Why Did I Do A PhD?

I was looking through a folder of writing projects recently, and came across 80,000+ words of things which have not seen the light of day. I originally wrote this piece as the first chapter of a book that had a working title of “Stories from my PhD”. I’ve tweaked it a little to share it here, and I hope you find it interesting!

Why Did I Do A PhD?

I love interesting challenges. For a long time I thought that I just loved the challenge of maths, and maths research in particular. Not knowing something, and not having a handy three-times-a-week class to tell you forced me to accept the realities of research. It’s all up to you. If you don’t know something, it’s your responsibility to find it out. That’s fine. It might be difficult, but if you’re going to do research in any area, that’s what you sign up for.

I kept flirting with the idea of a PhD during my Masters. I couldn’t decide on what area I wanted to do research in though. I ended up doing my final dissertation in knot theory. This seemed like a challenging area. There was just one problem: by the end of my Masters I felt totally burned out by the thought of more maths. I was typesetting and bug hunting day after day and it was driving me crazy.

The PhD was moved to the back burner – I wanted to do it, but maybe I needed to take some time in between. This then posed a second problem: what was I going to do instead?