By Giovanna Pasquariello ǀ

After four months of serious research, dozens of hours of field observation and hundreds of notes, I can finally announce to the world the results of my most ambitious anthropological study: the five types of PhD student you can meet at your department.

Recognizing the characterizing features and collecting them in a few categories has not been easy, but I tried my best – for the sake of scientific progress. I can also guarantee that no PhD student has been mistreated for the purposes of this research.

But no more idle talk – let’s explore the doctoral jungle!

The top model

We are not talking about physical aspect, but basically they are the Naomi Campbell of your PhD programme. Undoubtedly brilliant in their own field, metaphorically fashion – you can easily individuate them as a category because they are the talk of the town, even if you have never met them! A little bit scary, sometimes – an aura of drama surrounds them.

The PR manager

It’s very easy to recognize them: they are the typical social butterflies. They organize all the events, they know everyone, they participate in every activity – and also get to involve you! They are the masters of public relationships and even manage to study for their PhD. Really, I don’t know whether to admire them or to feel intimidated. Maybe both.

The missionary

They are the best people you can meet – always kind, always keen to help you. They were your mental coach during the first weeks of your PhD, and not only yours! They invite you at several events, they share with you information about the applications, they worry about you if they have not seen you for a long time. Nothing asked in return – but, come on, let’s not be mean and do our best to reciprocate!

The Stakhanovist

Yes, they are the first to sit at their desk and the last ones to go back home. Their lunch breaks are shorter than yours and they never go to the toilet. They don’t look up from their book or computer for hours – you know they are in the room because you hear them ticking on the keyboard. In my opinion, they are the proof that aliens exist.

And in conclusion…

The hermit

I know that getting too involved in your topic for study isn’t very professional, but I think that they are my favourite category. They are in some way exotic and mysterious, and their life challenges the limits of your imagination. Basically you only meet them once or twice throughout the year – and always in very formal occasions. You know that they exist and somehow you also know about their academic progresses, but the fact is that you will never know where they are – presumably in a cave or in a Tibetan monastery.


Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash


Giovanna Pasquariello is Contributions editor for “Pubs and Publications: the PhD experience”. She’s a first year at the University of Edinburgh, studying something old, very old: Greek inscriptions about the Celtic tribes who settled in Anatolia in 3rd BC. Apart from this, she swears she is a fun person.