PhD Conspiracy Theories – What ‘They’ Don’t Tell You Beforehand |
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Posted on 9 Jun '22

PhD Conspiracy Theories – What ‘They’ Don’t Tell You Beforehand

Preparing to embark on a scientific PhD can be a nerve-wracking experience. Maybe you’ve spent some time in the lab, but maybe you haven’t and don’t really know what to expect.

Maybe you’ve wondered if there are things you ought to know before you begin. The sort of details that aren’t mentioned in the advert postings or in the interviews. Details like how lab equipment is inclined to (mis)behave, or whether arcane tributes are required to ensure the success of experiments (spoilers: maybe).

I’m here to tell you that there are several things that everyone ought to know about before their first day of research.

#1 Sentient equipment

Now, talk to any experienced research student and they’ll tell you that particularly important pieces of equipment are sentient. And, as sentient beings, you need to be kind to them.

Yell at the plate reader for not keeping exactly to temperature and it won’t say anything today, but it will sit there waiting, seething.

Then, the next time you have a really important sample – you know, the one you absolutely have to get the results for – it will smile quietly to itself and then crash just before saving your data, leaving you with nothing but a 10kb corrupt file as a cruel reminder of what might have been.

And bear in mind also: important equipment knows precisely how important it is. So it’s no good threatening to drop kick it from the eleventh floor if it refuses to behave. Trust me, it knows just how empty those threats are.

So be nice to the equipment. Keep up with the maintenance/cleaning etc – maybe buy it a gift every now and then. Treat it well, you’ve been warned.

#2 The gods of research

You might think you have escaped the grasping hands of the various deities by running into the comforting arms of science. But you would be wrong!

Just as with every occupation in human history there are unstable and omnipotent beings that rule over the realm of scientific research. And to these fickle gods there is no greater delight than in bringing about the misfortune of the impious and heretical PhD student.

“Oh!” I hear you scoff, “don’t talk such nonsense, I am an enlightened student of science and don’t believe such waffle.”

Well, on your head be it, but don’t come crying to me after the inexplicable failure of your fifteenth cloning attempt, or when your cells, which just a week before grew with such vigour, sit listlessly in their experimental plate, impassive to your increasingly desperate pleas.

No matter how carefully you set your experiment up, it is their blessing that is required to bring about its success.

To gain their favour you might try running multiple backup experiments; personal inconvenience is key. Failing that, you can try invoking their names in your next lab report, the bigger the better.

You have been warned, the gods of research exist, and it would behove you to pay them the appropriate tributes.

Students disagree as to exactly which tributes are most pleasing, but I’ve always found that planning ahead and leaving time to repeat failed experiments works quite well. Failing that you could offer to sacrifice a pot noodle, or make them the 666th author on your next paper.

#3 The lizard people

We all know that the lizard people exist. It’s just a fact like the sky being blue or the earth being flat. Right?

However, what many people don’t know is that, among their many nefarious plots, is a plan to prevent all researchers from ever having a trouble-free day in the lab.

Of course, they would never be so brazen as to break equipment or ruin experiments , besides the aforementioned items in this list take care of most of that anyway.

No, the methods of the lizard people are much more subtle than that.

They move unseen through labs to move marker pens to other desks and empty your box of lab gloves. Listen closely and you might hear their cackle as you are forced to once again go hunting for your calculator, only to find it hidden under a stack of someone else’s papers.

Being creatures capable of rapid shape-shifting, it is not uncommon for them to assume the form of a co-worker, with the intent of bringing down the ire of the lab upon this unfortunate soul. Don’t be fooled, your co-worker would never be so inconsiderate!

Sadly, even those within the scientific community are often ignorant of this particular nuisance. So, it helps to bring it up in lab meetings. Don’t worry about the bewildered stares, everyone is shocked to learn of the plots of the lizard people initially.

Its also worth talking to anyone you think was impersonated, just to let them know of the crimes in which the lizard people are trying to implicate them. At least then ‘they’ might agree not to ‘move’ your equipment next time.

#4 The great panic and ‘them’

Finally, it’s time to address the grandest conspiracy ever organised; a conspiracy on a scale that dwarfs rumours of illuminatus, faked moon landings or lizard-person denial.

You may have heard whispers of ‘their’ machinations, perhaps you’ve even experienced the fringes of ‘their’ operations, for ‘their’ influence extends far beyond the bounds of scientific research.

‘They’ work behind the scenes ensuring a constant stream of anxious moments (although the reasons for ‘their’ undying commitment to this cause is as yet unclear).

‘They’ will ensure that the line at the coffee shop is inversely proportional to the time left on your incubation.

‘They’ will arrange for the lift to stop at every floor when you find yourself running late for a meeting.

Perhaps most diabolically, ‘they’ will force your computer to update whenever you are minutes from making a presentation.

To foil ‘their’ schemes, I suggest you double the time you think it will take to complete anything.

Closing remarks

So that’s it. I hope this demystifies some of the less talked about aspects of working in a lab, so you can approach this noble quest with your eyes open and not as bleating sheeple.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and don my tin foil hat, because the Russians are using Roswell technology to stop me finding Bigfoot.

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Last Updated: 09 June 2022