It’s time for my first official appreciation post.
With such a grim (and pretty accurate) picture painted in the comic, it’s absolutely critical to make sure you have a good support network around you when you’re doing your Ph. D or are working in the academic field.
Whether it be lab friends or non-lab friends, you need people who can look out for you, because, chances are, your supervisor doesn’t have the time to manage your project and your mental health.
Having friends within or around the lab environment is pretty handy for the daily vent sessions to help get over failed experiments or perceived lack of progress. It’s important not to compare yourselves to each other (as tempting as that may be), because that doesn’t actually help you get better… but it’s good to have somebody who understands what you’re going through and can laugh or cringe at the eventual mishaps. They could be of a similar stature to you (fellow students for myself), or maybe a mentor figure who has a bit more experience. Either way, it’s good to have someone who can listen, and on occasion, troubleshoot, without first explaining a fundamental concept in your field (‘okay, so lemme tell you about bacteria first’).
It’s important to recognise that experiments fail. Quite a lot. When you introduce a biological system to experiments, there are so many different factors at play here that… even though something should be easy, theoretically speaking, majority of the time you get something completely different.
The important thing is to make sure it doesn’t get to you, and hopefully you can develop a good network of lab friends who can reassure you when you’re feeling down. Chances are the bugs know what’s up and are just messing with us, as above.
It’s also important to have support people who are outside of the lab environment. I personally don’t think it’s healthy to have your entire life revolve around the lab. Sure, you’re extremely productive, but… at what cost? Work/life balance matters a great deal to me, so I could never live like that. I really appreciate the times when I can catch up with my non-lab friends and talk about something other than science and lab life. Not only does it put things into perspective, it reminds me that there are other things in life that I can appreciate and enjoy, that also defines who I am as a person. It’s very easy to get worked up and think all that matters is your project, but the truth is… the world, and life, is much bigger than that.
So, to all the wonderful people I have who keep me sane, grounded, and happy… you’re the best. 🙂
And I hope I can be equally instrumental in your own lives and general well-being.