If I could give you one piece of advice in PhD life it would be…wear sunscreen. No wait, somebody else already gave that advice. Plus, chances are you won’t leave the office enough to even get a tan (apart from those of us lucky enough to work on tropical beaches, but I digress). My advice would be this; make friends, make then wisely and keep them close. They don’t necessarily have to be in your lab, or even in your office – I have met people researching such obscure topics that the entire department exists of themselves and their supervisor – but they need to know what you’re going through.
Researching some obscure topic on your own is a lonely business, and if you don’t have people close to you then you’re destined to become what is scientifically termed a loon. The sort of person who refers to their research as “my baby” (and not in an ironic sense) and wears their labcoat to lunch. My second piece of advice would be, never wear your labcoat to lunch.
I was reminded of the importance of friends in getting my through the PhD process Friday night as I sat having a gossip with my friend Raf. Raf and I have sat together through every office move we’ve made since day 1. We’ve seen each other sad, angry (very angry), hungover, tired, dressed up and dressed down. We’ve discussed men, plankton, food, men and more plankton (in hindsight we do have a limited range of topics…). I have even seen Raf wielding a hammer in anger at 8.30 in the morning and stuck around to help out. But the importance of friends is not just to pick up when you’re down and celebrate when you’re happy but to tell you when you need to stop. And takes a brave person to tell me in full-rant-door-slamming-book-throwing anger that I should calm down before I upset some possible future employer/passing dignitary/university big wig etc.. But Raf dared too (she is Italian).
In a happier note friends are also good on Friday afternoons when the work can stop for the weekend, there’s a bottle of wine kicking about the office that someone took from a training event and plenty of ice..