In a Bioscience PhD like mine, lab meetings are where members of the group get together and either talk about what they have been up to or give a longer presentation on their work over the past month or so. Other subjects will have similar formal or informal meetings – particularly if there are lots of PhD students in the department.
I didn’t know what to anticipate from my first lab meeting, though I remember asking myself – what will be expected of me? Do I need to prepare anything?
Because I was new, I had to introduce myself to those I hadn’t yet met. There are about 12 people in our lab group, I know some groups can be bigger, but it still felt quite daunting.
As we went around the table, one by one the members of the lab updated everyone else about their recent findings and asking for advice on techniques that weren’t quite going to plan. I had no idea what most of the people were discussing, so I couldn’t really help; I had to pick up on the subtle things they were saying to try and figure out what their research is about. This was very difficult as they were all using acronyms – it was almost like they were talking in code.
Then came my turn. My heart was racing. I couldn’t calm down. Why couldn’t I calm down? It made trying to talk all that much more difficult: people were going to hear how nervous I was, which made me more nervous. I was mostly worrying about what I was going to say “Is it good enough that I’ve only done a little reading and some experiment planning? – I haven’t even been in the lab yet!”
In the end, all I did (and could) say was what my project is about and what my plans were. Not very exciting, but maybe next time I would have something to show. After all that worthless worrying, people understood my position and seemed interested in what I had to say.