A Day in the Life of a Scientist

Man has a predisposition to be unique. But in his endless effort to achieve that goal in the defining aspects of life, he falls into routines subconsciously. True to that phenomenon, a day in the life of a scientist is not exempt. Despite the routines, there are aspects of the day that might certainly be unique not only to the profession but also to the person. Whether or not the lone scientist described here falls into the majority is left to the judgment of the reader. 

The alarm bells start ringing at around 9 in the morning. In the semi-awake state, he recollects when he fell asleep and tries to convince himself that the six hours of sleep he got was sufficient to get him through the day. As his feet touch the floor, his mind is working on what is for breakfast or if he is going to have one. One advantage of his job is that it is not time-restricted, at least for the most part. He goes about his morning chores with the usual hurry. The day unfolds before him, and he thanks God for the opportunities he has had in his life. As he slips into his work clothes, he checks his calendar for meetings and deadlines. Walking out the door with his trusty backpack carrying his essentials, he looks forward to his day.

He makes his way to his lab and then to his desk, greeting the people he sees daily (well, depends on his mood). After a few minutes of rocking in his chair as the computer boots up, he is ready to pick up where he left off the previous day. Reading the last few lines of his code which had worked the day before, he is slightly flabbergasted at his own work. Just to make himself feel better, he runs the code and checks that it works. So, he goes back to the script and starts typing away. This work is important to him because he needs it to test a hypothesis he has been working on for the past few months. Simulations have been successful, and the meetings with the higher-ups and peers have been good, characterized by spirited arguments and conclusions.

To a scientist, his/her research is akin to his/her baby. Being the tenacious creatures that they are, a scientist would argue and exhaust all possibilities before coming to a conclusion. His work is nowhere near completion but is progressing. He had tried testing his hypothesis a few times before but the results had not matched his predictions. Every time he took a step back, he always had new information to rely on.

To him, there is no such thing as a bad result. A result is a result, and it is his prerogative to explore, examine and interpret it. He knows it would take time to run an experiment again, but he is not hasty. Midway through the scripting and checking of his codes, he stumbles onto a problem he had not expected. A sanity check, as it is called, has failed. Somewhere, something does not add up, literally. On the one hand, he is exasperated at this new development but on the other, he is happy to have caught it early. He thinks that a computer can never make any mistakes. “I have coded it wrong somehow,” he tells himself.  

He takes his notebook, a diary of sorts chronicling all his ideas and notes. He jots down whatever he thinks might be causing this failure. He looks around for his fellow lab mates and finds one who might be able to help. A fresh set of eyes almost always brings something new to the table. His colleagues take a while to go through his code as he is explaining its functionalities in a running commentary. Having worked together for years, there exists a friendship that helps keep both parties grounded. He adds suggestions to his notes. He does not want to touch this problem immediately. He has been writing this for far too long and needs a break. Walking around the lab, he sees if he could be of assistance to other scientists working there. After a while, his stomach reminds him that he has been fasting for nearly twelve hours. So, he goes out to grab a bite.

Having had a fruitful discussion with friends during lunch time, he comes back and starts changing his code. A few minutes into his work, a colleague approaches him stating that he has finished using a particular equipment and that it was free for use. With gratitude, he moves over to the equipment to take proper custody of it.  Again he codes away, checking every step closely. Intermittently, he refers to a few books and checks if his formulas and theories hold good. As the evening draws closer, he tries to finish up his work for the day. The script he had been working on has grown a few pages, and his sanity checks have been passed. After finishing up, he looks at the time, and it is well past six. In about half an hour, he is back home. A few minutes later he is out again trying to motivate himself to go for his jogging routine. After half a sweaty hour, he is back and famished. The hardest part of the day is deciding whether to eat outside, get a take-home or cook dinner. In any case, YouTube videos keep him busy during dinner.

Now he indulges in his hobbies. A bout of gaming, a book to read, a piano to play, origami to make, songs to sing… his list of hobbies is long. He picks one and lets it take him well into the night. The day has ticked over. There was no glitz or glamour but he crawls into bed, sleepy and tired. But he’s happy and looking forward to another new day.

This was an account of a typical day in a scientist’s life. How about going through a typical day in the life of a Ph.D. student here?

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