Meta PHoDcast 20 episodes later – what is behind us and what lies ahead

Spring, the most horrifying season of all, is upon us. I can feel it creeping up on us – the sun casting its rays on the final deadline for turning in your thesis. Spring is the season when the (first) employment contract runs out for most junior researchers, the season when most of them fight for at least a couple of months of extra (unpaid) time to finish their thesis, the season when their existential crisis is combined with hysterical yelling at the computer, and the season when the revised version of the thesis mysteriously disappears. Spring is the season when they type up their discussion points from beneath a pile of articles, when they shudder at the ominous thought of anonymous reviewers who might turn down their paper. A season that is too short.

Let me share with you something that will be familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with those about to get their PhD: “I have no time, I can’t even think about it, leave me alone, I am just trying to survive to the end of April.”

If you harbour idealistic delusions about the carefree world of academia, you should wake up – it is a cruel world where the deadline has already passed, where the sheer scale of the project kills the humanity in you and where collaborating on three projects and two topics on top of everything else kills your last hopes that it will ever be over and done with.

And where absolutely no one (“Thanks for the invite, great idea, I support it” etc.) has time to do a Meta PhoDcast. I say this without a hint of sarcasm – I am merely illustrating the feeling known to many of my potential guests. I respect it, I understand them and I am in no way trying to be patronising towards their predicament. In my household, I have gone through the agony of never-ending corrections, bibliographical revisions and perpetually incomplete forms – twice. From having to encourage committee members to finally look at the thesis to printing the wrong date of my own oral defence on the invitation to colleagues. Some have it harder than others: there is also the subsection of female researchers coming back to work after maternity leave, slightly disoriented, with a restless look in their eyes and an even stronger fear that, between this and nappies and baby food, they will fail to complete their study on time. And there are the new fathers with dark circles under their eyes reaching down to their knees, who will discuss the difference between disc and V-breaks on strollers over lunch while also worrying they will be rejected by their journal of choice.

You should therefore expect slight deviations from our schedule of one episode per week. All the more kudos to those who played the part of carefree young scientists to perfection over the last ten episodes. We reflected on questionnaires and the mechanisms of short-term memory. We discussed materials promoting new bone growth, materials generating electricity from heat and those created in the heat of smelting furnaces. We talked about pills travelling through human intestines, routes of fish populations in the catchment areas of the Soča and Drava rivers , and the mysterious journey of the Holy Grail from Jerusalem to 13th-century French manuscripts. We looked at health through the prism of family medicine and Indian yoga, as well as cognitive sciences and Chinese martial arts.

Naturally, the road doesn’t end here: what lies ahead are legal conundrums, heavy metals in sandwiches, the genetics of single-celled fungi, human resources management, the aesthetics of Indian epic poetry and more. If you like our work, consider supporting us: tell us who you’d like to see interviewed, tell your friends about us and join us in celebrating the scientific work done by young Slovene researchers.


Author: LUKA AUSEC, holds a doctorate in biosciences and can fluently read DNA – and sometimes literature. Enthusiastic about bending the body and the mind in all directions – and sometimes inwards. Enjoys spreading inspiring ideas – sometimes as tweets.


Cover photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr.


Translated by: Urša Klinc.


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