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A Day in the Life

Are you curious about what a typical day is like for an MD/PhD student? Check out the schedules of current students across different stages of training in our program!

Pre-clinical Student (MS1, MS2)

Jillian Belgrad's Day

9:00am: I attend lectures until 2:15pm. We are currently in the Head and Neck Unit of Development, Structure and Function (DSF), the anatomy course of first year.

The course starts and ends with a Rose Ceremony for the donors, allowing students to share their appreciation for this special learning opportunity. Every year, students also organize a Memorial Service for the donors’ families.

2:30pm: In the afternoon, I learn to perform a physical exam of the neurologic system with my anatomy groups from our Learning Communities mentor. The content of this course is structured to parallel each DSF unit to integrate medical knowledge with clinical skills.

5:00pm: I work out at the gym at the Albert Sherman Fitness Center.

The Albert Sherman Fitness Center is a 24/7 gym and is free for members of the UMass Chan community. They also offer a variety of group classes every day, ranging from yoga to high intensity interval training.

8:00pm: After a long day on campus, I like to wind down by watching the Bachelor at a friend’s house.

10:00pm: Before going to bed, I like to review what I have learned for the day and study a bit for upcoming exams!

Students can take advantage of services offered by the Center for Academic Achievement; they work with students one-on-one to find strategies that meet their personal educational goals, as well as providing tutoring.

Graduate Student (Biomedical Research)

Jordan Smith's Day

6:30am: I like to start the day with a little “me time,” and take my doggo, Nora, for a walk! Graduate school is a marathon, and I find I do my best work when I make time to take care of myself, and my family.

8:30am: My normal lab day is a mix of in vitro and in vivo work, and I typically split my day up by my experiments. Morning in vitro work, and in vivo work in the afternoon. I work in a collaborative lab environment, so a good proportion of my day is spent working with other MD/PhDs, graduate students, and post-docs on experimental procedures.

12:00pm: We almost always eat as a lab together, and this break in the day is a great moment for a breather, and a few laughs. Sometimes, I will also go home for a quick lunch, and to walk the doggo!

2:00pm: Several times a week we have afternoon seminars, lab meeting or journal club (it’s a great time to load a PCR or gel and head to a meeting!)

5:30pm: I like to end the day with reviewing and recording all the data generated from that day. I then use this to make my short-term plan for the next day, and to make any needed adjustments to my weekly/monthly plan! I then move to do a quick daily lit review for new papers to add to my reading list for the week.

7:00pm: I make it my goal to make it home to have dinner with my family, watch our favorite show of the moment, or catch drinks with friends.

I really try to protect my evenings, but alas sometimes there is reading of a paper or two, maybe an email answered, or presentation worked on 😊

10:30pm: I try to stick to the same bedtime every night (Sleep hygiene is SUPER important for a happy grad student!).

Update: Congratulations Dr. Jordan Smith on a successful thesis defense!

Graduate Student (Clinical Research)

Grace Masters' Day

8:30am: One of the perks of graduate school is the ability to start your day when you want, so I generally wake up around 8:30 (or later)! I usually don’t have to worry about travel time because I often work from home.

The Clinical and Population Health Research (CPHR) track provides training in health services, epidemiology, biostatistics and related disciplines. Therefore, research groups tend not to have traditional “lab spaces” and students often work remotely.

9:00am: If I have anything major that I need to edit and turn around quickly (e.g., an important manuscript), I try to do this first! Any scheduled meetings I have for the day typically start in the late morning and may continue (on and off) until the afternoon.

1:00pm: By early afternoon, I’ll have some lunch and plan my method of attack for the rest of the day. This is wildly variable, but includes things like preparing/analyzing data sets, designing/editing study materials, providing iterative feedback on ongoing projects, etc.

4:00pm: In the evening, I’ll take a break and go for a walk, head to the gym, or do something else for myself!

6:00pm: My partner returns from work around this time so we will generally catch up and play with our cats, prepare and eat dinner, watch TV, or see friends.

8:30pm: Strangely, I get a real second wind in the evening and find it’s often my most productive time of day. I use this time to write, spend it reading new publications to stay up-to-date on in my field or catch up on other things that I may have missed during the day (e.g., emails).

11:00pm: Finally, I like to wind my day down with…more reading! I love to read for pleasure too, so I will dive into whatever book I’m currently into until I fall asleep.

Clinical Student (MS3, MS4)

Tim Chang's Day

5:00am: I start my day early because I live further away. My wife and I decided that owning a house in the suburbs between Worcester and Boston best fit our professional and childcare needs.

6:30am: At this point, I’ve had my breakfast and (first) cup of coffee, pre-rounded on my patients, prepared my oral presentations, and I’m ready for morning report.

UMass helps their medical students develop their clinical skills and autonomy to take ownership of their patient panel. Morning reports often involve an interesting case and help expand clinical reasoning and learn about the most recent clinical trials, studies, and best practices in medicine.

12:00pm: Rounds are typically finished and I’m ready to grab lunch, start writing my notes, and putting in orders for the residents to approve. Throughout the clinical years, we are supervised and guided by amazing residents and attendings to ensure patient safety while training us to become physicians.

5:00pm: (Hopefully) things are winding down and I’m getting ready to head to the Albert Sherman Center gym.

The gym's a great place to catch up with your friends and sometimes even attendings!

7:00pm: Except for specific night rotations, I’m almost always home for my favorite part of the day: our son’s nightly routine of dinner, bathing, storytime, and bedtime!

8:30pm: Review UWorld Step 2 CK questions and other topics that have come up throughout the day. Finally, I’ll enjoy some time with my wife and occasionally sneak in some Netflix and/or computer games.

Update: Dr. Tim Chang has matched in Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. Congratulations!