What does a PhD weekend actually look like?

Amanda Coletti (@amandacoletti5) is a PhD student in Communications at the University of Connecticut. She is currently studying science communication. Here, she takes us through the hustle and bustle of her average weekend as a PhD student.

This story was originally published on January 28, 2018, on Amanda’s blog, Illuminated Brain (available here) and has been republished here with permission.

Since joining Twitter, I’ve noticed that many PhD students have captioned their working weekend tweets with the hashtag #PhDWeekend. Sometimes these posts are motivational and inspire others during long hours of writing. Other times you can feel the anguish and internal struggle of needing to work while wanting to relax.

Whether it’s maintaining cell cultures in the lab, grading lab reports for teaching assistant positions, reading scientific articles, or analyzing data from their laptops at home, grad students are continuously working. Most of the time, there are just not enough hours in the week to accomplish everything. But how do you maintain a healthy balance of generating more data and resting up for the following week?

At the beginning of my grad school career, I would relax the entire Saturday and save all my work for Sunday. Now, this might work for some people who prefer the pressure of the looming Monday to get work done. But this did not work for me. I would spend too much time swimming in guilt over what I should have done and how little time I gave myself to do certain tasks. Eventually, I realized that I needed to revise my weekends to get most of my work out of the way early on, to prevent my continual Sunday night panic.

Here is what my PhD weekend looked like this week:

Friday

Not much of anything gets done between 4–5pm on a Friday. Everyone is burnt out from the week and solely focused on what they’re going to binge on Netflix that night. Our lab has weekly lab meetings in the afternoon which usually gets done around 3:30pm. Afterwards I’ll be flooded with suggestions from my advisor and lab mates about my project, my own thoughts for future experiments, and ideas that require me to look into previously published papers.

Once I return to the lab, I’ll typically take half an hour to expand upon my quickly-scribbled notes from the lab meeting while they’re still fresh in my mind, and plan out any experiments for the next week. If there are any last steps for tissue staining or quick figure edits, I’ll do that then too. But after that, Friday evenings are reserved for relaxing. This Friday, I went to supper with a friend at Bidwell’s Tavern (they have 24 different flavors of chicken wings!) and then we returned home to watch a few episodes of Fraiser (one of my favorite classic comedies).

Want to know how Amanda spent the rest of her #PhDWeekend? Read the rest of her story here.