Hello everyone and welcome back!
Last year I wrote how I managed to study and work in a lab simultaneously. Well… the truth is that I only managed for the first semester. Go on reading and find out why!
First semester is (kind of) doable
First semester of MTLS is at Karolinska Institutet (click here to see the courses outline at KI). In terms of work load, is more relaxed than the second semester, which takes place at Stockholm University. During the first semester, especially until November (which is when the big bulk of Frontiers in Translational Medicine lessons start), there is quite a lot of free time. And although there is work to do and the Genetics exam to study for, it was possible for me to find several hours almost every day to go to the lab. Then, in November, the schedule is tighter, but we were usually done with lectures around 3-4pm, so one could still have some time. However, when you work in research it is hard to schedule experiments starting in the late afternoon or evening, since, as you might know, they take some time, and you might end up leaving the lab at 8 or 9 pm, or even later.
So, if you work hard and organize your time well, you might manage to study and work in a lab at the same time during the first semester of MTLS. But always keep in mind there are assignments to write, presentations to prepare and exams to study!
Second semester was too time consuming (for me)
During the second semester I had to leave the lab, mainly because this is the time when we learned programming. As I had ZERO previous knowledge of programming, for me that semester was very hard and challenging. We spent countless hours in the computer room, typing and coding, aligning amino acid and DNA sequences, predicting and simulating protein structures, comparing with databases, etc. The first two courses are the ones I found more demanding:
- Bioinformatics (7,5 ECTS, January-February), because it was the first one and I felt kind of lost since I had never programmed before. We had some lectures and then all the afternoons/evenings we had computer lab.
- Project in Molecular life science (7 ECTS, February-March), since this course consists on creating a program to predict the secondary structure of proteins. You are supposed to do it by your own, with very little help from the assistants of the professor.
The other two courses (Comparative Genomics and Biophysical chemistry) are not as time consuming as the above mentioned, but still, they require also some coding as well as written assignments based on bioinformatics research (databases, data analysis softwares…).
This is naturally my impression of the courses. I also spoke to a classmate, Tianlin (you can check her KTH blog here!) and she kind of managed to work in a lab during the second semester, although, I cite her textually she “did not have any leisure time during that period”.
In short, don’t do it, but if you do…
So, to sum up, it is not impossible to study full time and work in a lab on the side (or another part time job), as you can see. However, as soon as you run into more difficult or time consuming courses, it will be very demanding and will probably take away any chance of leisure time. Forget about those boat trips to Helsinki or Riga, going for a coffee with friends on a regular Tuesday or maybe even celebrating Halloween in a very nerdy and paired way!
I don’t think that’s something most people can keep up for extended periods of time. In any case, I would not recommend it (we need to have fun as well!).
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