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Things I do in my science PhD that aren’t science (but probably still teach me something)

Almost three years ago, I started a PhD in Biochemistry. While I feel like I had a pretty decent idea of what I was getting into, I find myself doing more and more tasks that are not directly related to doing lab work or writing my thesis. This is not to complain, I like most of these things but occasionally it takes time that I feel I would need for experiments.

Doing a PhD comes with many different tasks and most of them are enjoyable. We read literature and design experiments; we do (wet-) lab experiments and analyze data. We meet other scientists to discuss results and even travel to go to conferences. Being a scientist is a diverse job and that is why it is quite attractive (to me at least). You get to try things; you are free to choose what to do and when to do it (within limits).

However, there are downsides to this. For years of our career, we are only employed in non-permanent positions as PhDs and Postdocs. This means that we do have to plan our work quite well to manage to finish the project within the 3-4 years funding period. This also means that every little task that does not directly contribute to the project sometimes seems like it is chewing off our funding time. While with most of these tasks, we probably learn important skills, it tends to get too much and by the third out of 3 years of PhD time panic sets in and unpaid overtime become uncountable.

Now I am sitting here, spending time on writing a blogpost that is supposed to communicate science and PhD life to you readers but I already know that I should probably spend my time doing that important experiment. We wash dishes, fill up stocks, have meetings to plan events, like conferences and we supervise bachelor and master students. A lot of us even teach courses, including seminars, practical lab courses and exercises. This then oftentimes includes correcting written protocols and exams. We are supposed to communicate science to the public, make a career in STEM attractive to younger generations because it can be a fulfilling career, no doubt. However, not all of these important skills we learn will be written down in our final thesis. We might mention them in our CVs but we do not get payed for it, nor do we get contract extensions.

I am sure there are plenty jobs that come with unforeseen tasks and responsibilities, and I write this blogpost merely to point out that doing a PhD is one of them.

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