Postgraduate Study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary Futures Await

Is Doing A PhD Lonely?

In this blog post, we address the popular myth that PhD students work all day and night without time for a proper social life. In fact, PhD life brings a wide variety of opportunities to make new friends and connections.

Of course there will be times when a PhD feels 'lonely' for even the most enthusiastic PhD student. But many people thinking about PhD study assume that there will be little opportunity to meet other people and make time for socialising. 

Check out the list below to understand why this is simply a myth...

1. Lab or research group

Your lab or research group is generally made up of like-minded individuals working on similar projects. While you may be in different stages of your PhD, this won't stop you from getting to know one another while doing science in the same lab or workspace. 

Depending on your lab and how well everyone gets on together, it's not unlikely that there will be social events you can organise with other group members. Some programmes also offer away days and induction events to welcome new PhD students and help them connect with older students and postdocs. 

PhD students in the lab

Furthermore, if you're part of a specific funding cohort, then it's likely that you'll be invited to events designed solely for you and other funded PhD students in that cohort. 

Doctoral College

At the University of Edinburgh, we also have a Doctoral College, which provides a a coordinating structure for all postgraduate researchers, supervisors and relevant staff at the university. The College provides support to postgraduate students and aims to enhance research experience at the University. 

Doctoral College website


2. Supervisor(s)

The relationship between student and supervisor is first and foremost a professional one - your supervisor's primary responsibility is to help you develop your research and support you through the completion of your PhD journey.

However, depending on your supervisor's way of working, they may highlight extra-curricular talks and events that they think you'll be interested in. Supervisors may also put you in touch with fellow students or post docs who are working in similar areas of research. 


3. Postgraduate and Subject-related societies

The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine hosts many different postgraduate and subject-specific societies. Society events are a great way to meet like-minded people working in a similar field to you. 

We have the Biomedical Postgraduate Society, as well as the Little France Postgrads for students based in our Little France campus. For students working at the Roslin Institute, there is also an Easter Bush Postgraduate group. Find out more using the link below!

Introducing Our Postgraduate Societies

Women playing hockey at Peffermill sports centre


4. Extra-curricular societies and teams

Of course, there are also hundreds of different societies, clubs and sports teams you can join across the entire University of Edinburgh.

Whether you're interested in filmmaking or want to try your hand at playing chess, there's something for everyone!

Joining a team or society that isn't related to your PhD research can be a great way to forget about your thesis, let off steam and broaden your horizons. 

University of Edinburgh Clubs and Societies


5. Lectures and talks

Our College boasts a strong research community, meaning that we host plenty of different talks, lectures and panel events every single week during term time. 

As well as increasing your knowledge of a particular area, these events often host question and answer sessions or post-event drinks and nibbles. In other words, they provide another opportunity to network and meet like-minded researchers!

Free academic lectures can provide a welcome distraction from your studies, with the added bonus that you'll still be learning and will have the opportunity to connect with other people, especially if there are post-event activities planned. 


6. Induction events

Your programme, School or Deanery (and often all three!) will ensure that you receive a warm welcome to the University. Usually this is done through an induction event, which provides an opportunity to ask questions about matriculation and any other queries you might have about course-related admin. 

Again, you'll be introduced to your tutors and programme directors for the first time and will have a chance to get chatting to the people next to you in between talks. 


7. Graduate societies

Opportunities to build contacts and meet new people don't end once you graduate. The University encourages all of its alumni to join Platform One, an online community specifically designed for graduates to stay in touch with one another. 

Platform One

Depending on your programme or funding cohort, there may also be opportunities to join graduate or alumni networks. You can also visit the University's Alumni Services below to find out more about networking once you've reached the end of your PhD. 

Alumni Services


8. The city of Edinburgh

Last but not least, Edinburgh itself is a fantastic way to meet new people. Scotland's capital city offers a rich hub of cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as internationally-renowned cultural institutions and artistic societies. Not to mention the many amazing historical attractions 

Don't be afraid to spend time exploring the city during your studies! 

City of Edinburgh


Video: What it's like to do a PhD
CMVM PhD students discuss their experience of studying for a PhD.



Related Links

PhD Programmes

PhD Studentships

Postgraduate Life