I constantly get asked what a typical day of a medical virology PhD student is like. It is very difficult to explain to an audience that has no background regarding viruses, but I can tell you this…virology is an exciting field to explore! Keep on reading (and watching) and things will be clearer at the end…hopefully.
My mornings usually start quite early. I am up by 6 am (including that extra 5 minutes of snoozing), dogs are fed by 6:10, I am clothed and ready to leave by 6:45 am to get to campus as soon as possible, depending on how busy the traffic is in the Jacaranda City. Every single day the traffic is bad, but ‘luckily the petrol price in South Africa is so cheap’ I say sarcastically while looking at my empty bank account.
A typical day consists of many experiments, depending on how long each one takes. Some can take me 20 minutes while others can take up to 6 hours to complete. I am constantly on my feet running from one lab to the other which helps with that extra fat roll I have gained during my PhD journey (Wow, I am stressed, and that cake looks like it can make me feel better!). My project has many parts to it and hopefully the vlog will give you a better view on what I do.
I think it is important to make you aware of what my project is all about, and I took some extra time to make it sound more human-like. I work with alphaviruses which consist of over 32 species. I specifically focus on five of them that occur in South Africa. The aim of my project is surveillance of humans, animals and mosquitoes using various methods including serology where antibodies are involved, molecular techniques where you work with genetic material of the virus, and lastly cell culture in which you try to cultivate the virus (deep breathe, I am almost done with the complicated stuff). Lastly, because the viruses I work with have very limited information concerning their geographical distribution and whether animals and humans actually get sick from the virus, I need to develop tests where I can confirm that human and animals can be infected. See, it makes sense? No? Okay, I don’t blame you!
On a relaxed day I can get home by 4 while other days I will only leave the lab at 6. I gain many frustrations during a day and a good workout session with a very strict trainer always put my mind at ease (even though I am begging for my life while lying on the gym mat). After my gym session I go home with an aching body and I usually have a set routine in the evenings – I cook, watch some Netflix, work a bit on the PhD, stress eat some more, shower, and read till I fall asleep. Every single day in my life is different…but that’s the exciting part of being a researcher. So much to explore, yet so little time!