We have quite a lot of students around in the lab these days. They are either at the level of bachelors, technician school, masters, etc … and it’s quite funny to hear them talk about our world sometimes. Somehow, they are still “outsiders” and incredibly naive about things. But they can also be unbiased observers.
A few weeks ago, one of them said : “You know, they don’t hire technicians anymore, they hire PhD students”. Hummmmm ….. that kinda felt like a SLAP in the face. Although is was not meant like that. And I might be over-thinking it a little bit.
Somehow, it still felt like the secondary meaning of that remark had some truth. Sometimes, you do feel like a technician, with just some more theoretical knowledge. But you have to do the pipetting and the thinking/reading/writing; and the pressure of getting good data makes it difficult to keep these two activities balanced.
With my bench mate, we decided to tackle this problem by buying a big white board for our desk where we doodle ideas, sketches, etc … Standing in front of it, we talk about our weird observations and far-fetched theories. These moments of pure speculations going wild and wilder are among the best moments in our PhD’s.
So no, we are not technicians, but sometimes you have to actively work on it.