Another Day in BioArCh: A Photo Diary

My Day of Archaeology started fairly early as I had a lot I wanted to get done before the weekend. As ever, nothing went to plan, but it was still a productive day and I got a big job ticked off my to-do list, which I think is always a nice way (if a rare way) to end the week. My name is Keri Rowsell, and I’m currently in the first year of my PhD at the University of York, based in BioArCh.

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I arrived on campus at 8:30 this morning and was surprised to find I was the first one in, which meant a quick juggle of my bags, keys and keycard. I used to live in Sheffield and commute to York and back every day when I was working as a technician, which meant I was usually last in and first out, as I made up part of my hours working on the train. I moved about eight months ago and the 30-minute walk to SBlock still feels amazingly quick!

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The first thing I do when I arrive at work every day is drop my bags at my desk and turn my computer on. Then, while the computer’s sorting itself out I go and make my first cup of tea of the day.

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When I worked as a technician my desk was always tidy. That seemed to go out of the window within about two weeks of being a PhD student. Now, my desk is always covered in books, piles of articles (read, half-read, unread; I try to keep them vaguely separate), my lab notebooks, my working notebooks, my coffee cup, tea mug, water bottle, endless post-it notes, and knick-knack gifts from friends.

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Once I’ve made tea, I check my emails. I usually check them over breakfast and respond to anything important then, so by the time I get to work there’s normally only a couple more to look at. After this, I have a quick scan of Twitter, and then double-check my calendar for the day.

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Emails and Twitter dealt with, I opened up a data analysis spreadsheet that I’ve been working on since Wednesday. My aim was to get this finished by lunchtime, then head into the lab this afternoon to weigh out three batches of samples to start working on on Monday. As you’ll see, things didn’t quite work out that way.…

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A break from the spreadsheet to have cake and celebrate a colleague’s birthday. Back to the spreadsheet around 11.30.

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It had become apparent by this point that the spreadsheet was not getting finished any time soon, so I stopped for lunch. Feta salad in the tea room with most of SBlock (it’s pretty quiet here this week so we can all fit in the room at the same time).

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At this point, I accepted that I probably wouldn’t get into the lab today and my aim changed to just getting the spreadsheet finished by the end of the day.

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A quick break from the spreadsheet to make another cup of tea.

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As I’d thought, I didn’t manage to prepare any lab work for Monday, but the spreadsheet did get finished.

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As I didn’t make it into the lab, I picked out a few things that I was planning to read on Monday morning, to take home with me and read over the weekend. This will free up some time on Monday to get caught-up with processing my samples.

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Last task for the day: make a list in my lab book of all the things I need to do on Monday.

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End of the day. In some ways I’m disappointed that I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to, but then I’m happy that the spreadsheet is finally finished, and I have the plan with my reading to help me get caught up.


One of the things I find most interesting about doing my PhD is the variety: some days are spent reading (and attempting to write) either in the office or the library, some in the lab carrying out various biomolecular analyses, and others on osteoarchaeology. I also volunteer with the York Archaeological Trust, just to make sure I still get my hands dirty occasionally. As no two days ever seem to be quite the same, I’ll be interested to see what I end up doing on next year’s Day of Archaeology!

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