Little PhD things nobody talks about

Hello everybody, I’m Ivan, a second year PhD student looking to start something new: creating content about little things that make up a PhD. I started my PhD a week before the first lockdown in Europe in March 2020 and I spent most of the PhD working from home. Because of that, I didn’t really get a chance to discuss day-to-day PhD life with my peers. I must say, the PhD journey turned out quite differently than I have anticipated, so I’d like to share all of that “shocking” observations. I have started a Youtube channel, so check it out.

Academic Twitter/Reddit/Youtube/other are usually composed of posts like “My paper is accepted at conference X!", “Why I left academia”, “10 steps to get into a PhD program of your dreams”, “I defended my thesis and will be joining Uni Y at fall!", etc. Don’t get me wrong, there is a great academic community on various platforms and I’ve personally learned a lot about academia from tweets, blog posts, and videos. However, a PhD journey is not just composed of consecutive research successes until one graduates. More and more people, like dr. Veronika Cheplygina, are sharing their academic failures as well, which I think is more than welcome to be able to paint the realistic picture of academic life. Also, academic community is increasingly looking after researchers’ mental health (I like prof. Jen Heemstra’s approach), which is absolutely necessary.

However, I feel like something is missing. Something that is not so big of a deal to broadcast to the outside world, but still often takes 20-50% of your work time! When I think of “little PhD things”, I think about tasks that take a significant portion of your work week, but nobody really talks about them. E.g., article reviews, PhD paperwork, teaching assistant duties, writing emails, supervising students, preparing posters, camera-ready papers, talks…All of these tasks come up semi-randomly all the time, so we often don’t allocate time for them and end up doing them in our free time. This creates additional stress, which, frankly, we don’t really need as PhD students.

My goal is to discuss best ways to handle all of these little PhD things. I also seek to learn from you – my peers, and hear your opinions and approaches to different aspects of the PhD journey. Ranting about academia in general will be included :D

Some topics I’d like to talk about (suggestions welcome!): PhD in the pandemic; Creating a poster, camera-ready paper, presentation; Work-life balance; Saying “no” to projects/tasks; Organization and time management; The Last Push before deadlines; Online conferences; Teaching assistant duties; PhD courses and summer schools; Building and managing a personal website.

Ivan Sekulić
Ivan Sekulić
PhD Student

My research interests include Conversational Information Retrieval and Natural Language Processing.