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What does a PhD student's desk look like?

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3 mins
What does a PhD student's desk look like?

Frey Fyfe, a creature native to the coasts of East Devon, and previously misidentified as a Greater Horseshoe Bat, is here described as a subspecies of Vulcanoptera minor, the Lesser Spotted Volcanologist. While mostly active at night, the Frey can sometimes be seen emerging from their roost in time for mid-morning tea and coffee, and will spend most of the daytime flitting between their desk and sources of sugary snacks, which make up about 20% of their diet. The Frey is also occasionally spotted in laboratory environments, accompanied by the sounds of horror podcasts and of crushing bones pumice. This is where their distinctive call of “why is my resin not setting?” can also be heard. Over the last two years, keen-eyed spotters have determined that this call is to attract other volcanologists to the lab to help in getting chemical analyses of crystals, without which the Frey would not be ready for their winter hibernation. As the days start to get warmer, the Frey will unfurl their blankets and engage in behaviors such as tending to houseplants, baking bread, and chopping down trees in the Oxfordshire countryside. While the Frey usually only migrates between Oxford and London, one researcher in March 2016 reported an atypical migration to the volcanoes of Central Mexico, whereupon the Frey appeared to subsist on a diet of corn, meat, and crickets.

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  1. Books and folders full of papers and relevant lecture notes from my juvenile stage as an undergrad. Not pictured is a seed tray that I will use to grow various herbs when spring gets going.
  2. Lemsip, just in case. Also, a box of stroopwafels, the ultimate 3 pm tea-snack.
  3. A blank wall to stare at.
  4. Follow me on Twitter @frey_fyfe for occasional pictures of bees.
  5. The third floor plants. I think that’s a Begonia I can see through my little sunlit corner.
  6. My shelf of many things, including a “What on Earth?” wall-book, panda and alpaca plushies, a Mexican Molcajete (a pestle hewn from lava for making guacamole), skin cream, Lego geologists, a 3D-printed volcano, and some thin sections.
  7. Deer Mug no. 1 and a collection of fancy tea. Current favourite is cinnamon and rose.
  8. My coat, hiding a number of sins, including a box of miscellaneous rocks and a 2-year-old carton of apple juice that, at this point, I am too scared to open.
  9. A crumpled poster that’s been collecting dust and wrinkles for about a year.
  10. Deer Mug no. 2, two computer mice, a postcard, a plastic cup, three pence, and some rainbow highlighters for when you want to make a paper printout really pop.
  11. Notes from a Friday seminar and a paper.
  12. Under here is a mysterious collection of cardboard boxes, trash, and a couple of bags of samples that never made it to the lab.
  13. My Mexican mug full of stationery, a nice motivational postcard from a friend, a book on identifying minerals, and my sun lamp for blinding away the winter blues.
  14. Lab books, papers, and a copy of ‘Elements’ magazine that I nicked from the second floor. These cover a set of drawers containing, among other things, an old outreach t-shirt, a face mask, and a vial of indium metal.
  15. I think this is a lacrosse net? It’s not mine, I don’t do sports.
  16. A motivational volcano comic, a nice postcard from the undergrad who I supervised over the summer, and a 2017 Kliban cat calendar I haven’t yet replaced.

This story was published on August 9, 2018, on the blog Evidently Scientifical (available here) and has been republished here with permission.

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Published on: Jun 13, 2019


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