A day in the life of a PhD student. The Scicomm Edition.

I talk about science ALOT – if you haven’t noticed! And I like sharing insights into what I do in day to day life as a scientist – so I started this ‘A day in the life of a PhD student’ series on my blog. Now – I rant and rave about how different every day is when you’re working in a lab, but unfortunately this hasn’t quite been the case for me recently. My days have been full of manuscript editing, cells and Western blotting – and I have definitely done Western blotting to death in this feature. So I was waiting for my work to switch up a little bit before posting a new day in the life blog. But a recent scicomm chat on Twitter gave me an idea….

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This recent Twitter chat got people talking about how they would like to see more science communicators showing what a typical day might be for them. And I couldn’t agree more! How these amazing communicators manage full time PhD study and then basically what is another full time job on the side amazes me and I would love to know how they balance their days with everything else, and maybe even inspire others.

As you know I’ve been blogging for just over a year now, but I have become quite an active an enthusiast science communicator online through social media. Plus, I am heading into my final year of my PhD. And – I want to keep my blog schedule going. And -I’m applying for a part time comms internship. So things are going to get busy for me so I thought I would share a typical day as a scicommer for me and how I manage everything. I know I am not the most popular or influential scicommer out there, but everyone was at the stage I am at now and I know others out there want to start doing more scicomm so hopefully this will be an honest and relatable account of how I do it as a newbie science communicator.

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I’ll start off by letting you in on a little secret – I don’t manage it well at all! It is something I need to get better at! I get everything that I need to done, but probably at the expense of my work-life balance.

So, I will share with you how I manage PhD life and my scicomm efforts, and hopefully you will learn from it – whether that is the good things or from the mistakes I make. And I hope to see other scicommers do the same so we can all inspire and learn from each other, and not just in the science we share.

So here it is; my day in the life of a PhD student! The Scicomm Edition.

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7:32am – Wakey wakey! Those of you who know me or have read my other blog posts will know that I am NOT a morning person! But I have been getting up earlier and earlier over the last few weeks so I can work on all my commitments throughout the day without rushing to fit it all in while also leaving myself enough time to chill and relax a bit at the end of the day.

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9:53am – I’ve been at my desk for nearly 2 hours now. I’ve started off my experiments for the day, but I’ve also been planning for a big meeting I want to have with my PhD supervisors. I’m heading into my final year of grad school study now so I wanted to sit down with my supervisors to discuss what data I have and how I can package that into my thesis and then, identify any gaps that I need to fill in. I also want to discuss what my next BIG experiment, or BIG research question will be for my last year – whether we build on something that I have already found or look at it from a completely new direction. I have been incredibly lucky with my research that all the experiments I have done have actually found something quite interesting and new; but now I need to choose which path I am going to follow. But that leaves a few unanswered questions in my research. So I want to propose a few projects for the next lot of Masters students that are starting next month so hopefully they can help me fill in those gaps for my thesis. That’s if they even want to pick my project. But this is what I want to do, because I feel like I’m at a bit of a crossroads and need a bit of advice about which questions to start answering. And me being me wants to do it all! So I’ve been coming up with some ideas for new experiments and ideas for Masters projects to propose.

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11.03am – So I said this was the scicomm edition, and there hasn’t been much scicomm so far. So let’s change that. I spent most of my day flitting between the lab and the office. When I’m in the lab I’m working on experiments, and when I’m at my desk in the incubations I’m usually working on something scicomm based. This is the general routine I have. But the science I share on Instagram for example needs a good visual, so whenever the opportunity arises I will take a quick snap or two – whether that’s in the lab or not – and then edit them at a later point. Sometimes I know what I want to take an image of like this one. I received some little DMEM magnets so I wanted to take a comparison photo with the real size ones that I use every day in the lab. But sometimes I just get inspired by something in the lab, or something would look good in a flatlay and I will snap the picture and then find a story to fit that picture at a later date. So my phone is full of images waiting to be used ๐Ÿ˜› Most of the time though, I will know what message or point I want to get across in my post and take an image that best fits that!

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11.17am – So after a quick photo shoot with my media and starting the next stage of my experiments, I have another break. I head back to my desk and I keep working on and finish my latest blog post. Most of my blog writing does get done at home, but if I get a new idea or didn’t finish the blog post I will continue that during the day.

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12.12pm – As a science blogger and science communicator, I am always looking for inspiration and ideas for new blog posts, new article pitches and new photo ideas. And I don’t want to forget any of them so they go in my scicomm bible! My bright ideas notebook comes everywhere with me incase my brain sparks a new idea so I can quickly note it down. It is a part of my everyday life as a scicommer and full of tips and tricks that I have learnt off others, so I just hope I don’t lose it! Today I am making some notes on an article I want to pitch soon. So I’m doing that while chowing down on some lunch.

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1.37pm – I mentioned earlier that I’m applying for a comms internship here at the university. The deadline was imminent and I didn’t want to be stressing doing it at home every night! So I was working on my comms CV and a cover letter that will hopefully land me the internship and get me some comms experience to try and help me decide if I want to do science communication full time or continue as I am now after my PhD.

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2.16pm – The early morning has started to catch up with me, so I popped across the road to Costa to get a caffiene fix as there is still a lot I need to do today.

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3.53pm – I know I’ve bombarded you with Western blotting, and you are probably as sick of me talking about them as I am with doing them at the moment. But I just couldn’t have a day in the life post without them – hah! But I have been doing experiments all day still, which just happened to be another Western blot. So I just wanted to share this to show that I am still doing stuff in the lab while working on other things around that. Plus this one actually worked so it was a good one to share with you ๐Ÿ™‚

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4.52pm – Major experiments for today are done! Now I have a longer period of time where I can just sit and concentrate on one thing – my paper. Another thing that just won’t go away at the moment. No matter how much editing and adding I do to it. My supervisors aren’t happy with it. So it’s as frustrating as Western blots at the moment. Hopefully this will be the last time I have to edit anything. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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5.34pm – Don’t forget I have divas to look after, even on a scicomm day of a PhD student. Time to feed my cells and have a short break from paper writing! So many cells!!! Each of those plates as 6 wells. And each well on average has about 1 million embryonic stem cells in. So, in this incubator alone, I have about 180 million cells to look after right now! Then I have to face the other incubator. Luckily there aren’t as many cells in that one!

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7.23pm – I’ve done as much as I can with the paper. Think it has fried my brain a little bit. But I’ve moved onto other scicomm tasks now. Since starting my scicomm adventure I have met some amazing people online that are all really supportive. And some of them have offered me some great opportunities to be featured on different websites, different blogs and I’ve been sent different scientist swag to tell you all about! Today, I have been send some interview questions for an upcoming feature on me ๐Ÿ™‚ so I’ve spent some time answering those now before heading home.

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9.35pm – I love social media and I have been lucky enough to gain some amazing followers over the last few months which I am hugely appreciative of. But I want to keep growing my scicomm adventure and science stories and helping to make Soph talks science more of a brand – long term goal! So, I have been learning more about how to effectively use social media for science communication and rule 1 is to make sure you engage first. You need to give to receive in the social media world, so I usually sit on my laptop and phone for an hour each evening to plan social media posts, analyse which ones worked well, what posts didn’t work so well and try and suss out why that might be. I also reply to every comment and message I receive to engage with my audience more. It’s probably one of my favourite times of day because I learn so much from everyone else, I can involved in different Twitter chats and always find new people to follow and learn from. You definitely get out what you put into the scicomm community. You will need to give, give, give and give some more before you receive but it all helps in the long run.

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So, that’s that! Something a little bit different for you today. Not sure how helpful it was because I don’t manage everything well especially when I am juggling a lot recently. But I am still generating the same amount of data in the lab and effectively using any incubations and breaks that I have to work on different scicomm tasks whether that is take some photos for Instagram or write the new paragraph of my next blog post! I do a lot of my scicomm after lab too, but I would rather not and keep time when I’m at home for relaxing and just browsing social media. It is the reason I am working such long hours but it means when I get home, it is time for myself.

This is just a snippet of one day I spent balancing being a PhD student with trying to break into the science communication world. I would love it if other scicommers would do the same to give others a flavour of what it is like juggling the two. And I would also love to know what you thought of this post. Was it useful? Did you learn something? Even if that was what not to do! And would you like to see more of these scicomm editions?

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Science love.

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Keep up to date on my life as a scientist and ย my science communication efforts with Soph talks Science on Facebook,ย Twitterย and Instagram.

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3 thoughts on “A day in the life of a PhD student. The Scicomm Edition.

  1. I love this idea and Iโ€™ve enjoyed browsing these on your blog! Iโ€™ve just started blogging and have been thinking of ways to give insights into everyday life as a scientist. I would love to start something like this on my blog too, itโ€™s a great way to show all the different aspects of science – I especially enjoy reading about your lab work since I donโ€™t ever do any myself! ๐Ÿ™‚

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