The Daily Grind – Then vs. Now (Part Two)

The Daily Grind – Then vs. Now (Part Two)

I’m just starting the third year of my PhD project. I’m not entirely sure where the previous two years have gone. I highly suspect my memory has been erased by The Men in Black gizmo. It would explain a lot. Some call this the final year, the home stretch. Soon you will be finished they say. I take comfort in this as I’m currently performing what seems like a never ending run of PCR reactions. Here’s a typical day.

6.05am – Well, I’m asleep obviously.

6.35am – Yup, still asleep. I often have the intention to go to the gym but it never happens. It’s the thought that counts. Right?

8.05am – I get up and eat as much as physically possible. I think this may be a response from previous times of breakfast deprivation.

8.20am – Much to their disgust, the dogs are dragged outside for a walk. They are not amused and go straight back to sleep when we get back. I leave to get the train to uni.

8.55am – I get into the office and make some tea. I doubt I could explain how much I love being able to have never-ending cups of tea. Emails checked and dealt with I know I have to venture into the lab. Before my PhD, my only previous experience with PCR was ticking the box on the lab sample submission sheet when sending clinical samples for diagnostic tests.

I would like to stop here, to apologize for  the times I complained about how long it took for lab results to come back. I had no idea of the torment of running PCR reactions. No idea.

I do now. I know all about it.

11.30am –. Having set up my PCR reactions and started the appropriate program in the machine I have another cup of tea whilst praying to the PCR Gods.  As everyone with experience in this lab technique will know, sometimes it just will not work. Most of the time it’s fine but when things go wrong it is not fun. I have wracked my brains trying to figure out what I have done wrong. Was it the pipetting? The primers? My samples? The machine? Praying to the Gods of PCR seems to help, though I realise this is highly unscientific. The following prayer can be heard coming from dark corners of laboratories worldwide.

The PCR Prayer

O ye Gods of PCR who art in Eppendorfs
Hallowed be they reactions
Thy primers anneal
Thy Taq be active
In my tubes, as it is in the control
Give us this day our daily bands
And forgive us our clueless tinkering with
magnesium concentration
As we forgive our supervisors
Lead us not to contamination
But deliver us from blank gels
For thine is the power to destroy my entire PhD

12.30pm – I nip home for lunch whilst the machine runs. I walk the dogs and grab a sandwich.

4pm –. Phew! My prayers have been answered, it worked. I’m coming to end of running all of my samples and have some cool data so far which is exciting. After loading another reaction to run overnight and sit down (with more tea, obviously) to do some writing. I try to do a bit of writing every day. With a thesis to write as well as a couple of papers and a few other projects to work on I’m kept busy. I love writing. I can sit down, start typing and the time just flies past. This might be a more plausible explanation for the disappearance of the past two years than the Men in Black memory eraser thing. I spend most of the day indoors, oblivious to the outside world and sometimes I  miss being outside, like that day it stopped raining.

A selection of outside events I would be completely unaware of. Image from

5.30pm – Finding a suitable place to stop (mostly against my will – I’d sit there all night) I collect a few things for tomorrow then get the train home. Tomorrow I’m collecting a few final samples and then doing some undergraduate teaching in the afternoon which I actually really enjoy.

7.30pm – Dinner made and dogs walked – all without the fear of ringing phones. Win.

9pm – I do pretty much whatever I like. This was a bit strange at first as I wasn’t used to having much free time. Then I got Netflix.

11.15pm – Bed time!

3am – Yup, you guessed it. Asleep. Zzzzz.


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