When I started Grad School, two of my best undergraduate friends and plenty of acquaintances were already at the end of their first years of a PhD. I think just about everyone from my circle of friends who went directly to PhD without going via a Masters stayed at our alma mater (which, I suppose makes sense: somebody who already knows you and your work is more likely to take a chance on you, and somebody who has already found a lab they want to work in is more likely to take time out of studying for finals to apply).
My alma mater has a reputation for being a university where very smart people work very hard and get very good results. These two friends in particular told me, quite casually, that 12 hour days were considered normal for postgraduate students, and that they only had one weekend in three free from the lab, never mind free from work. (Admittedly, being cell biologists, there was a certain amount of replating lines every 3 days). Thinking this was normal, I went off to Bavaria on a last-ditch holiday before I started my PhD, thinking it might be the last time I saw the sun before I wrote up.
It turns out that not every university is like the one where I did my undergrad, and working late and working weekends tend not to be the done thing here. In my first year, while working with a very dedicated post doc, I would be in for at least a few hours every weekend; but as I started sports that only competed at the weekend, and started being given Saturday shifts, and realised that trying to keep a long distance relationship together is hard enough without Honey, I have to work in the lab this weekend. I’ve moved away from that working pattern.
Nonetheless, here I am, a good Catholic girl, in the lab (or the office at least) on a Sunday afternoon. (After mass, of course). Print services closes for the holidays on Friday, and doesn’t re-open until the day I fly to California, which means I have to have a full and beautiful data set and a poster to match by Wednesday at the latest. At this stage, it’s do or die. With not enough cDNA to repeat everything if I mess up, but not enough time to see if the magical qPCR fairies will lend me any wisdom I’m just going to have to pray like hell and do the experiment.
I suppose you had better wish me luck…