Am I doing it right? week 26 as a PhD student

Twenty-six weeks of blog posts! I have a suspicion that I am among a small percentage of people who have kept a blog going for this long. To all those who have joined me and kept me motivated, I thank you.

Easter aftermath. This week In the meanderings of me, I only spent four days working as for Monday I Was travelling back from my parent’s house in Oxfordshire. I walked into the University on Tuesday to find that it deserted. I should pay attention to term-dates; for some reason, I have been thinking as a PhD student I don’t have the same timetabling as everyone else. The reality of the situation is that the undergraduate students get the most time off and the staff get ever so slightly less. I am somewhere in between staff and student; if the University is closed, I work from home. I may indulge in some holidays occasionally, but for the most part, I march to the beat of my own drum; I consider this the best part of doing a PhD.

Out of the three possible days I could spend in the lab I spent Wednesday working on the ammonia assay; I am not getting the numbers that I should so there is something wrong somewhere, and I need to start the debugging procedure. I think the problem comes down to one of the variables I have to plug into the equation but I haven’t done the work to confirm what it is so that fun little puzzle is yet to come maybe next week. On Thursday I was doing some work with volatile compounds and trap retention; the gist is this, add compound onto a trap and measure the compound, store some of the traps for a week and see how much of the compound has disappeared. From this work, I will know how many samples I can take on a given day and how long I can store them for. Generally with flavour work, sample storage is not an issue; however, I need to extract my samples within a specific time frame. It takes an hour to do one extraction, so on a good day, I could do twelve samples. Twelve, if you know anything about statistics, is a relatively small sample size, and I need to take them on twelve consecutive days so I can see how the compounds extracted change over time. For anyone who has worked in a lab you will know that getting access to machinery is spotty at best; as I need to measure samples over a twelve day period, the ability to store samples will save much of my sanity. As you will be reading this four months after I am writing it, the problem will either be solved or proclaimed too challenging for me! Let us see what happens.
Speaking of sanity, when you’re in the lab with a cold for twelve hours, alone, with nothing but the whirring of various machines, sanity does not compute.

I have spent the rest of my time preparing for a meeting with my supervisor I have on Monday; which will also help to prepare me for my six-month review I have on Friday. To prepare I have been writing down all my thoughts on my project so far and trying to pre-empt questions. Most of my questions boil down to whether or not I am doing the right things, and the ideal outcome of the meetings will be the phrase ‘keep calm and carry on’.

I am going to stop writing now and head to the gym as I have eaten five Easter eggs in as many days!


Yes this was written quite a while ago see this for more information