Hi, I’m Richelle Grisdale, and I started my PhD at MSSL about a year ago. Here’s a short summary of how it’s going so far, and what my life is like on a daily basis.
When I arrived at MSSL, I absolutely loved its lovely surroundings and the beautiful old house. I was also really looking forward to starting my project and working more independently than at undergraduate. I met my supervisor, and started work. The first few days were pretty confusing, but everyone was very friendly and it was easy to settle in to life at MSSL. My first month was spend studying by reading reviews, and becoming best friends with a very useful book called Galactic Dynamics.
Now I’m one year into my PhD. I’ve made a nice start on my project, and gotten very used to life at MSSL. In a typical week I leave my house at about 8:30 to 9am most mornings, and it takes me about 45 minutes to cycle the 6 miles to MSSL. It’s a lovely ride to the countryside. I then start with a cup of tea, and continue working on what I was doing the evening before. I meet with my supervisor about once a week, and we discuss the work I’ve done that week, which direction I should take it next, and what work I should concentrate on.
Every week we also have a series of meetings. Every other Wednesday there is journal club. Here one person picks a recent paper that they found interesting, and describes it to the others. I find it’s a great way of broadening my knowledge beyond what my project is about. On Thursdays we have a small meeting, called the Gaia meeting. This is a meeting of people who work on something to do with Gaia, and we discuss anything Gaia related. There are also regular seminars. These vary widely, some are very good, while others are quite difficult to follow!
Currently I am in Tenerife, at a summer school all about the Milky Way. One of the greatest things of being a PhD student is that you are constantly learning new things. Being at one of these summer schools is great fun, you get to meet lots of fellow astrophysics PhD students, and make new contacts. There were also a lot of very interesting lectures. These were extremely helpful as they provided me with many good references for my upcoming upgrade report.
In short, the life of a PhD student is pretty cool! You learn lots of interesting things, get to do independent research, and fly to cool places like Tenerife to do it!