5 Types of STEM Grad Students

I spent 6 years in grad school. Along the way, I met some pretty interesting characters. Going through a list of them in my head, I realized a lot of them are likely to be found on other campuses. I thought it’d be fun to make a list and see if any grad students relate. I hope you find this list relatable in some way!

Here are 5 types of people you’ll likely meet in grad school:

1. The one that goes home every weekend

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They’re local. Their family lives just an hour drive away. They seem to have local friends from childhood and appear to keep in touch with them regularly. They always have those friends to hang out with, and know all the best local spots.

They don’t work weekends much, and always have a place to go when holidays allow time out of the lab. The address they have set for important mail appears to be their parents’ place.

2. The rockstar labrat

Nature paper in their third year? Par for the course. They’ll also obviously squeeze another one out before they defend. It’s all part of their master plan! This grad student spends almost all their waking hours in the lab. They love coffee, never seem to eat real meals, and are always making science puns or referencing their research. Their life seems to revolve around labwork and experiments; weekends, holidays, and “days off” don’t seem to exist for them.

3. The partier

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Somehow, this person is able to go to house parties, clubs, music festivals, and local concerts multiple times a month and still have time for their labwork. Their schedule is a bit more packed than yours, and they seem to be thriving.

Whenever you run into them in the research building or parking lot, they look flawless, as if they’re going from one event to the next and stopping by for an experimental time point in between. They seem to be doing just fine in their research as well, enthusiastically participating in conferences and presenting at symposia, traveling wherever the conferences take them, always dressed to the nines. How do they have so much energy?

4. The mystery

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That person you never see, except in absolutely required departmental meetings. Even then, they slip out of the conference room as soon as the meeting is over.

You haven’t talked to them in any capacity aside from one greeting at the beginning of the academic year, 2 years ago. All you know about them is their name and you’re only kind of sure you know who their advisor is. They don’t show up to optional events like seminars, lunches, and happy hours. You cross paths with them in the halls or on campus, and they tend to keep to themselves, at most giving you a nod of acknowledgement. They are an enigma.

This person is your department rep, program ambassador, and is part of the graduate student council. They love letting you know what’s going on on campus, usually related to unions, protests, and elections. They go out of their way to do things for the students in the program, like send out newsletters, make merch, plan dinners and happy hours, and are the go-to person for guests or interviewers to hit up with questions.

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