Two Months Away From Getting a Master’s Degree

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As I continue on my journey to a Phd, I decided to pick up a Master’s degree along the way. To perhaps no one’s surprise, my journey has been quite bumpy, so I think this post will serve as one of the few things I can actually brag about.

That said, if you don’t have time to read the whole post, here’s a quick summary: this semester, I’m finishing a project that will ultimately allow me to claim my Computer Science and Engineering Master’s degree from The Ohio State University.

Table of Contents

The Path to a Master’s Degree

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a PhD for a little over two years now. Of course, until this semester, I was working toward a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering. Now, I’m making my way toward an Engineering Education PhD.

Having switched between two PhD programs, I felt like I had wasted quite a bit of time and energy, and I wanted something to show for it. As a result, I decided to pursue a Dual Degree: one Engineering Education PhD and one Computer Science and Engineering Master’s.

Not only would this change allow me to get credit for the previous two years of work, but I also would have something to leverage if/when I try to get a teaching job. Over all, this seemed like the right move for me.

That said, making these sort of decisions is never really that easy. After all, getting a Master’s means I have to try to fit my PhD requirements into another degree. Fortunately, I had done enough coursework that I didn’t have to do anything extra.

However, I didn’t exactly get off scot-free. After all, the rule in my department was that you could only get a Master’s “in passing” if you completed candidacy. Since I hadn’t even passed qualifying, I couldn’t possibly walk away with a Master’s.

As a result, I had to pick up a project. By the end of the semester, that project will be finished, and I should be done with the degree!

Completing a Project

So, what did I decide to do for a Master’s project? Well, as I described in the past, I was very lucky to have bumped into my current Master’s advisor. As it turns out, they had done their dissertation on student emotions during programming tasks, and they just so happened to be looking for someone to help extend some of their work.

Suddenly, I found myself helping them validate an instrument for measuring student emotions. Naturally, this was a lot different from the types of projects that Master’s students usually do, but I didn’t mind. It was a nice change of pace.

Of course, COVID-19 came along and threw a bit of a wrench in our plans. Previously, we were hoping to take the instrument into the classroom to get some data. Now, that wasn’t really possible.

As a compromise, we decided to make the switch to a related project which called for some analysis of existing data. In particular, we were trying to make sense of a mix of qualitative and quantitative data as a way of getting at student emotions.

Ultimately, I’ve spent the better part of the last year designing software for data collection and creating visualizations of existing data. Specifically, my last few months have been spent finding new ways to analyze the existing data. In total, I’ve probably generated a dozen or so unique plots.

I hesitate to share a lot of details because this is work that is trying to get published. As a result, I have no idea how much I can about it. That said, you can be sure that it’s a fun project, and I expect it to help me earn my degree.

Defending My Work

Due to the unique situation I’m in, it’s been hard to explain exactly what I’ve done. This is particularly challenging because part of the deal is that I have to defend my work through a presentation and a report.

By the time this article is published, we’ll be about halfway through October. As far as I know, my deadline to defend my work is November 25th. So far, the report is coming along. That said, I’m not totally sure what the presentation is going to look like.

My goal at the moment is to keep grinding away on the report while continuing to generate some findings. By this time next month, I should be all done. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if you took the time to keep reading my story. At this point, there are several posts in this series, and I think it really encapsulates a lot of the challenges that grad students go through. After all, even something as simple as finishing a Master’s project can be a huge pain. Here are a few posts to get you started:

If you’re not interested in browsing this series, but you’d still like to help out the site, consider checking out my list of ways to grow the site. If you head over there, you’ll find links to all sorts of fun things like my Discord, Patreon, and Newsletter.

Otherwise, thanks for taking a moment to follow me on my journey! I appreciate the support.

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Jeremy Grifski

Jeremy grew up in a small town where he enjoyed playing soccer and video games, practicing taekwondo, and trading Pokémon cards. Once out of the nest, he pursued a Bachelors in Computer Engineering with a minor in Game Design. After college, he spent about two years writing software for a major engineering company. Today, he pursues a PhD in Engineering Education in order to ultimately land a teaching gig. In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his wife, playing Overwatch and Phantasy Star Online 2, practicing trombone, watching Penguins hockey, and traveling the world.

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