In the Zernike Institute Advent Calendar, we are presenting 24 short spotlights in December. In these specials, we highlight PhD students, postdocs, support staff and technicians of our research groups and team - providing a glimpse in their typical day at work. In Episode 19 meet Vesna Erić, PhD student in th e Theory of Condensed Matter g roup of Prof. Thomas La Cour Jansen.
I am Vesna Erić, a PhD student in the Theory of Condensed Matter Group, working on computational spectroscopy of bacterial light-harvesting complexes. Biological systems are quite messy, making us wonder about the mechanisms behind their efficiency in performing tasks that nature assigns to them. We are now realizing that instead of fighting against it, light-harvesting complexes utilize fluctuations, disorder, and even dark states to enhance their performance. My research inspired me to give you a glimpse into my view on the messy and sometimes 'darkish' parts of my daily PhD life. So, here it goes.
They say one should first create a good old to-do list. And my approach is: The more unreasonable, the better!
Why couldn't I finish that long-delayed manuscript in one day?!
Once I have a page-long document ending with 'don't forget to call your family', it is a great time to start my day by opening all the emails!
I try not to pay attention to details, so it is easier to postpone answering. Who has the energy to write nuanced responses in the morning, anyway? I will leave such things for after-lunch food coma time. Naturally, the fact that these emails are open might make it harder to answer, but that is something I can worry about later.
What I need in the morning is inspiration!
I should read some fresh materials from Arxiv. Click, click, click. Now, I have 20 new tabs in my browser! Still, I will focus on random work on anti-de Sitter space. That might get me some bonus points during the coffee breaks with my colleagues from Van Swinderen Institute. How could not understanding anything from only 10 minutes of reading be so demotivating?
Luckily, the new citation on my paper dispels the gloomy vibes!!!
Never mind, it is just the work of one of my collaborators.
But that is fine. Rome was not built in a day! But was it in four years?
So, let's be practical. Coding! Noise-canceling headphones on and something aggressive to stop any thought from occurring. Fewer thoughts, less procrastination, right?
It will also inspire others to be creative with the way they approach me. My supervisor, Thomas Jansen, had to invent a little dance to catch my attention.
So, where should we start? Last week, I made several codes named test.py, testelino.py, or testic.py. Commenting is very scarce, luckily, making it even more puzzling. And what is science but constantly solving puzzles?
Time to give myself a promise that I will never do this again, and from now on, I will document everything in real-time.
And I still have not read those emails. What if all of them are very urgent and important?
Eventually, the urge to procrastinate might kick in, and I will try to make up for it by staying longer in the office, aiming to fix all the errors and follow that unreasonable to-do list.
And probably, I will not finish all the assigned tasks and even fail to call my family.
Luckily, this is not the whole story. Just as sunlight excites our bacterial friends, external factors, such as strict deadlines or intriguing scientific questions, will put me in focus and make order emerge within the chaos.
But not every day. And that is okay.
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