I am a little more than three weeks into honours and I am tired. I feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere and I’m trying to read papers but there’s so many and also I’ve started writing some image processing code. But to be fair I’m at the point in the night where I’m just exhausted – usually I feel better in the morning. There is no set plan for the year which kinda scares me but is also exciting because there’s nothing stopping me from doing some pretty significant work. Nothing except for my patchy understanding of this subject area and complete lack of relevant skills, that is.

I have weekly meetings with both my supervisors on Friday mornings. Last week I presented a possible set of features that we could use to assess the quality of organoids. They are very naive and preliminary features, partly because I don’t know how to process images that well yet. This will hopefully help me figure out what a good organoid is supposed to look like and be a good starting point for my project. I was supposed to finish actually implementing them today but I am so behind.

My tips for the first few weeks of honours

  • Start getting your IT/lab access sorted before you officially start honours. This will streamline your first few weeks and ensure you can get straight into the work. Not having these resources can make the start of honours hard. Keep in touch with your supervisor and maybe email them 2-3 weeks before honours starts asking if they know what you need to do to get that started.
  • Ask for a reading list if you haven’t been given one from your supervisors. If they don’t volunteer some papers for you in your first meeting, mention some of the papers you have been skimming/reading and ask if they could send you some more you should look into. Reading papers from their lab is always a good place to start but they will be able to direct you towards other relevant materials. Also if someone mentions a lab group/collaborator during meetings suss out their publication record.
  • Ask your supervisors how your project fits into the work of the lab. Ask if you can read the grant applications associated with it.
  • Get to know your project aims and set up a timeline. Discuss this with your supervisors. You are the project manager of your Honours project – so manage it!
    • What are your coursework deadlines? Make a list of these and send them to your supervisors.
    • Set regular meeting times with your supervisors. You can use these as “project deadlines” and present specific pieces of work you’ve done and ask for feedback.
    • Consider if you need to buy/book lab reagents or instruments and if so how long will it take to arrive?
  • Get to know other students in your lab and your institute. Chat to PhD students in the lab about their projects. Ask if you can shadow them if you don’t have much to do (and they’re actually running experiments). Attend lab meetings and ask questions! See if your institute has a students’ association and go to their events