Organisation - January 28, 2016

Column: PhD

Stijn van Gils

My heart races when I think about the manuscript I have submitted. That one comma and that strange word choice – should I have changed them? ‘No!’ I tell myself out loud, ‘It is gone, you are not going to look at it again.’ I take a few deep breaths.

Just as I manage to breathe more calmly a slight feeling of panic comes over me. Should I have taken another look at table 2? What if there’s a 0.031 somewhere instead of a 0.032?  Or, worse still, what if a whole row has moved and policymakers make wrong decisions based on my ineptness?


I take myself in hand: ‘Stijn, you have gone through it at least a thousand times; it is fine.’ More deep breaths. Slowly my panic gives way to general anxiety about my thesis. This manuscript is just a start. Soon a complete book needs to be ready, with endless figures and millions of opportunities to make mistakes.

I try to think about something else. Not research for a change. A break from thinking about things in the past that should have been done better or things that could go wrong in future. I call an old friend. He looks after Scottish highlanders in nature reserves: that must be very calming.

‘So how are you then?’ he asks eventually. ‘Well, I’ll be happy when I’ve finished my PhD,’ I say quietly. ‘If I don’t manage what’s to become of me?’

Silence. ‘Um, sorry,’ he says hesitantly, ‘but what’s a PhD?’

Stijn van Gils (28) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.

Re:actions 1

  • wekaweka

    Hooray , may this mean the comeback of old but improved Stijn van Gils glanced via the alumni description and 1 out of two blog written since becoming a Phd. Can you do a weekly column or something, more spontaneous less thought out , more Stijn van Gils?What does looking after Scottish highlanders really about and how do you came across persons like that? Does your supervisor read this blog?

    Thank you


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  • Aio

    Herkenbaar! Ik dacht dat ik opgelucht zou zijn als ik mijn manuscript had gesubmit, maar ik kon eigenlijk echt pas ademen toen de verlossende woorden 'accepted with minor revisions' in mijn mailbox kwamen...