A day in the life of a PhD student. Chapter 2.

It’s most definitely been a while since I showed you what a typical day for me as a PhD student is like. So, since Chapter 1. I have finished all the experiments I needed for my transfer thesis, written that in full and had my transfer viva date set. Scary!

One of the main reasons behind this mini series was to show you the variation of my days – so the day I picked to share with you in Chapter 2 could not have been more different to Chapter 1. I’ve not been in the lab much recently due to my writing commitments and I also need to prepare for the next stage of my research – which at the moment is involving A LOT of waiting!

As I’ve said previously, these blogs are going to be personal to me and are not reflective of every single PhD in every single field. It’s all about the variation!

7:45am – Far too dark and far too early to be getting out of bed! But obviously I need to drag myself out of bed to get all those ‘morning jobs’ done before heading to work just like anybody else 🙂
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9:15am – Arrived back at my desk for another day of staring at screens! Checking emails, grabbing some tea (as our office is freezing!) and a standard morning natter with the lab gals! To be honest, I was probably just delaying getting on with any work!
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9:52am – Couldn’t delay any longer – so time to get down to some work! The next stage of my experiments is going to include some chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments or more affectionately known as ChIP. I’ve never done this technique before so I’m quite excited to learn something new – but it does come with a lot of planning, ordering and then waiting! This morning kicked off with getting quotes for reagents, ordering reagents, and then designing the probes and primers that are specific to the region of DNA that I’m interested in.
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11:33am – And I am still going! All the reagents I need have been ordered by now and primers designed! The rest of the morning involved writing a new ChIP protocol for me 🙂 and all the boring but necessary risk assessments that come with that! But this has been helpful to actually go through the protocol in full before I give it a go, so I at least sort of know what I’m supposed to be doing.

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12:59pm – Time to do something in the lab today I think! So, as well as starting the new set of experiments for my PhD, I want to do a few more experiments to support the results I already have. Today I’m trying to optimise the conditions for a lactate assay as I’m interested in stem cell metabolism. The main aim for this metabolic assay is to see if the amount of lactate that is produced through glycolysis changes in my stem cells in response to the different conditions I subject them to.
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1:50pm – Reading the numbers from my assay and realising that the conditions I have tried are not good enough 😦 But as I have all the reagents thawed on ice already, I thought I’d try it again using slightly different conditions.
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3:43pm – Second repeat done! Reading of the numbers looked good! So, I tried to analyse the experiment in full. It is the first time I’ve done this particular experiment so apart from adjusting conditions in the lab, I have had to optimise the best way to calculate the data from that. The trend is definitely the result I wanted to see which is a bonus, but I know there were steps in the method that I could do better to improve these results, so as it was a trial – these results won’t be used but it has taught me some valuable tips and tricks for when I start the next repeat.
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3:49pm – You can probably guess what time of the day comes next – CELL CULTURE 🙂 So, as you might know by now, as well as stem cells, I do a bit of work on cancer stem cells – but these don’t need feeding every day. Today was one of those days where they didn’t need feeding and didn’t need splitting! So, after a quick look under the microscope, I didn’t need to do anything else with these today!
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3:51pm – A quick hop across to our stem cell lab revealed I had a bit of a problem 😦 Looking at my stem cells under the microscope showed they had an infection 😦 which means they have to be thrown away and I have to go scrounging around my lab mates to see if they have some spare wells that I can split myself a new plate of cells from! Luckily there was, but not today – so experiments were not delayed too much!

As I had no cells to feed, I spent some time setting up the feeder-free plates and anything else I may need to start the ‘proper’ lactate assays that I talked about before!
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5:13pm – After writing everything up in my lab book and writing tomorrow’s ‘To Do’ list, I headed back home. A quick change into some slouchy joggers and making hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows because it is that time of year and it’s cold outside, and its time to sit down and do some editing to an article I’m writing (watch this space!).
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6:37pm – Just over an hour of editing done so think it’s time to call it a day on that! Time now to get some food and sit down for a long over-due TV binge of the Walking Dead! I am seriously behind so no spoilers please!
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So, as I hope you can see even being a lab based PhD student doesn’t mean I am in the lab 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! There is a fair bit of ‘paperwork’ that comes with it! Now is just a matter of waiting for my orders to arrive to start new experiments and in the meantime practice my writing through blogging and my articles and do any helpful experiments for my thesis 🙂

Hopefully this has given you another idea about what I might get up to in a working day! Or maybe it’s got you intrigued, so I hope you are looking forward to the next post in this series but feel free to ask me any questions in the mean time. I’d be more than happy to chat to you about it ☺️

But that’s another day done, and another step closer to finishing my PhD 😛

S.x

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