I had a conversation with my advisor not too long ago, about the project that I'm planning on doing for my dissertation. It didn't go quite the way I had expected.
"So, what are your thoughts on your dissertation project?"
"Well, I'd like to look at multiple loci in..." I briefly sketched out my ideas.
"That sounds like it has some potential. What do you think you should start out with?"
That was a question that I had expected, and was well prepared to answer. I spent the better part of the next five minutes making a case for starting out by collecting some sequence data for the alcohol dehydrogenase locus. I've worked with this professor for the last couple of years, and I get along with him pretty well, so I was confident that he'd see things my way and let me start work extracting DNA. I finished making my case, and sat back with a warm, comfortable feeling, totally unconcerned by the sadistic glint in his eye.
"Interesting idea, but I was thinking about having you start out with something else."
"Oh?" I said, certain that he was going to suggest that I start with a mitochondrial locus instead. "Where do you want me to start."
"With a dissertation proposal."
"I still think it might be better to start with a nuclear site instead of the mito..." I began, as my brain, paralyzed by the horror inspired by my advisor's remark, struggled to get my mouth's attention. "...what did you say???"
"You know, I was really hoping to put that off for just a little bit longer. Not too long, just until I have a better feel for the project."
"And just how long did you think that might take?"
"I don't know, but not too long," I said. "I should be able to get it done right after..."
"Right after you finish the dissertation?" (Damn, how did he know what I was thinking.)
"Maybe not quite that long..."
"It's proposal time. No kidding. Time to get it done."
I took it well, I thought.
"Ok, ok, I'll get it done." Now on to the topic that is always central to every student's mind when an assignment is mentioned; "About how long does it need to be?"
"At least thirty pages, preferably not more than about fifty, and you should have around a hundred references."
"That's fantastic. I was expecting a dissertation to be a lot bigger than that. But what I meant to ask was how long the proposal needed to be. What's so funny?"
So now I know what I'll be doing this semester. Procrastinating. Maybe if I blog enough, the problem will go away on its own...