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Week in the Life as a DPhil studying Molecular Cell Biology

By Isabel Leitch

When I was considering PhD study and subsequently applying to PhD programs, I was always trying to find out what a 'typical' week looked like for a PhD student in STEM. I've been at Oxford 7 months now (time flies!) and this is what my average week looks like.

• My work involves a large amount of time spent in a "wet lab" carrying out experiments. On any given day, I can be doing anything and everything from tissue culture to western blots to microscopy. My days in labs are normally long, usually starting around 9am and finishing sometime around 7 or 8pm.

• Long days are always broken up with tea and coffee breaks with the other members of my lab group.

• Every week, I will also have a collection of regular meetings. I meet 1:1 with my supervisor once a week to discuss my progress and my experimental results. This gives us a chance to talk about my data and helps me direct my future experiments.

• My research group meet all together with our supervisor once a week as well. In these meetings, we discuss general lab admin as well as share our experiment results from the previous week. I have found that these meetings are a useful way to get other people’s ideas on my experiments as they often will have different experiences and so can suggest new ways to approach my scientific questions.

• Every fortnight, I attend a journal club. This is where a group of us get together (on Teams now due to COVID) and discuss a recent paper that was published in a relevant field. It helps us keep on top of the current published research. Normally, one person in the group will lead the discussion so it's also a great opportunity to practice your presentational skills.

• When I'm not in labs or meetings, I'll be reading scientific papers and reviews, analysing my data, planning future experiments, and more recently making and practicing presentations. As I get further into my course here in Oxford, the opportunity to present my work to those outside my own research group has arisen more frequently. I have a presentation coming up in the next few weeks where I'll be presenting all my work since I started my DPhil.

It must be said that the 'average' week for a PhD student will vary greatly on their research area, among many other things, but I hope this gives any prospective DPhil students a taste into what DPhil life at Oxford is like.

1 Comment

Heather H.
Heather H.
Aug 31, 2021

How do you integrate your life at your college with your regular week doing a PhD in STEM at Oxford? Do you live at college accomodation or close to the hospital? Do you have meals at your college hall? Do you study/prepare your presentations in the central (Bodleian) library or at your college library most of the time? Or is it all done at the lab? Do most students in Medical/Biomedical sciences live at the centre and if so, do they use the bus to get to the hospital complex?

Thanks for your post... I'm in the same boat you were a while ago, trying to figure out what a "typical day" looks like, and I would definitely appreciate more…

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