Wednesday, 23 February 2011

On the worries of graduate students

"I worry about flying."

It was lunchtime, although we were a reduced crowd due to it being reading week at the University. No classes were held this week and, with Monday being a public holiday, many people had taken the opportunity to go away for a few days. The rest of us were looking ahead to our plans in the coming months. Graduate student Tara Parkin would be flying out to Hawaii to observe on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea in March. She is planning to observe several relatively nearby galaxies and trace the sites of cold gas where stars are forming. Depending on the weather, Tara is hoping to collect data not just for her own research, but also for projects being investigated by two other graduate students in her research group. Starting in Toronto, the flight to Hawaii will be a long one, taking a little over twelve hours.

"There's always the possibility of health risks," Tara elaborates. "Such as blood clots in your legs."

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), sometimes known as 'economy class syndrome' can occur on long haul flights due to the long periods of immobility that entails. While the risk is not high, DVT can lead to the development of a blood clot, so it is important on flights more than five hours to move a little around the cabin.

"I also worry about giving talks. Even if the people are friendly, it's sometimes worse to know you are talking to your peers!"

I had definitely felt this way before, as I mentioned in this post a few weeks ago.

"So," I clarified. "flying and giving talks are the main worries?"

"And velociraptors," interjected Max Schirm, a graduate student working with Christine Wilson. "They are not good either."


  1. Good point. I used to have long flights, yet have not known about DVT. Not sure if it is allowed to walk around so often, but instinctively, I try to stretch out and sometimes deliberately go to washroom, so often!

  2. As I understand it, that is totally fine as a preventative and it stops you getting stiff! I was also recommended to take an aspirin before the flight which acts as a blood thinner. Taking one won't harm you, even if it's not necessary.