Blog, Science

An average day

I have a new flatmate now who has a keen interest in science. The other day when I came home he asked (in French) “What did you do today?”. It’s a simple question. Although it doesn’t always have a short answer as I also knew that he also wanted to understand, what do I do on a day-to-day basis as a scientist? This question is the inspiration of today’s post, which is a diary of my day.


Last night I was invited to the wine and cheese social event at a workshop taking place at my lab, which was a great chance to see a friend and former Manchester colleague who was attending the workshop, and also to meet new people in ATLAS who were outside of my analysis group (ATLAS is ~4000 people, so it’s not unusual that I haven’t met them all!). The conversation developed into some very interesting debates and I ended up staying later than I had planned. Hence this morning’s early start was a difficult one. I have an hour’s commute to get into work so on the way I grabbed a pain au chocolate at the train station (as I didn’t have time to eat breakfast at home) and spent the time on the train proof-reading the thesis of a PhD student I work with.


The first meeting of the day started at 8.30am. This was exceptional and was arranged to fit with the schedule of someone in Australia. For them the meeting was at 6.30pm, so it was just about reasonable for both sides. I am one of two contact people for a part of our analysis, which means I keep up-to-date with what everyone is doing and report back to the conveners of our analysis to make sure everything is on track. This is my first leadership position in ATLAS analysis and I learn a lot about how to do the job well every day. It’s useful to have these meetings to get advice and support from my superiors.

The second meeting, starting at 9am, continued on the same topic, but involved everyone from the analysis. We had presentations from studies that had taken place over the last week and discussed the results. It’s a long meeting, as there are many steps of the analysis to go over in detail.



Something I like a lot about my lab is that lunch is a group activity. Each day people gather in the corridor a few minutes before noon and we all go to the canteen for lunch together. It’s normal in France to have a full cooked meal as a group and I have adapted well to this life-style, only occasionally slipping back to eating sandwiches at my desk when I have an urgent deadline.


I have an hour ‘free’ now. Which means I can catch up with emails, do some administrative stuff and anything else that’s on my to-do list that I haven’t got to yet. I’m organising a workshop at my lab in February so there are many emails about this.

The poster for our workshop.


In the afternoon, I had training for a machine called a AFM resiscope. AMF stands for Atomic Force Microscopy, and the machine uses a needle to study the surface of material. This machine is in a clean room, which means we needed to wear protective clothing to reduce the amount of dust we bring into the room. In the photos below, you can see the full suit (with paper slippers to go over my outdoor shoes) and in the second, you can see the hood that we needed to wear to prevent hairs from falling off of us and onto delicate equipment and samples.



I am training for some running races in Paris and the UK this year, so as well as going running with the amazing Let’s Run Paris running group twice a week, I also need to work on improving my speed. Interval training is a good way to do this and a friend from the running group arranges this informal training at a local stadium on Wednesdays. I like that after a long day, I can meet up with friends and do something outside.

Let’s Run Paris runners at sunset.


After dinner (I usually eat quite late) I checked emails to see if there was anything that urgently needed my attention and checked my calendar for the next day. I have nothing first thing, so I can sleep a little later. Then I read a paper from my collaboration, which is in circulation for internal review. Before heading to bed, I watched some Breaking Bad. I’m on the last season and I have to stop myself from finishing it all in one sitting.


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