A day in the life of a PhD student.


The life of a PhD student is really varying. Some days we eat, sleep, autoclave, repeat, while on other days we write papers, analyze data, guide students, etc. The senior generation of PhD students told us, junior PhD’s, about the benefits of going to conferences, doing teambuilding activities and lab retreats, afterwork activities, live meetings with koffiekoeken,… After two years of living in an online world and teleworking, all these stories sounded like so much fun and the junior PhD’s (including myself) could not wait to participate in all of these and feel like a part of the team. While doing a PhD, communication about your research topic is a really big part of your work. Therefore, you can go for example to a conference. Although, due to COVID-19 all the conferences of the last two years were online. When heard that on the 11th of March, a first live conference (the BSM (Belgian Society for Microbiology) Symposium) took place, we were thrilled to register and participate!

So on the 11th of March, it was finally time for the first live conference of the new generation of PhD students. The day started with an interesting talk of Elisabeth Bik. She presented her work and showed several types of inappropriately duplicated images and other examples of research misconduct. A funny example was that there were pictures used in publications that only consisted of photoshopped images and no real research images. In addition to the general talks, it was also really cool that two colleagues of the lab, Eline and Dieter, got the chance to present their research during a presentation.

In the meantime, in between all these interesting talks, there was a chance to present your own poster. For us, the new generation of PhD students, it was really exciting because we never ever had the chance to present and discuss our own work on a live symposium. I had a poster about the antimicrobial mechanisms of beneficial bacteria from different body niches against the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. With some healthy stress, I got the chance to talk about my work with other researchers in the field and I started to build a network of scientific connections. At the end of the day, even some prices were handed out. Two of my colleagues were even awarded with one! Sarah received a price for the best poster presentation and Max was third in the agar-art competition! After all these new experiences, I was satisfied with all my new experiences, and I was already stressed for my next conference.

And woops, this next conference was already one month later. This conference was even bigger and international! It was the ECCMID (European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases) conference 2022. I was really proud that I was selected (as a newbie in the field) to give an oral presentation! Although the conference was still online, I had a lot of stress as I knew this conference had an audience of over 14.000 participants from the whole world. So when it was my time to present, I was a little insecure and still stressed, but from when I started talking, it went (almost) as planned. Although I was happy that I only knew afterwards that there were approximately 1200 participants following online and a whole conference room following on-site. Afterwards, I was overwhelmed about the number of people that listened to my presentation. But I was proud that I got the chance to present my work and this at an international conference! So long story short, additionally to the everyday work life of a PhD student, the world of conferences opened for me. I like the fact that everyone is interested in each other’s work (even the work of newbies in the field as I am) and that those days are interesting as you get to know more research similar as yours. So now, I am looking forward to future conferences!