When you need stuff to work… they don’t!

What a stupid week!!! I know it’s only Monday, but has been a kind of weird couple of weeks. It’s almost Easter break, which means I get to go home for a few days and then I’ll be travelling to the US for 10 days, so I should be ecstatic, right? I am, don’t get me wrong, I never needed to get home so bad as I do now! But being away for roughly 3 weeks, means I have to leave a lot of things done, mainly projects that are not directly related to my PhD thesis.

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So, a merely 9 days left of my work schedule until May, I desperately stuff to go right, to work, to not get contaminated. I need my extractions to work, my PCR’s to work, I need that the blancs turns out, well, clean. I need the equipment to work properly and to not run out of lab supplies or extremely important solutions and reagents. So, obviously, all of this goes exactly the opposite way…

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The extractions work well(ish), but then the blancs emit some signals that shouldn’t be there, and that probably aren’t… because the some primers decided to act out! How I love to have a contaminated primer solution!!! Then there are my sex typing primers that decided not to type anything really… Obviously by now the only thing that was actually working fine was the real time PCR, until today, when someone (stupid motherf*****r kid decided to steal the ancient laptop that ran the machine). I’m not even going to mention the fact that I have to sequence stuff before Thursday, because of the break, and now I won’t be able to because of some stupid person!!!! OMG, I’m so damn mad right now!

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I hope you remembered to shower

Each lab is a bit different, so the procedures are adapted, but the main things are all here!

Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD)

By Andrew Farrer

A fairly common statement, perhaps, but at ACAD remembering to shower is not just about the risk of offending your workmate’s sense of smell, not showering could ruin a project and destroy precious samples. Contamination is a major risk for any DNA analysis but is particularly true for highly degraded DNA specimens, such as ancient DNA or forensic samples. Even small amounts of modern DNA entering your sample can be disastrous for a project. In order to overcome this, ACAD has a purpose-built ancient-DNA lab, self-contained and kept hyper-clean, especially for the analysis of highly degraded DNA.

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Working all weekend long

I’m in a kind of weird type of research, where my experiments don’t take exactly too long, but somedays, if my PCR at 10 a.m. does not work, I can’t do it again in the same day, and I get nothing left to do in the lab… this implies that there are days that my day is done by 1 p.m., and that everyday of the week counts, which means, working holidays and weekdays.

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This was this kind of weekend. My DNA extractions take a grand total of 3 days (with 2 overnight incubations), which meant all weekend alone in the lab.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love coming to work on weekends, I get much more done than on weekdays, because every piece of equipment is available and there are no waiting lines for anything… and I get to hear loud music!

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There is just one problem with being alone in the lab: I’m alone, so this is pretty much my reaction each time I hear any kind of sound…

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12 (of the 25) Deeply Painful PhD Students Problems (besides your thesis)

There’s a great post on Buzzfeed about the 25 Deeply Painful PhD Students Problems (besides your thesis). So, here is how some actually apply to my case…

1. Telling children you’re in the 25th grade.

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

Well, this one is particularly true and weird. Explaining to my nephews that I work at the University… and that in this case work = study, is complicated.

   

2. It’s been at least 10 years since you had a “real” weekend.

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

This doesn’t mean I don’t actually enjoy a weekend every once in a while, but it’s never a truly relaxed time. Even if I’m not working in the lab, I’m stressing about not being there… so…

    

3. Going to parties and everyone’s just standing around talking about their research.

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

… well, this one doesn’t apply quite literally, it’s more like, being with your undergrad and grad friends and talking about nothing more than research, grants or lab problems…

    

4. When someone claims that being in a doctoral program isn’t “the same thing as having a real job”:

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

It’s not! It really isn’t true! I may not have a 9 to 5 job, I might even get out some days in the middle of the day and go home, because there’s nothing more I can do in the lab that day, but I also work most of my weekends and worry constantly. I have to write reports and papers and read tons of research by other people… a PhD is a JOB!

   

5. …and feeling ultra-guilty anytime you try to relax.

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

It’s impossible not to feel guilty… all the time! Damn I fell guilty for the time I spend writing in this blog!

   

6. When all of your colleagues are married, and you’re just like:

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

It’s not my collegues per say, since most of the people in the unit I work are  a lot younger than me… but these last couple of years, a lot of people from my high school and college are tying the knot…

    

7. Feeling some degree of “impostor syndrome” at least once a day.

Feeling some degree of "impostor syndrome" at least once a day.

…”as in, you’re just waiting for someone to realize that they made a HUGE mistake letting you into your program and to swiftly kick you out.” – YEPPPPP, TRUE!!! But by now I think that this is a very normal feeling!

     

8. When someone asks you for the 357th time what your dissertation is about:

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

Yep, yep… not even my parents know it properly…

     

9. Seeing someone on your dissertation committee outside of school:

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

By rule, I avoid everyone remotely related to this area!

    

10. When someone asks how “writing” is going:

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

Yeah… Tough subject!

    

11. Explaining to your friends with 9-to-5 jobs why you can’t go out on Friday night.

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

This is a bad example because I never want to go out… but yeah, it there’s work to be done, it will come first, whatever the hours or days of the weeks…

    

12. When ANYONE asks you what your plan is after you graduate:

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)

I’m halfway done with my PhD (the stipulated time, anyway) and I have no idea. I also don’t know why I was supposed to know before I even got into the program… oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure it out… eventually…