When I tell people at parties/events that I'm a PhD student and I work in a lab- I'm often met with a blank expression. Many people have no clue what that entails. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain :)
In general the hierarchy in a lab environment is as follows:
1. Professor/Principal investigator - aka the big boss
3. PhD students - perma-stressed people (like me) who basically live in the lab
4. Masters students
5. Undergraduate students
This is nicely summarised by the picture below!
Each PhD student works on a specific project (or as a part of a larger project), and researches it in depth. This involves coming up with hypotheses, designing experiments, doing experiments and analysing data. PhD students become an absolute expert on their field. This can be great- but also slightly life consuming (sleep is often lost worrying about failed experiments/lack of data)!
Being a PhD student is a weird limbo of working-student life. You are usually paid to do your research, in the form of a stipend (which is very low pay tax free). In general doing a PhD is a great experience- but I for sure can't wait to be done! I realised a while back I enjoy the conversations about science more than I actually enjoy doing it hands on in the lab. In science this is often a scary thing to admit but hopefully there will be many opportunities out there post PhD that will be suited to me!