#PhDLife: 4 month update

While I have been LOVING sharing all my lovely travel photos and stories with you (and don’t worry, I will be winging off to another destination soon), I have been in London for 4 months and figured it’s time to give you a tiny update on my #PhDLife.

I am still in the honeymoon phase – I have been getting settled in the Division and have spent a lot of time working on developing the outline for my dissertation research. I don’t have anything tangible to share at this point, but I am looking forward to leaping into these projects over the coming term and seeing where it leads me.

That said, I have already had a chance to participate in some super cool opportunities:

  • Presented at IFPE in Norway
  • Spent time in Stockholm to meet my collaborators at Karolinska Institutet
  • Contributed to a book chapter
  • Taught my first MSc epidemiology lecture (which I consider to be a great success, as despite the premium Friday 2-5pm spot, I only had one obvious sleeper).
  • Attended many talks, lectures, and conferences in London as it is such a hub of research activity! This included a life highlight of getting to hear Prof Sir Michael Marmot speak (and having him re-tweet me [TWICE!], which I am pretty sure means we are best friends forever).

While I wait for results from my research to share with you, I figured I might as well share some other important charts about my #PhD life.


Some of the notable scientific approaches applied to non-scientific problems include some preliminary analysis of one of the paramount questions in academia: how much coffee does it take to sustain one grad student. Figure 1 shows the results of some preliminary data:

coffee grams

“But Jen,” I hear you say, “You are in England now, the more pertinent question is how much tea does it take to sustain a PhD student?”

Quite right. So Figure 2 shows the amount of tea I have consumed since arriving in the UK:


A limitation of this is that not ALL coffee and tea consumption has been captured in the above analysis. I have not captured the number of cups that I have consumed in coffee shops, just those that I brew/steep at home and in the office. I have been tracking my spending in coffee shops, and future research may investigate the accuracy of using that measure as a proxy for the amount of coffee consumed at other locations.

One of the other classic grad school skills that I have (unfortunately) developed is the art of distraction. There are just so many fun things on the internet, that sometimes it is very hard to do real work when there is news to read and people to creep on social media. As an effort to be a little bit more intentional about my social media behaviour, I have started tracking the number of times I check Facebook during the day. Figure 3 shows the number of daily Facebook checks per day since the start of my tracking period.

facebook checks

I cannot say with certainty that the act of having to note when I check Facebook has affected the frequency of checks (as I have no measure of the number of times I checked social media prior to the tracking period), however, from an anecdotal perspective, tracking has really helped me check myself and not constantly cruise social media.

Finally, I also attempted to take a data-driven approach to picking my fantasy Bachelor pool picks (#BachelorNation!), but [spoiler alert] it doesn’t appear to be a very well-calibrated model, as I am trailing embarrassingly far behind my pals in the pool. I will need to revise my approach for next season. Here is a portion of that initial analysis:

Bach bracket

For any of you who are in grad school, I would love to hear from you – what are some of the tips you have to stay sane and motivated? A more specific question for those of you who have experience with computing: I am saddened to report that it may be the end of my relationship with my Mac Air. I think that I may be making the switch to a more powerful PC that will allow me to run analysis on various software packages (including SAS, which does not have a Mac version) and handle very large datasets. So, if you have suggestions, please let me know!

For those of you in London, I would love to hear your favourite things about this buzzing city.

I will leave you with a few delightful Epi and PhDLife diversions:

  • A ridiculously accurate and often hilarious take on the academic life: Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay). For example:shit academics
  • This hashtag is everything – the awkward relationship between academia and the dating scene. 
  • An obvious staple: PhD Comics
  • When I have some spare time on the internet, I peruse this epi roundup for all things public health The Pump Handle
  • For accurate thoughts on life and the constant the debate between head and heart, the Awkward Yeti, provides much amusement.

As I am always looking for diversions that I can justify as productive, if you have other links, send them my way!!

Now to dive into some data. Cheerio!


2 thoughts on “#PhDLife: 4 month update

    1. I track my purchases (coffee and tea). My Facebook checking is somewhat automated – I have an app that I click every time I check Facebook, which is linked to a spreadsheet. All I have to do is tally the number of entries per day.


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