Friday, 19 August 2016

Natalie Lamb and a Day in the Life of a 1st Year PhD Student

When I was trying to chose whether or not to do a PhD, I had no idea what day to day life was actually going to be like. Yes, I knew what the research topic would be, where it was going to be and how long I would be funded for. I had no idea, however, how much work I would have to do a day, if I would actually enjoy it and how I would fill all of those hours. That is ~4935 hours of my life that I was going to be giving away! So I have decided to write a far too in depth post about my day and how I am currently filling all of those hours.


The Short Version

7:25am-7:50am get ready for work.
7:50am-8:30am drive to work.
8:30am-4:30pm work (with an hour break 12:05pm-1:00pm and a meeting 1:00pm-2:30pm).
4:30pm-5:10pm drive back from work.
5:10pm-10pm free time at home.
10pm bed.


The Long Version

6:15am-7:25am I woke up naturally from the light from the window and decided to go for a shower because I forgot to the night before. I then went back to bed until the alarm but couldn't sleep so I mostly scrolled on Facebook and spoke to my boyfriend, Phill.

7:25am-7:50am I actually got out of bed and got ready for work, while Phill made us our breakfast smoothies. After getting ready, we spent some time chatting on the sofa until it was time to leave for work.

7:50am-8:30am During these times I was driving to work, while listening to a 'mix tape' (USB stick!) of Leeds Festival songs, to learn some new songs ready for the festival next week. It is only an 18.6 mile drive and it is the summer holidays so there is no school run traffic but it is still queues all the way.

8:30am-9:00am After parking my car, I walked the three flights of stairs to the office. I am currently doing a walking challenge with work to 'Walk Around the World in 80 Days' for the charity Water Aid. It actually means that in a team we have to walk 25,648 miles (51,296,000 steps) in the 80 days so that equates to 15,640 steps per person per day (which I think is a lot!).
When I got in to the office, I went to the bathroom, got myself a coffee, changed from my driving shoes into my work shoes, drank my breakfast smoothie and started working, while talking on and off to colleagues. I had opened any new emails, checked my calendar for meetings today and checked my diary for my to do list. I also asked my line manager to have a quick meeting with me today for an idea I had about doing a research symposium for students within the business. A work friend gave me a book she thought I would find useful to read through- Introduction to Potable Water Treatment Processes (Parsons and Jefferson, 2009). I also started this blog to be filled in throughout the day and then completed in full tomorrow.

9:00am-9:10am I had a quick informal catch up with my industry supervisor about a meeting I had attended yesterday but she was unable to go to. We stayed sat at our computers and spoke over the desks because we were sat opposite to each other.

9:10am-10:05am I started charging my FitBit because it had been on the brink of dying the night before and updated the step count Excel Document (you are supposed to do it daily during the challenge but I had not completed it since Thursday last week!). It is day 48 and I have so far done 797,538 steps and 399 miles.
I decided not to go to some conferences because they were not that relevant and fairly expensive e.g. the Institute of Water One Day Science Conference was £150 and that would be quite a lot of my research budget.
I read the 'Science Policy' weekly email I get from the Royal Society of Biology as well as other science news. I then posted in the Facebook page I run (USW Biology Department Students and Alumni) and on Twitter (@Natnotgnats) some science in the news this week and some upcoming events. This week, the news was: Kew Gardens in race to collect and preserve Madagascar's seedsWomen in innovation: research reveals barriers and opportunities and Major pathogen of barley decoded: new avenues for control. The events were: Genome Editing and the Future of Farming 6 September in Edinburgh, Making Brexit work for ecology and conservation science 7 September in London and my own event East Anglia AGM, afternoon tea and wine tasting tour at Chilford Hall  4 September in Cambridgeshire. I made this event because I am a volunteer with the Royal Society of Biology and am Chair for the East Anglia region of the UK.

10:05am-10:10am I went for a coffee with work friends (grabbing my FitBit from charge on the way). The kitchen at work has a coffee machine which is free. It normally takes around 5 minutes because there are often queues. I drank my coffee at my desk while continuing to work.

10:10am-12:05pm I read through another weekly email but this time from Sheffield University "Professional development events and opportunities for PhD students 18 August 2016". There seemed to be an interesting event, 'Introduction to Impact', so I planned a day to attend it. I also checked EventBrite for any other relevant events. Another part of the newsletter was a #Techniciansmakeithappen competition, so I read more information about it and set reminders to do it monthly.
I had the quick meeting with my Line Manager that I wanted.
I looked into the regulations concerning lead pipes in rented properties. This is a research topic my academic supervisor is interested in me looking at and it might get published (I haven't published anything before).

12:05pm-1:00pm I went for a walk around the nearby park as my lunch break. It was a really nice day but overly crowded because of the weather and the school holidays. I quickly ate my lunch at my desk and got a coffee ready for my meeting (it is all decaf by the way!). When I'm not doing the challenge, I normally spend my lunch either in the cafeteria eating lunch and talking to colleagues or I continue to work at my desk then go home a bit early.

1:00pm-2:30pm I had a meeting with a colleague which we had scheduled the day before. The meeting was an informal one about innovative projects he is working on that fit in with my PhD's interest in water quality. I know very little about pipes so he often had to explain what the different valves and hydrants do and how they work. I made a mental note that I had to learn more about these things to speed up future meetings. While we were talking, I made notes about the projects that I thought were interesting and that I had to look into more.

2:30pm-4:30pm I went for a coffee with work friends and continued to work on lead pipes the rest of the day, sometimes while talking with people in the office. People asked me various questions and spoke to me e.g. a MSc student asked me what to include in an abstract of a thesis so I showed her and emailed mine as an example.

4:30pm-5:10pm I had started at 8:30am so was able to leave the office at 4:30pm, rather than 5:00pm. I drove back, while listening to the music.

5:10pm-10:00pm I had 20 minutes before Phill came back from work, which I wasted scrolling Twitter and Facebook and messaging my family using WhatsApp. When he came back from work we went on a 30 minute walk and then cooked and ate dinner. We went on a second walk after dinner, talking about our days and playing Pokemon Go. Then we watched a Dragonball Z film before going to bed at 10pm.


Writing this, I have realised I drink a lot of coffee!


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