Saturday, 18 March 2017

A day in the life of a PhD student

It's been a while so I thought I needed a prompt!

The inspiration for this post comes from a LiveJournal group "Day In The Life" that I used to follow around ten years ago. People would submit a post about their day, complete with pictures, and you could see what life was like from all over the (largely more economically developed, at least...) globe. I loved it, so I thought I'd do a PhD student version.

Monday 13th March 2017

The cat is awake first. She sleeps on the bed pretty much every night, and now that the sun's coming up earlier she's ready for breakfast earlier! The radio is set to go off at 6am, though it must actually be 5:59am as I hear the BBC pips go off just before my phone alarm does. Time to get up, get ready, and make sure the cat is fed...

Time to leave. It's sunny! It's hardly ever sunny in Manchester, and it's usually dark when we leave the house. It's setting me up well for the rest of the day.

Look how bright it is! I had to run
 for the bus, so no time to take
 a better picture...
It takes two buses to get to the office. On a good day this is a 45 minute journey and on a bad day it's...well, let's not go there. Today's a good day, and I'm at the office by 8am. Which is strange because's a big train strike on today so I expected the roads to be busy. Off to a good start!

Breakfast. I struggle to eat first thing in the morning so I sometimes grab breakfast once I'm at my desk. I go over emails I received over the weekend, or any that are on my "to reply to" list. I also make up my to-do list for the day. Anything I didn't get done last week, impending deadlines (*sigh*), little jobs that need tidying up etc.

I'm prepped for the day. I'm mid-way through writing an application for the NHS research ethics committee so I do some more on that. There are a lot of questions to answer, a lot of documents to prepare (participation information sheets, consent forms, letters, protocol...) and other things to think about. It's a loooong process so I spend 3 hours on that and then leave it there for today.

Usually I'd have just finished a meeting with my supervisors, but we skipped it this week as I don't have much in the way of burning questions or anything new to report. I'm seeing one of them on Weds to go over some programming anyway.

Instead, I decide to read a paper that we're discussing in journal club tomorrow whilst I have lunch. I run our lab's journal club so the pressure is always on to make sure I've done all the prep and set a good example to everyone else! Last time (two weeks ago ) was my turn to present so I did a presentation on my systematic review. This week is the post-doc's turn and she's picked an interesting paper on action observation in Parkinson's disease ☺.

I also take the plunge on the pre-registration for my systematic review; double, triple, quadruple check it and finally submit. I've been putting that off for a while because hitting submit buttons is not my strong suit. I usually get  Joe to press the button on things like online orders because I hate it so much! I get an automatic confirmation email, so now to play the waiting game. Look out for it on PROSPERO.

Time to contact some potential participants for my study. I'm collecting more data for the study I did for my Masters degree until I have fulfilled my a priori sample size criteria. I have a list of people with Parkinson's who are happy to be contacted by our lab, and a list of people without Parkinson's disease to act as the control group. I work down the list of people that I have yet to invite, and start contacting a few.

Now to do another activity that I've been avoiding for a long time. Programming in MATLAB. I had some problems with data pre-processing on my Masters degree, and I still haven't figured it out (over 6 months later...). I need to refresh my memory on what the code says ready to go over it with my supervisor on Wednesday.
PhD comics are genius - go check them out!
It took less than ten minutes to get overwhelmed, so I work on my systematic review instead! I'm working my way through the papers that I need to check the full text of in order to decide whether it'll be included in the review or not, based on my inclusion/exclusion criteria. I've got 41 left to read at the moment, but that number will go up soon in the next few days once I've met with the other reviewers.

Only 18 papers left to go through for the systematic review (it doesn't take long when you happen to get lots that you can quickly exclude from a quick scan of the method!), and it's time to stop. I think 8 hours is enough work for one day, and I'm tired! So I go to pick Joe up from Stockport. "Pick up" is a strong phrase as it's a 45 minute bus ride in the opposite direction to our house. But hey ho.

This is Merryn. She's certified adorable.
Home time from Stockport! Once home (about an hour to an hour and a half later - city life, eh?) it's time for eats whilst catching up with Jonathan Pie's YouTube channel (thoroughly recommended). We both leave a long day of sciencing (yes, this is now a word) behind to continue with the castle we've been building on Minecraft. After sufficient mining and crafting we watch a couple of episodes of Hemlock Grove (is it just me or is season 2 really weird compared to season 1? I'm not sure where the story is going and I miss old Shelley!). Then it's snooze time. With the cat's company, of course.