Winter has dawned upon us here at Manchester and Christmas is around the corner. With frost covered leaves to chilly winds, it’s the time of the year where we cocoon ourselves in warm jumpers, scarves and long overcoats.
I have devoted a few blogs to my first experiences as a PhD student attending summer schools and conferences, which is interesting by itself of course. I thought, as these sorts of things happen more intermittently during a PhD, you might ask what happens in the daily life as a PhD student? Do we ponder over research papers and engulf ourselves in our research work all day? Are we bound by our desks burning the midnight oil? It may seem that is what we do or we have to do and quite rightly so, because getting a PhD is hard work! However, even though it may seem challenging to devote so much time to one piece of work, I have come to experience the thrills of some of the roller-coaster moments entailed in doing research!
I have spent more than a year now and I thought I would give you a flavour of my week along with some of my colleagues in the APT lab.
How do we start our day?
A typical day could start well during the day or night; I say that because some students like to be early birds while some like to be night owls. Depending on your preference, students work with different schedules during a PhD. Personally, I am more of the early bird category as it helps me make the most of working alongside some of my colleagues during the day.
Meetings with supervisor or checkpoints
Usually in a week, I meet my supervisor for an hour to go over my progress for the week and discuss tasks for the next week. These can be considered as checkpoints in your PhD, which helps to ensure you are on top of everything. It can be as simple as discussing the result of an experiment to deliberating over a research paper.
Interacting with the group
We have usually two meetings with everyone in the APT group. One is the monthly group meeting to discuss the progress everyone has been making, problems we have encountered or achievements , (for example, a new publication). A research group will usually consist of people with varying levels of expertise and in different domains and these meetings are organized to make each one aware of the expertise that flows in the group, in case you find the need to tap into it at some point.
The other meeting we have is a reading group meeting. Here, we pick an interesting paper for the month in any computer architecture topic and we discuss the paper as a group. This helps realize different viewpoints of everyone on a common topic.
Burning calories a.k.a finding distractions from research
Each of us have different regimes to keep ourselves fit. In the APT group, we have activities arranged every week at the Sudgen sports centre; Football on Wednesdays and Badminton on Fridays. Apart from that we also have the occasional table tennis and basketball. The adventurous lot among us also prefer climbing! This is a good time to escape from work, relax our minds and bond with everyone in the lab. I usually like to play badminton, cycle to university and every Sunday I attend ballroom dance classes organized by University of Manchester Ballroom and Latin Society.
Learn something new and not research related
From what I have seen so far, depending on your interests and time, you can also learn something new. For me its Beginners Portuguese class every Tuesday evening organized by the International Society. I have no knowledge of any of the Latin Languages; I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of assigning a gender to everything . This makes these classes all the more challenging as well as interesting for me.
The APT group organizes a yearly tradition of Welcome meals and Christmas Meals. The Welcome meal is organized for the new PhD students in the group and to go through the interesting and fun process of being introduced to everyone in the group, learning about what everyone is up to or even better, discussing the latest news tidbits – presidential elections in US. Now, that Christmas is near, we have our Christmas meal approaching!
In addition, for those that return from a trip (either vacation or conference related), we have the joy of consuming confectioneries from around the world. There is an e-mail that is usually sent to everyone in the group indicating the arrival of tasty treats at the usual desk! 😀
Celebrations when someone passes their viva
Handing in the PhD thesis marks one of the final steps to achieving a PhD. This is usually followed by a viva by external examiners. So, every year we have a bunch of students in the final stages of their research, intensely working to complete everything on time. So, when someone does complete the final viva successfully, it calls for a celebration for all their hard work! This includes a lot of junk food and drinks. Moreover, the students who are approaching their deadlines in the near future get to learn from their experience.
Preparing myself for all the writing that is yet to come!
Finally, every month (kind of) I try to immerse myself in writing a blog! I don’t plan what I want to write. I just wake up one day and decide to binge write. This is exactly what happened with this blog. In the era where youtube vlogging is the new rage, I find these blogs similar, like a record of my experience during my time here and I hope that once I do complete my PhD I can look back at these and have a good chuckle 😀
Speak to you again in the New Year!