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.