for fatty acid and histology analysis. Perhaps a Good Samaritan will take pity on me and fund my PhD (winx), whilst allowing me to work and develop my animal science career as well.
Whatever option I choose, I have faith that it will be the best.