Welcome to the first instalment of being confused with Jean! I have been in a perpetual state of mild confusion since starting my PhD, hence the name of this series. This is a record of how my life progresses throughout this PhD. By the way, it is also the end of my first full month as an MB-PhD candidate (whoop whoop), hope you enjoy reading!
My start to the PhD could have been smoother, for the lack of a better word. I had issues registering with the university, getting my records updated as a postgraduate student, then my stipend got paid to me late. Thankfully I was smart enough to keep my main supervisor updated about the issues I was experiencing, so I could get their advice on how to move things forward and it made me feel supported throughout the process of sorting things out. After that there were a lot of administrative things to do - risk assessments, inductions, the list goes on!
My PhD is on ways to improve chemotherapy sensitivity in ovarian cancer. My work is lab-based so I have started my training to develop the technical skills I need to execute the experiments in my project. Since I am completely new to lab work, I got really frustrated at one point that I was still messing up my experiments (Western blots I am looking at you). This sense of frustration eased after speaking to my main supervisor and a mentor about this - have we noticed a theme here? Speaking to people and getting their advice on issues has been a key way for me to get through a number of issues I’ve had since starting the PhD.
As I started writing this post, it struck me that it has only been one month since I started this MB-PhD. I have been comparing myself to people who are either already in the final stages of their PhD or people who have been doing this for most, if not all of their professional lives. For someone completely new to this type of work, I have made a lot of progress and I should be more patient with myself.
I have also been doing a lot of reading: brushing up on biochemistry knowledge, reading papers on ovarian cancer and research done within the context of other tumour sites to see how I can apply it to my project. As part of requirements for me to progress in the PhD, I will be writing a literature report where I will be able to put all my reading to good use soon!
My typical schedule as a PhD candidate looks very different to my schedule as a medical student, especially compared to when I was on clinical placement. I do not have formal lectures or teaching to attend, and there is a lot more flexibility with my time. I have been keeping to a 9-5 schedule to try and ensure a work-life balance, making sure that I spend time away from work with my friends. See below for some pictures of when I visited Birmingham and Alton Towers on two separate trips recently!
In terms of non-PhD project related training, I have a lot of training booked, including some mandatory training/events with the university happening in the coming weeks. Of note, I joined the October cohort of the UK EQUATOR Centre Publication School to learn more about writing and publishing a health research article for my existing projects from medical school and future PhD outputs. I was able to join this for free thanks to the funding I receive from Cancer Research UK and it was a great experience. I would highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to join!
I properly understand why people say doing a PhD can be lonely now: you are doing something completely new and while there may be people doing similar things whom you can approach for help, it isn’t the same. But I am enjoying myself. I work in a lab where the members are lovely and I have experienced a constant stream of inspiration through the papers I read/talks I attend. The extent to which I need to grow this year (and in the next two after that) both inspires and scares me but I am really looking forward to my development as I progress. For that to happen, I need to stay on top of all the admin I need to do - there’s so much training to do and forms to complete for my progression!
It’s been a busy time settling into my new identity as a PhD candidate but it is going well. I will be back soon with more blog posts and updates on PhD life, in the meantime, take care and stay safe!
Lots of love,