A Day in the Life of… Brad Harrison

12 Nov 2019

Hi, Brad here. I’m a 2nd year doctoral student at the University of Reading. I’m going to talk you through a typical ‘day in the life of’ me!

06:00 – 06:30am – I awake to an alarm optimistically set the night before. I convince myself that snoozing is in the best interest of my preservation. By half 6 I feel guilty enough to get up, grab a bowl of oats and head to the gym.

07:00 - 08:30am – After an hour of exercise my body and mind feels motivated and prepared to spend much of the day sitting. Afterwards, I prepare my bags and lunch for the day.

08:30 - 10:00am – I commute from Southampton to the University of Reading. Many blogs advised me against committing to a long distance PhD but look at me now, almost two years through and still going strong! It’s not as hard as you think. You won’t need to be in your office every day and there is always Skype. 

10:00 – 10:15 – Search for a non-existent parking space…

10:15 – 11:00 – I respond to emails (this can take longer than you think) and keep my social media active (TweetDeck is great for scheduling in weekly tweets). I use my twitter to recruit and update participants on the current activity of the project – something I found to be valuable during my time working in the research office at the University Hospital of Southampton.

11:00-12:00 – Once every week or two, I meet with my supervisor to discuss recent activities, issues and opportunities. Regularly meeting with my supervisor leaves me feeling re-invigorated and re-focused. However, this may not be the case with all supervisors.

12:00 – 18:00 – Work in this time period depends on what needs doing. Prioritising tasks is a skill you need to master during a PhD. At the moment I am either writing up manuscripts on my early results for publication or I am working on my farm study.  This involves me recruiting dairy farms from across the UK, visiting current participants to collect data and samples on their farms and analysing samples in the lab. Lunch is squeezed into this session somewhere and because of the nature of my project; I eat a lot of my lunches on the road. But at least I get to drive one of the University’s Ford Rangers.

20:00 – 21:15 – At this time I drive home. The traffic is quiet and it’s just before road works start closing routes.

21:15 – 23:00 - I arrive home to a delicious dinner crafted by my master chef partner. After dinner, I’ll have a pint of milk and some cookies and usually watch some Netflix with my partner and my cat.

What do you do for fun?

On the evenings of days where I do not need to travel to Reading or a faraway farm, I have a busy social life. I play sports (boxing and football), dive deep into the world of board games and generally like to experience as much of the world as I can. 

So is that a typical day for a PhD student?

In reality, when studying a PhD, no day is the same. One day I will be at the very bottom of the country visiting a farm in Plymouth to collect samples. Another time I could spend a 3 day session acid digesting samples for their phosphorus content in the lab.

A standard day for me a few months back would have started with me waking to a coffee and a stroopwafel in the Netherlands, as I spent some time on an international research fellowship there. Another time I could be having a discussion over lunch about data I presented at a conference, whilst overlooking Zurich, Switzerland. I suppose the message I am trying to convey is that there is no typical day when studying a PhD.

Your PhD will be specific to you and you shape it exactly how you want to. That can come with some stressful situations but also many once in a life time opportunities.