Lab Life: adapting to the Ph.D. experience

As a new graduate student, I never expected to encounter such difficult times when starting out my Ph.D. Sure, I knew that there would be an “adaption period” at the beginning where work would be slower; a period necessary to learn where everything in the lab is, know how people function and, most importantly, be aware of the specifics of my research project. However, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, even a month had passed and I was still not working as I feel I should be after my first month as a Ph.D. student. My main problem was that I did not yet have a definite research project. My supervisor was very busy at all times and it was quite difficult to get a hold of him to talk about and establish my project. I had a general idea of what I would be working on, but no details or specifics. This lack of information about my own project was my primary limitation in working in the lab. There was not much I could do for the first month except read articles and get familiar with the lab. I could not help but feel inadequate and at times almost incompetent due to my apparent lack of what we call bench work. Being used to working hard and not counting my hours during my master’s degree, this came as a blow. The most difficult moments during that first month for me were when someone would ask me what I was working on and what my project is and I did not know how to answer. At this point, I was starting to wonder whether I had made the right decision in moving back to Montreal from Sherbrooke to pursue my doctoral degree (considering how much I missed Montreal and McGill while I was gone, this was some serious questioning on my part!). (more…)

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