I must be seriously into geochemistry because I spend some of my scarce vacation time every year helping a friend of mine with field work.
Of course, I have my reasons for doing this:
(1) She is an awesome friend. We are on the road for hours and spend most of the time talking, talking, talking. For me, road trips with people I love are a fantastic use of vacation time.
(2) I’m not really doing what I wanted to be doing when I started grad school. My friend, however, *is* doing what I wanted to be doing. This gives me a chance to see if I really like that field, i.e. decide whether I want to do a post-doc in something related.
(3) And her research is cool and her field sites are off the beaten track (think: 4-wheel drive necessary, at a minimum, sometimes hiking after roads give out) so I’m getting into places that most people never see.
(4) My own research is far more chemistry than geology and my friend’s research has a much larger geology component. She doesn’t have much geology training, so I do provide a valuable resource–as well as getting a crash course in field geology.
(5) I also help her with data analysis (the geology part)–maybe one afternoon a month plus many emails and help with writing abstracts for conferences/papers/you name it–so she’s putting my name on the paper. It’s not a first-author paper, but at least it’s *something*–my own first-author paper seems depressingly far in the future.
Dr. Hand-Waver has no problem with my doing this (she’s aware of what I’m doing) because she sees how much I pick up from my friend. Things like: how to prep for a trip to the field (which came in very handy when I was in charge of getting stuff together for our research cruise); how to do close-to-sterile work when you’re in the middle of nowhere; and how to organize a project you’ve come up with yourself (since my friend is self-funded).
Since I’m the most senior grad student in the group and we didn’t have a post-doc until recently, I’ve basically been using this friend as an unofficial mentor. And boy, do I ever appreciate what she does for me. A few vacation days are not too much to spend for what I get out of the relationship.