Lab elf

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the lab,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a post-grad…


I haven’t seen a soul in the department today. Over the past week, corridors have emptied and office doors have stood closed. The undergrads left last week and the rest of us have been dropping off like flies ever since.

And now it is Christmas Eve. An eerie hush has descended. Professors are at home, beginning preparations for tomorrow’s festivities. Post-grads and post-docs are traveling across the country or world to be with their loved ones. Technicians are breathing a sigh of relief as they look forward to twelve days free from the demands of academics.

Soon, an email will go round, announcing the closure of the department for 2015 and urging us all to be on our merry way. It will generate a hundred out-of-office replies: We’ve already gone.

Except for me. I am still here, and I will remain here for the majority of the next twelve days. Not because I have to. Not because I have vital experiments on the go or because my workload is so crushingly unmanageable that I must simply forgo Christmas. This is quite simply the best time of year to be in the lab.

Call me Scrooge, shout “Bah-Humbug”, question my character if you like. The fact is, what I love most about Christmas is the sheer peacefulness at work.

Imagine that you could begin each working day without a barrage of emails, demanding to be answered with the utmost urgency. Imagine colleagues didn’t immediately intercept you as you walked through the door, requesting your input on a multitude of tasks. Imagine looking at your Google Calendar and seeing an expanse of free space, without a single meeting scheduled! For me, this is the magic of Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong: I will see my family tomorrow. We will eat, drink and be merry. I will not do – or probably even think about – work. But one full day of complete gluttony is more than enough for me. Frankly, I find the rest of the festive period rather boring. One day, if/when I have kids, I will no doubt feel differently, and relish the chance to spend long days off work playing and laughing with them. But right now, I don’t have kids, and the long days off work feel, well, long.

So instead, I will come here to my desk at the end of the lab, and I will start each day by thinking “What shall I do today?” rather than “How the hell am I going get through all of this?” And since no one else will be around to interfere, I will do exactly what I want: Think, read and write about wonderful science.

Merry Christmas Everyone!


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