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Learn what people really do at work

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Postdoctoral Researcher – Phonetics

I’m a postdoctoral researcher in phonetics.


One thing I love about research is that there’s a lot of different stuff to work on, so if one thing gets tedious, you can move on to something else. At various times I:


  • listen to speech data and label it
  • stare out a window as I try to figure out why a given piece of data looks like it does
  • write scripts to extract information about the data/labels
  • put on peppy music in headphones and scroll through 3000-line Excel spreadsheets looking for measurement errors which must then be corrected
  • do statistical analyses on all of the numbers
  • realize the statistical method I used was wrong and head to the internet with questions until I can figure out what I actually need
  • sit in a lab reading a novel while people participate in my experiment in another room (this is the best, it makes me feel like a Real Scientist ™ and I always wish I had a white lab coat)
  • read ALL OF THE ARTICLES, or as many as I can bear to put in my literature reviews
  • have long, rambling discussions with my mentor about how it all fits together
  • write papers reporting my results
  • try not to get too depressed when reading the reviews sent back with my papers
  • edit said papers and resubmit them
  • invite people out to the pub when a paper is finally accepted
  • attend conferences and drink wine at the conference reception while thinking, “Someone is paying me to do this!!!”
  • alternative activity: faff on Facebook or MeFi when everything seems too daunting


I’m lucky in that I don’t have to teach, so my time is 100% research. I set my own schedule (woohoo!) but this can mean anything from 12-hour days if I’m working to a conference deadline, to unusual-but-pleasant circumstances like yesterday when I got on a roll, wrote a huge chunk of a paper I’m working on, and went home after 3 hours to eat chocolate in celebration.

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