Not so alone in the lab

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @yogipetals

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @yogipetals

The theme last week for the GradLife Instagram was “Colours of Gratitude” and with Thanksgiving just last Monday it has me pondering ‘What about grad school I’m grateful for?’ There are many things that come to mind; intellectual engagement, flexible hours, meaningful work and experiments that work! But what I’ve come to realize over the last several years is that the things I’m most grateful for is the support and friendship of my lab mates. The lab can be a lonely place. As a scientist, you are most often working independently on your individual projects. When you add in the long, erratic hours at the lab this can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation. What helped me when I first arrived was a supportive lab group and co-workers who very quickly become my friends.

It was 5 years ago, but I still remember coming to my current lab to interview. Perhaps I was a bit naïve in how I went about choosing where I wanted to do my PhD, but what really helped me make my decision was talking with the current graduate students of a lab. Looking back I don’t think I truly realized how important this would be for me. Your lab mates are the people you will be working 8-12h a day with for the next 2-7 years. These will be the people who train you, who help decipher your results, who tell you when your ideas make sense or when you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. These are the people that you will see ALL the time.

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Falling embers

Possibly more than many other cities, Montreal truly comes alive in the summer. The hot, sticky weather and the long hours of daylight signify that it’s (finally) time for picnics in the park, ice cream, late afternoon drinks (which unfold into late evening dinners) on outdoor terraces, sun-bathing and other sports on the gentle slope of Mont-Royal, bustling Plateau streets with restaurant-goers walking with a bottle of wine tucked under their arm, and the countless festivals that Montreal is famous for. When summer rolls around, one of the festivals I look forward to most is the international fireworks competition that takes place every year at La Ronde.

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Jacques-Cartier Bridge open to pedestrians. Kristina Kasparian

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