Research can be taxing, particularly when you are starting out your PhD. Given the pressure of deadlines set by grants, crunch periods take a whole new meaning. It feels like a crime to catch a breathe even for a few seconds, leading to long working hours, working lunches, diminishing social life… You can see where this is going.
If there is one thing I would advise starting PhD students, and even post-docs, it’s this – never eat your lunch alone. It may shave off a few seemingly precious minutes from your daily schedule, but it pays huge dividends. How, you ask? Read on…
While not evident from the outside, research is a high stress, high pressure environment – publish or perish and all that. Sharing a morsel with your fellow soldiers in the trench builds the much needed camraderie that would help you to get through times thick and thin. Over time your lunch group will become your support group. Be it a particularly frustrating problem that you are working on, or the all-familiar existential crisis, it’s always helpful to have a vent. It comes as a great reassurance when you realise that your peers went through the same grind. Much cheaper than therapy.
There will be often be situations where you would be unwittingly committing a faux-pas, leading to conflict. Problem is, more often than not, you wouldn’t be knowing why! Good news is, you would not be the first person to do it. Your slightly more experienced peers would always have an anecdote to share and help you see the light of things.
A melting pot of ideas
Ideation can’t get any more lateral when you are breaking bread with a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, a programmer, and an experimentalist. Collective thought processes can lead to unusual solutions to particularly sticky problems. Actually one of my papers actually materialised fairly along similar lines.
An outsider’s perspective
A completely unbiased view is a gift, but not one that is sparse. An outsider’s perspective is extremely underrated; you would be amazed at the insightful questions your colleague from the psychology department might pose about your work on turbulence theory. Share your work with people who are currently completely oblivious to your line of work – it will invariably lead to questions you never thought even existed.
Return the favour
There will come a day when you will be sitting at the head of the table. Return the favour, and guide the greenhorns.
Never miss lunch again
A sound body is a pre-requisite for a sound mind. Delaying lunches, or skipping them altogether is extremely detrimental in this aspect. Have a lunch buddy who will drag you away from your desk. You will thank him/her later.
You get to sample your colleagues’ lunches! Come on now, that has to be a great plus!
Do you have a lunch group? What great idea did you hit upon over your lunch? Share your experiences below!