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Over September 17, 2006

Posted by ayasawada in Personal.
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My MSc is FINISHED! I handed in my dissertation on Wednesday, two whole days early. I didn’t mean to. Campus repographics told me 24 hours for binding so I rushed to get it done by Wednesday, in case anything went wrong. As it turned out they did it on the spot. Bastards. Sure enough, I made the mistake of flicking through it and spotting the odd typo, but overall it looks pretty good.

As you may or may not recall my dissertation was entitled ‘Genshi Bakuden to Genshiryoku: Japan and nuclear science’, a history of science investigation into how atomic research has shaped Japanese science. It’s come a long way since four months ago when I decided to do “something about Japan”. I pared it down gradually and came to focus more on the nuclear side of things: energy and weapons. This separated into several sections: A history of Japan and western science since the Meiji restoration; Japan’s failed attempt to construc a nuclear weapon; scientists attitudes to the bomb; Japan’s nuclear weapons potential now; the history of Japan’s nuclear power industry; and public protests against nuclear energy.

As you can see, the topic is huge – worthy of about four separate dissertations each. I was a little concerned about the shallowness of the finished article, but despite the ‘overview-ness’ of it all, I did manage to come to some general conclusions and it was a great topic for a japanophile like myself. I’ve had quite enough discussion, so I’m not going to parrot the conclusions here. If anyone’s really interested I can send you all 64 pages.

I spent much of my summer in the School of Oriental and African Studies library, with side visits to the UCL science library for Nature and Science journal articles. 10:30am-5pm at SOAS and 5pm – 7pm at UCL was my routine of the last three weeks. Apart from a ton of reading, my big problem was too many words. When I dumped my rough notes into a document I had some 17,000 words to cut down in four weeks! Being a sad individual who actually likes subbing, I didn’t mind that so much. But last weekend was painful. I had it down to about 11,000 words (guideline was 10,000) but just couldn’t bring myself to cut more. It was like lopping off limbs. Final word count: 10,997.

Yet, overall, I am content with it and confident that it will at least pass. If I’ve learnt anything over the last three months it’s that striving for your best is fine, but if it’s not the best thing ever that’s also okay. I know I come to this conclusion every six months. Indulge me for now.

So with the end of the dissertation comes the end of the course. It went with a whimper more than a bang. I went out for celebratory drinks with the rest of the course on Friday night, which was nice after seeing few of them over the last few months. But to be honest, I’ve spent the last few days in a bit of a mood. Perhaps it’s difficulty coming to terms with the end of student life, maybe it’s confusion over what to do now that there is no work, or it might be just butterflies about starting a new job on Monday. When i think about how everyone’s just drifted and quietly got on with their lives (some more spectacularly than others) I feel a little sad. I often think how I could have done better this year, or maybe relaxed much more. Someone said to me the other day, “those who try too hard don’t catch the big fish”. Many of my actions over the past year have been motivated by fear of regret and that’s not good. With my 27th year approaching, I pledge to think better in future.

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