As a first year PhD candidate, I had imagined my first year to be focused on interacting with people in the lab and other postgraduates to familiarize myself with the ‘new’ environment. Fortunately, and unfortunately for me, I have started this new PhD journey at a new university, hence my expectations. Fortunately, because I always like seeing new faces and interacting with new people hence, I decided on the change of universities. Unfortunately, the pandemic erupted and I had to navigate my way through everything and anything under very different circumstances to what I had expected.
Part of the journey in blogging for SAYAS is filming a video of a day in a life of a PhD student. Being a first time vlogger, the process has been very interesting and allowed me to learn through the process. I had every intention to film almost all of the activities that I do during the day and provide insight as to what has become routine most days. My life does have a pretty good routine, because I am in the beginning stages of the process, writing my proposal and literature review. I was lucky that I had a friend help to film the snippets and pieces of my day which summarize all I do in a day.
The proposal has been a challenging process but has taught me a lot about my research. This is mainly because my PhD topic is a continuation of the research that I did for my Master. I have therefore had to think outside the box to frame how it can be different and contribute to knowledge. This has also widened my perspective of my research to dig deeper and have a clear and more congruent understanding of my work. I now feel pressure that now I know what I am doing and I am expected to exceed my supervisors expectations, but… I will go through it, it is a doctorate degree after all.
Following the proposal and review writing will be the ordering of chemicals and then the lab work begins. I am almost done with my proposal as I had started it last year, and I am now completing the final touches.
As I mentioned before, I am also navigating living in a new place. I am now living in Pietermarizburg, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal, just 77.9km from Durban. I had very low expectations for the place it is very beautiful. It is a quiet town and good for studying and taking on extra activities outside academia. I am looking forward to exploring the area more in times when I am not caught up being a chemist in the lab. For now, I enjoy the little walks that I take midday and in the afternoon to refresh my mind and just to bask and marvel at the beauty of nature.
A day in any researcher’s life is different, the next video will show a day in my life in a different dimension, just to show how diverse the life of a researcher may be. As the year goes by, I will show more practical aspects of my PhD. Part of being a postgraduate is to be a tutor for undergraduate students or even a laboratory instructor. But that has not yet started as we are in the first few weeks of the postgraduate academic calendar and most undergraduate students have not registered yet.
The research life can be interesting and fulfilling with the right mindset. Most importantly it helps you to grow, not just academically, but as a holistic human being. That is what I always look forward to – growth.