Grad Student Life Beyond Fieldwork: Part 3 (Our Offices and Study Spaces)

When one thinks of a student doing research in the Everglades, one would assume that the researcher is an outdoorsy type who could never thrive in an office or indoor work environment. Part 3 of this series, however, is about grad student offices, which is where some of us actually spend the majority of our time. If you haven't been keeping up with this series, you can learn more about the other aspects of grad student life in Part 1 and Part 2 of "Grad Student Life Beyond Fieldwork."

The picture above is my office, which I currently share with 3 other Earth and Environment grad students. Because I am working on writing my thesis proposal, I’ve recently been spending a lot of time here. You may notice that there are no windows because scientists apparently hate sunlight. You also may notice that the space was likely a lab before it was a grad student office. That means that at some point in the room’s past, the space may have contained heavy metals, carcinogens, radioisotopes or other fun things that tend to be in labs. I do appreciate having this office space, however, because I don’t have to compete with undergrads anywhere else on campus for study space.  To make it a more suitable place for grad students to live, we've gradually added a coffee maker, a microwave and pictures of the outside world.  I've also heard that my desk is nice to sleep on if you are working on your final thesis draft.

Although my office is often an ideal environment to get work done, I tend to get distracted when no one else is in there. Sometimes when another grad student walks into the room, I am caught creeping on a 3rd cousin’s boyfriend’s boss’s Facebook profile and reading a Wikipedia article about the country of Moldova instead of researching bacterial respiration. Recently to avoid distraction, I’ve been working on the 6th floor of the library. In the library, I feel like I am being watched and judged if not diligently researching, so I tend to stay focused here. I also get the opportunity to pick up physical real books about my work (research was conducted BEFORE the internet?!?). The upper floors of the library also have a great view of FIU's campus and the Miami skyline (on less cloudy days).

FCE Grad Students: Are you most productive in your office, or is there another space where you get work done (home, library, outdoors, etc.)? What do you do to stay focused on your work?

Other Readers: Do you have any tips to share on making your office a more productive environment?


  1. I'm at a nice cubicle inside my lab but my usual complaint is that it is freezing in here! Windows would also be nice. But I definitely agree it is much easier than competing with undergrads for study space. To stay focused, I think it is important to take regular breaks/walks outside.


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