July 25, 2017, by Andrew

4 ways post-grad research life is different to that of under-grad

If you choose to go into post-graduate research, be it MRes, MPhil, PhD, etc. you’re going to notice a few things change pretty quickly, compared to your time as an undergraduate. Here’s a few observations/occurences I’ve noticed as an MRes student:

  1. If you’re lazy, you lose out. Now, hopefully as an undergrad you were attending all your lectures, seminars and doing some extra reading (if you could peel yourself out of your duvet, that is). But let’s face it, you probably missed a few here and there, especially in first year. You got away with it though – ahh, moodle and coursemates. If you do a research degree however, there is no ‘catching up on notes’. If you don’t do the reading, or turn up to work in the lab, then that’s it, you’ll never have a complete thesis to submit.
  2. What’s a lie-in? Sometimes I do miss those golden mondays where my first lecture wasn’t until 1pm. Morning’s spent on the other side of the land of nod. That probably won’t cut it anymore, I’m afraid. I try to treat my research like a job; I arrive between 8 and 9am and leave around 5pm each day. Now, that might not sound as much fun, but it does mean, once 5pm comes around, I can (usually)totally switch off, never needing to stay up late cramming revision, or writing assignments.
  3. ‘You da boss’. No more being told when to do something and exactly how to do it, you pretty much work to your own schedule (once the general structure’s been agreed with your supervisor/s). Sometimes this seems daunting, but it also means that with a bit of prior planning, you can be super flexible with your time.
  4. All the reading. As an undergrad I probably only did about 25% of the seemingly endless list of recommended reading. A quick skim of a paper here, and a flick through a chapter there, and I got by pretty well. In research, however, that won’t cut it. Be prepared to set up email notifications from journal databases when new papers are published matching your key search terms! I spend a lot of time these days reading abstracts and articles, especially lab methods and results to compare what I’m doing/finding to the rest of the field – super helpful to continually be reading, when writing up your thesis, especially!
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