Monday, 26 October 2009

This week's reading

Still in that funny period where my Masters dissertation is being marked...which puts a bit of a brake on the PhD work since one of the markers is my PhD tutor. So our current contact is minimal...err, non-existent.

However, there's plenty I can be getting on with and much of that concerns reading. I'm fascinated by Eisenhower at the moment and am having a proper read of Stephen Ambrose's biography. So far I'm still in WW2 and the read is entertaining rather than overly enlightening. Ambrose is at his best when on 'Band of Brothers' territory. The first 50 years of Ike's life has been covered in a rapid gloss and I'm somehow missing the analysis of how an extremely competent staff officer morphed into Supreme Commander in two years - and was to be President just a decade later. Anyway, still 300 pages to go!

Alongside Eisenhower, I'm also reading the rest of Murray & Bly Cox's: Apollo: The Race to the Moon.

Mission Control's Sy Liebergot told me that this was his peers' favourite account of the US space programme and I can understand why. It's an energetic account that focuses on the engineers and specialists who delivered the programme rather than the up-front astronaut tale. It's an excellent back-office account and is filling in a number of gaps in my understanding of the programme. Still a couple of hundred pages to go on this one too!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Day by day it's becoming more real

So I'm now officially a PhD research student and those carefree days of slaving over a Masters dissertation are nought but a memory. Still, I'm not exactly progressing the new research at a rate of knots.

The first few weeks have been all about making the transition from taught student to research student. I now have a shared office at Brunel with a desk, bookshelves and a quarter share in a phone. I've just been on a two-day Early Stage Research Module, and have given my first presentation on my work to fellow PhD students as part of a research skills module that's compulsory for newbies like me.

That was quite an experience: I was the only historian in the room, faced by economists, political scientists, psychologists and a scary number of social anthropologists. I'm not sure they 'get' my research any more than I get what they're up to. Still, it was a fun half-hour.

I've had a meeting with my secondary supervisor but not my main one: I think we're avoiding each other until he has finished marking my Masters disso. Until then, I'm scoping and trying to build a network of researchers interested in the conjunction of the media and the space race since this year's planned work builds directly on what I started with the Masters. Already I feel that I only scratched the surface with that piece - but I have no indication yet whether it was a good or bad scratch. Certainly every day since the disso went in I've uncovered something new. I'm kicking myself that so many things didn't make the final draft, and feeling that I got too hung up on the superficial. Anyway, time will tell.