August 2005: Five months ahead for the end of my PhD, as my fellowship/contract will end at 31th December. I plan to stick on the schedules and have a PhD dissertation by then.
I told it so to my PhD advisor, Dr. J.R., some months ago, just to expose my intentions -- crystal clear. He seemed to be fine with that, although he encouraged me to push hard from then on for a half-year sprint.
But two weeks ago we were commenting on the plans of the microbial project I am currently working on. From his comments, it was clear that he wouldn't let me present the dissertation without a similar project with Drosophila. That project, that I haven't prospected or started at all, at least for the two phrases summary that he throwed at me, is extremely complex to carry on with the time I have. Or more precisely, with the time I will have when having finished the microbial project. This was two weeks ago, and the microbial project is still advancing but not shaping into a paper yet.
I wouldn't mind to have to spend a couple extra months with my PhD, considering that one month and a half is actually given to the PhD commitee to evaluate the written report.
The problem is that I felt threatened and horrified when he stated that I would have to use my unemployment benefits for those extra months. I don't want to do that, and I won't. It's not fair to make me to use the unemployment benefits to continue working, doing the same I am doing, but employed. Unemployment payments are meant to give me time to find the next job.
My case is somewhat special as I'm an employee in my last two Phd years of Generalitat's FI fellowship, while most of the other fellowships are simple grants with no further unemployment benefits. So I don't have close cases to compare my situation with. But I can see what is happening with all the other Phd students in the group, and it doesn't look good: A.S. is in his fifth/sixth? year, and has been working in his Phd dissertation in the last year without getting any money at all. The same situation with D.B. A.B. is jumping from one 3 months grant to another, from one lab to another, mostly doing part-time highly-qualified work, Postdoc-level, but getting miserably paid for it.
So far, it doesn't look good. But I think it is otherwise very reassuring if closely analysed: I am convinced that my decision to stick to the 4-year PhD route, or 48 months route, is the right thing to do, and that I shouldn't fear anything that makes me feel this won't happen or shouldn't happen. Scientifically, my 4-years PhD work is sound, and that's what counts.
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