What Happened In The First year of Your Science PhD


Hie all,

I am starting my PhD in oct, and as you can imagine I am a bit excited.
I am wondering what my first year will entail and thought I am ask the more exprience students to shed light on the course of events in their first year.
So please tell me what did you do in your first year. was it day one in the lab or what?


That is a rather difficult question to answer as everyones' PhD experience is unique.

My advice to you is to make best use of your first few months: do your literature review, write it up, make a plan for your first year of research. Order whatever equipment you may need....

keep in regular contact with your sup, or if he/she isnt about; annoy the post docs in your lab by asking lots of questions.

and pray to the PhD gods!!!!



so you didnt do any lab work at all


depends on your experience,

if you know the area, then there will be less reading

If you have already done some work in the area then you you can start the lab work faster

a lot of people spend the first few months doing very little lab work, because it takes a long time to become good at planning your own experiments etc

Just takes time and can be boring


Hi, I started in Oct last year in a science PhD so have been at it for about 6 months. I was in the lab from day one shadowing the fellow in our lab (no post doc at that stage) and other PhD student. To be honest the first three months were a bit of a blur, the last 3 have been better. I didn't really get the chance to do masses of reading, the area is new to me and I'd never done lab work before. I don't have to plan experiments yet as our lab works as one big group and there's not much in the way of individual projects. I struggled and am still struggling, haven't read a paper for about 3 weeks. Think am going to speak to my supervisor this week about it as I'm a bit lost. But on the bright side I have learned alot (and very quickly) about the practical side of things. Sorry to hijack your post a bit, I'd be intreested as to what others have to say.


Walrus - I think this is fairly common for people with your previous expereince - a lot of folk find it quite boring or intimidating in the first few months - reading is really up to you I would say, but there is no harm in speaking to your supervisor about your concerns.

Your proficiency with lab work will eventually lead to you designing the experiments, but your understanding of the area, as well as the desire to do so will greatly affect this. Reading is important as well as is critical thinking

The big difference is at the moment you may just be doing as you are told. What you should be doing is analysing what you are doing, where it is going, can you do it better, more efficiently - are you missing something, has someone published ideas that intrest you or you'd like to follow. What is going to be in your final write up - whats the story behind your thesis and where is your work novel!


All of these things take time to develop and by no means are you doing anything wrong, but eventually you will find yourself doing more and more of these things - even if it takes till 2nd year

keep at it



that is very helpul , thank you very much. are there any other pple with diff experiences


Walrus, I couldnt agree more, I have been in the lab since nov and still feel am stuck at the begining. It has taken me 6 months to get anything to work. Like you say I have learned alot but do feel am not progressing as quickly as others in the labs who started at the same time


Hi ! I am also starting a phD in October as well, my supervisor have already gave me a few papers to read to familiarise with the area of research. (most of them were actually his , maybe he was showboating as well). I already have a brief idea /plan of what I wanted to do in the lab for the first few months; so comes october , hopefully I would get my little space in the lab (I already know where I wanted to be base in the lab) and crack on with some experiments . (May need to ask the techician to order a few specific materials as well beforehand !! )

My supervisor also told me he would get most of the papers I required as well so I dont have to waste 4 months in front of computer searching for papers like most 1st year phD student. Well thats what he told me anyway but we will see in October if he have kept his promise


I started my PhD in Oct 2007. It's been a bit of a rollercoater ride so far but I am starting to feel more confident and just getting on with things.

The first few months I spent time getting an idea of my topic and doing a few simple experiments. Recently I have discovered the results were rubbish, but it took some thought and more experiments to find this out.

In the beginning I read all the papers that I thought were relevant to my topic, but now I tend to be a bit more selective and only read papers that are very specific to what I'm doing.

I'm also designing better equipment to conduct experiments with, which I could only do after experimenting with what was already available and discovering its drawbacks.

At the moment I'm having to contact various manufactures, who sometimes takes days, if not weeks to reply. This delays progress.

In general I think progress can be slow in the first year, but if you get something done each day, however small, its progress.


Thanks guys.

I am just wondering what you mean by, you are designing experiments. How do you do this. do you modify protocols that already exist and if so how do you know how to modify them. does the supervisor give you guidance or indeeed intial training in the lab in regards to the basic exp in your area or is it guess work all the way from day one.


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