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Life in Grad School – A Day in the Life of Rachel


My life as a grad student is quite different from Atif and Amanda’s. As I’m in Clinical Psychology, my research studies are punctuated by clinical placements. Given the time I spend doing clinical work, some days, I don’t make it into the lab at all.

Here’s the breakdown:


Clinical Work

In MSc 2 and PhD 1 & 2, I spent 1.5 – 2 days doing practicum placements. These placements were generally at various institutions in Kingston, such as Hotel Dieu Hospital, forensic settings, as well as on campus through HCDS and the Regional Assessment and Resource Center (RARC), but I also had the opportunity to do a placement at Baycrest in Toronto, which required a weekly commute.

These days, I’m finished my placements, but since I will be applying for internship next fall, I’m collecting more clinical hours working at Joyceville Institution two mornings a week.



Since I am in a clinical program, we spend a lot more time in classes than most other PhD programs. In MSc 1 I had 5 classes my first semester, and we’ve had 2-3 classes a term since. This is the first year I’ve had since finishing classes.



While Amanda does a lot of field work and Atif works from various institutions, I almost exclusively work from my lab in Humphrey Hall. I am fortunate to have a desk, computer, and printer in my office. There unfortunately no windows so in the event of an apocalypse, we’ve asked the lab next door to notify us of any impending danger.


Courtesy of PhD Comics

Courtesy of PhD Comics


With the classes + clinical work, I didn’t do much research in MSc 1 and PhD1 + 2. I spent most of my time preparing the stimuli/materials for my projects. This involves a lot of audio/visual recording, video and sound editing, and a little bit of programming for experimental delivery. Note that I am NOT a programmer and therefore a lot of time in this stage was spent in trial and error, with occasional pulling my hair out in front the computer in frustration.

Since we use human participants in our research, I spend a lot of time scheduling and running participants for studies. Running participants usually takes up anywhere from 20-80% of my week. For example, one of my PhD studies involves a brain training program that runs in two 5-week intervals, so we have the older adults participating in the study come in at 3 time points for about 2.5 hours each. Since there are about 10-15 of them doing the study at a time, I spend a lot of my time with them. I am also running an fMRI study so I have spent a lot of time at the campus imaging facility as well.


This is me with the eye-tracker my colleague and I used for one of our studies.

This is me with the eye-tracker my colleague and I used for one of our studies.


The good news is that I am almost done data collection and will be working exclusively on data analysis and writing in the near future! The rest of the time in the lab, I usually work on other projects and papers and attend lab meetings and journal clubs.

I’m an immensely social creature much of the time, so fortunately, I have other grad and undergraduate students around in the lab for a welcome distraction when I need a break from work.


Other Fun Things

I’m also involved with mentoring, departmental committees, and of course, Gradifying. I’m currently taking sign language classes with the Canadian Hearing Society in the hopes of getting in better touch with my deaf/ hard of hearing roots. I also participate in a monthly book club with other grad students. I also recently gave a TEDx talk at Queen’s, which was a really neat experience.

In general, I try to limit my work and research hours to 9 – 5. I’m lucky in that my supervisor isn’t the kind to keep close tabs on every hour of my time; she’s flexible so long as work is being accomplished at a reasonable pace, and this works well for me, but it means I have to stay disciplined. I occasionally work on weekends if I have a deadline coming up or if I am working on a non-thesis related project (like a review paper). However, I am trying more and more to use my evenings AND weekends for downtime, which I’m finding to be a very effective motivational strategy actually (I return to my work on Monday feeling refreshed and ready to work – yay!).

When I’m not working, I’m usually at the gym or socializing. During summer, I’m looking forward to ultimate frisbee (like Atif), camping trips, and cycling.


That’s all for now. Let me know if you have any questions!





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One comment on “Life in Grad School – A Day in the Life of Rachel
  1. Colette says:

    YOU seem to have your week planned out well Rachel. Not sure how much Frisbee will be going on though if we don’t get summer!

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