Offices, Labs and Libraries: Different PGR Working Environments
I have a confession to make. This post is late. Really late. I’ve been so busy with my research that it’s been hard to find the time for writing. It’s been hard to find the time for anything - but that’s the way it is with research, right? All hands on deck! 24/7 working. Busy, Busy, BUSY!
You can read more about our thoughts on that sentiment in one of Jade’s previous posts, but when was the last time you stopped and had a look around at your surroundings? Do you even know where you are? I hope so. Me? This is where I live:
I know - I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a dedicated office space, a dedicated lab bench (don’t touch my stuff) and a quiet departmental library just down the corridor. My office has a fridge, microwave, kettle and an angry espresso machine that shouts a lot. More importantly, I can actually see the outside world from my desk! It’s a far cry from the desk I was allocated when I first started - but at least I have a desk! There are plenty of PGR students who are either not as lucky as I am with their real estate, or do not have any dedicated space at all. Some students can make it through an entire PhD without having somewhere specific to work!
Cia Jackson, for example, is in her second year of a PhD researching ‘Power and Female Sidekicks in DC Comics’ and has never had an allocated desk space. I am told that this is actually a common occurrence within the College of Arts - so where do researchers like Cia go to get work done?
The good old UofG Library! That's where Cia gets most of her work done, anyway. There is even a dedicated postgraduate section! It's busy, though, and she has a few tips and tricks to make the most of working in such a public place.
- Get in early - as a general rule the UofG Library tends to be quieter in the mornings than it is after lunch.
- Bring a laptop and make sure it's fully charged - this gives a greater freedom of choice on where to study within the library.
- Aim for an annex - these tend to be quieter than other areas as people generally gravitate toward the fancy booths.
- Wrap up! The library can be a cold place at times. Cia always has a warm scarf and a hot coffee to bring her body temperature up.
- Be prepared to fight for space during exam season. Well, not literally fight, but the library does get busier during these periods.
If you are based out at the Garscube campus you can plug in at the James Herriot Library to get work done. There are 120 study spaces, wifi and 10 networked PCs. If libraries aren't your thing, though, there are plenty of other places around the university.
While common rooms don't have the same quiet-study policy that the library does, if you don't mind a little bit of hustle and bustle you'll feel right at home. I love people watching and with a good set of headphones, I can work (almost) anywhere.
The newly built Mary Stewart Building offers a flexible study space with 400 seats, a seminar room and 10 purpose-built tutorial rooms. The flexible space serves food so you can eat while you work. The Mary Stewart building is also out at the Garscube Campus.
If you like to mix work and play then the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club offers a friendly environment where you can socialise and study. There’s a bar which serves hot and cold food, real coffee and an assortment of alcoholic beverages. Cia’s tip about fully charging your laptop is definitely good advice, though.
If you don’t have your own laptop, or it ran out of power, then you can work in one of the many computer clusters around the university. This page shows where PCs are available within the library itself, while this one gives the locations of computer clusters throughout the university (scroll down for links to the different colleges).
Finding a place to work isn't always the difficult part - what about taking breaks when you have a load of books to carry around? Luckily, the College of Arts also provides a dedicated study space for postgraduate researchers on the top floor of the Alexander Stone Building. It's equipped with 40 flat screen PCs, a printer, tea & coffee making facilities and lockers, allowing you to leave your books while you head off for a bite to eat. Speaking about food, there are plenty of places on campus you can go for some scran. Check out this list of places you can go for a proper munch on your breaks.
To find out if your own college offers a similar study space, or if you are wondering what your entitlements are with respect to offices and workspaces, then you should speak with your supervisor in the first instance.
It can actually be really difficult to find out where researchers who don’t have a dedicated place to work from do their work. Short of unsolicited people-prodding in the library, where do you go to get such information? With that in mind, I’m going to open up the discussion to you guys - where do you work? Have I missed somewhere obvious? What advice do you have for getting work done? Please let us know in the comments, or over on Twitter, as any advice you might have could be really helpful for someone else.