The Perfect Workspace

What exactly is the perfect work space? For me, the answer is “many.”


Since I’m not assigned to a cubicle for my PhD work I have some flexibility as to when and how I get my work done. It’s like that really worn out joke about getting a STEM PhD, “The hours are great! You can work any 60 hours a week that you want!” Thankfully, not all 60 have to be in the laboratory, so I have cobbled together a few different spaces to use depending on my priorities and the task at hand. Here are my top three work spaces for getting things done:

The Laboratory: The land of pipettes, cells, and data analysis. All of my real research is done here and it’s where I spend the bulk of my working toward my PhD in Microbiology.

  • Pros: All of the tools I need for experiments (in vitro and in vivo) and data analysis. Plus, check out the view of Denver and the Front Range from my window!


  • Cons: It’s an open-format lab which means that there are no walls between the lab bays, just shelves full of supplies. Some people love this, but for me the extra noise and bustle of people can make it very difficult to focus and much harder to be productive.


The Library: When I need to get a large chunk of writing done this is my go-to spot. I love my lab bay, but with it being open format it is all too easy to get distracted by a coworkers’ conversation. Even minor sounds  like the main door opening are a distraction for me, so I started working at the library once I recognized that I need silence to really write. I already know that a large portion of writing my dissertation will take place in the quite room on the 2nd floor, I’ve even picked my spot out.

  • Pros: Silence! It’s not unusual for me to just sit in the quite room for about 5 minutes before starting in on my projects just to enjoy how quiet it is compared to my lab bay.
  •  Cons: After a few hours, the quiet room begins to feel a little like solitary confinement, so long stretches here are usually punctuated with coffee runs in order to get some human interaction (and much needed caffeine).


The Bathtub:  Wait, what? Really?

Yes, you’re read that correctly. I have been known to consider the bathtub a “work space” when I have a large chunk of reading to do. Because really, no one ever said you have to be dry to read scientific journal articles.

  • Pros: Bubble bath and wine! Suddenly a hefty reading list is something to look forward to!
  • Cons: Not exactly computer friendly, so I can only take hand-written notes. If something has to be followed up on the computer I’ll just make a note and get to it once I’m dry again.

While these may not be everyone’s ideal work spaces, these different locations work really well for me. I’ve stayed on track for obtaining my PhD in a reasonable amount of time and have gotten to enjoy my working conditions in the process. Especially if a bubble bath is involved.

Do you have any unusual or unexpected work spaces that are perfect for you? Share your experience in the comments section below.

[Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Nathaniel Zumbach, used under Creative Commons license]


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