Thursday, March 15, 2012

The road towards madness: Thesis Devlog part 2: I actually did something last month

A lot of stuff happened in during the last month, and most of it was quite positive.
I was able to clear out most of the obstruction that were preventing me from getting started on my thesis. In fact, I spent the last two weeks in the Senckenberg-Museum in Frankfurt, acquiring my first Data for my Thesis, so technically I already started working on it.
I’ve never visited a collection before so I was really excited to take a look “behind the scenes” of a museum, especially the Senckenberg. I was born in the Area around Frankfurt, and I visited the Senckenberg quite a lot when I was a child and I still have very fond memories of those visits, Funnily enough most parts of the upper floors of the museum haven’t changed a bit since I was a kid. This place also partially responsible for getting interested me in Paleoanthropology a few years back. Well it was a lecture of Bernard Wood which I visited, but it was hosted by the Senckenberg.
Anyways, as I said I never visited a collection before that, so I was really excited to get this opportunity. I just love old stuff and Collections are always a great place for that. I had skulls on my desk which were acquired during the 1840s, a time when nobody besides Darwin and some other few people ever thought about natural selection, where the first Neanderthal was still to be discovered and where people could become respectable biologists by simply walking through the jungle with a Rifle in their hand, occasionally shooting in the trees and collecting all the dead stuff which fell in front of their feet.
I often stopped my work wondering who also might have held this object in their hand and what they might’ve done with it.

I also stopped my work from time to time to wonder what I was looking for. I wasn’t really trained to this kind of work I’m supposed to do right now. Sure I know to navigate myself on a human skull and I know how a primate skull basically looks like. But identifying smaller structures on skulls of non-adult primates? That’s quite difficult. So the first few days where mostly spent with me trying to navigate myself around this stuff. Funnily enough, large portions of the more challenging parts of this thesis will involve me having to learn the appropriate skills while doing the actual work, which is quite interesting.

I learned a lot of stuff in the last few weeks and I also regained huge parts of my motivation for science in general. There were quite a few things which got me down in the past few months, most of them dealt with the more ‘administrative’ parts of science and less with the actual work. I was even thinking about whether or not I’m suited for this kind of work. Honestly I still don’t know if I really am, but what I’m sure about is that I don’t care about that. Either I will be able to do things the way I want, or I won’t do it. If I would wanted to get an easy job, I would’ve gone into engineering and not Anthropology in the first place.

At some point I might write about this in more detail, but what I will promise right now is that, as soon as I’m allowed to, I will simply put my Thesis somewhere up where everybody will have access to it. If my time allows it, I will even try and translate the whole thing into English. I want to do this, because I think that, even if this thing is a complete mess, someone else might find something of value in it. And be it as an example of what you should never do while writing a Thesis. The alternative was either putting this thing in my shelf and letting it gather dust, or publishing my results in some obscure Journal which no one is ever going to read anyway. Ideas are the forces that drive scientific innovation and I strongly believe that the more Ideas you have to discuss the better you’re able to really get some kind of scientific progress.