PhDLife. The importance of a lab social life.

I’m not the most chatty and social person in the world! Don’t get me wrong I love going out and socialising – I just don’t think I’m very good at it! But practice makes better right?

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Lately I think I’ve been sending myself a bit stir crazy with lab work! I’m a genuine believer that a routine is a good thing for everyone – but doing long days in the lab 6 days a week, going to the gym on the same days each week and not doing much else has just been messing with my mental state a little and getting me down. So, I had to break it up a little and do something else.

 

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Whenever I ask other PhD students for what advice they would give their first year PhD self, one top tip that always comes up is having a work life balance – something that I am not good at as I am a bit of a workaholic. But I do think it is particularly important to have a social life with your lab group too, as well as any other friend groups, so you are not just driving each other insane discussing why that Western blot didn’t work or whose turn it is to feed the cells over the weekend. It is a chance for you to feel like normal human beings for once and talk about normal things outside of the lab or office environment, and not be monotonous science robots.

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I love my lab group! There are only a handful of us, but I am sure they will agree with me when I say we are useless at organising socials.

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This week we managed to get out together for the first time since Christmas. A social which was well overdue to celebrate lab members passing transfer vivas, engagements and welcoming of new students to the lab.

But for me, there are 5 main reasons why a lab social life is so important:

  1. You have a chance to get to know your lab mates properly – what they enjoy doing, what they are good at, where they come from, the list is endless! Building those relationships outside of the lab can only make working relationships in the lab better!
  2. It makes celebrations that bit more special – A ‘congratulations’ or a ‘well done’ is all well and good and very much appreciated from lab mates when you get that final significant result you need for a paper or when something special happens in your personal life, but is becomes so much more personal and special if these people want to celebrate it with you whether that is simply with a few drinks or by organising a much bigger social like trampolining or a day trip to a nearby town or city!
  3. It is obviously a prime opportunity to get funny photos and stories of your supervisor, which can always come in handy 😛
  4. Sometimes it is just nice to not talk about science – You might say that you can chat generally while sat in the office or having lunch, but with everyone in the lab doing different experiments at different times, it can be difficult to all be in the office just for a chat all at the same time. So a social outside of work gives you that opportunity!
  5.  It gives me back my focus – as I mentioned at the start of this post I have been driving myself a bit mad recently with lab work and getting a bit muddled so organising a social gave that all important break in my routine, even if it was just some food and a few drinks on a weeknight. It gave me the change up I needed to just head back into work the next day with a different mindset ready to plan and prioritise my next few experiments.

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With my lab’s poor organisational skills when it comes to socials – who knows when the next one will be?! But it probably helps to have some ideas of what you can do. So, at the end of last year we went as a lab to a trampoline park and for our Christmas outing we hopped on the train to Winchester and spent the afternoon and evening mooching around the Christmas market before our food. A safe bet is going out for a meal and some drinks but I wanted to know what activities you got up to in your lab socials? Or does anyone have any ideas that my lab could try – we are thinking of bowling next! Getting more adventurous again! 😛

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But also, how often do you go out with your lab group? Is it as important to you? And what advice do you have for keeping a lab social a regular occurrence? Let’s help make each other as scientists more sociable 🙂 Share your advice and suggestions in the comments below so everyone can try 🙂

If you’re not going out with your lab group. Why not? Organise something today and get to know your lab mates properly and not just how good they are at their jobs!

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