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(Some Guy)   "Not only should you work 80-100 hours a week, you should WANT to. If you don't want to, then maybe research isn't the right career choice for you. If you have a family, maybe you can get by with only working 60 hours a week"   (astrobetter.com) divider line 123
    More: Scary, postdocs, graduate students  
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5032 clicks; posted to Geek » on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:15 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-10-11 07:57:41 AM
I wish this was satire, but I happen to know PhD students at this school where this was sent out.

And people wonder why we're having problems getting more scientists in the USA...
 
2012-10-11 08:11:39 AM

Andromeda: I wish this was satire, but I happen to know PhD students at this school where this was sent out.

And people wonder why we're having problems getting more scientists in the USA...


Scientists are the biggest problem in science in the US.

The culture fermented at some point. We went from the likes of Einstein and Feynman, with the playful approach that true science enjoys, to a bunch of semi-autonomous adding machines with a complete joylessness in the endeavor.

I spent my whole childhood preparing to go to college to study physics. Seriously. I even owned a 50's Geiger counter. I mean, where did I even get it? It was so old the only radiation sources it could still detect were well past the dangerous thresholds and straight on into "Call you wife." territory.


But then I met some working physics profs and they had a completely different attitude towards it all. It wasn't fun, it was deadly serious and more boring than watching dry pain remain unmoisturized.
 
2012-10-11 08:22:30 AM

doglover: But then I met some working physics profs and they had a completely different attitude towards it all. It wasn't fun, it was deadly serious and more boring than watching dry pain remain unmoisturized.


I agree. I'm actually an American who's doing her PhD in astronomy right now in Europe, part because I wanted the adventure of somewhere new but also in part because I did not think the current system as it's set up in the USA is healthy at all. I mean seriously, if I wanted to work 100 hours/week I'd at least go work on Wall Street and get paid a lot to do it.

But then, perhaps due to all this, I barely got into any US programs but got into several in Europe. I'm upfront with doing things like writing for pop astronomy magazines etc, and that's considered a liability because I might not be "focused" enough. I'm not saying I work less than 40 hours a week now, but if I worked even 60 hours a week on average my adviser would have a stern talking-to with me because he'd find it unhealthy.

/university building is also closed on Sundays
//my PhD friends in the US don't believe it
 
2012-10-11 08:45:15 AM

Andromeda: I wish this was satire, but I happen to know PhD students at this school where this was sent out.

And people wonder why we're having problems getting more scientists in the USA...


I think it was clumsily worded, but astronomers are dorks so what do you expect? Anyway, a smart person in America does need to love a subject in a weird sort of way to be a successful academic. That doesn't mean he has to work 100 hours a week; after all, he may be very smart, and not just smart. But he has to approach his puzzles with more zeal than a housewife trying to solve the Sunday crossword.
Besides, kicking grad students around is all in good fun. Our shortage of scientists, if it exists, is due to a failure at lower levels of education.
 
2012-10-11 09:07:16 AM
Well, the truth is, if you want to succeed in academia you do need to work your ass off. More and more people competing for the same chunk of funding. A 20% success rate for grants in many NSF divisions for science and engineering is common. So yeah, that part sucks ass. If you want to be competitive you have to publish your ass off.

It's reality. You want it to change? Good luck - I don't see NSF funding increasing significantly in the near future.

If you do decide to get a faculty position and manage to claw your way to tenure, then you can relax a bit.

People like Einstein (extremely gifted) are rare in the sciences. Keep in mind he had one fantastic year and spent the rest of his life chasing a goal he never reached - he'd probably not fare too well in today's top departments (get stuck with a lot of teaching, get raked over the coals during tenure review, etc.).

Thing is, part of what makes US such a powerhouse in the sciences is that people are so productive and wiling to work this hard. It's true that there is a lot of crap out there as well (and a growing number of journals happy to publish it) but the system has evolved in the way it has for a reason.
 
2012-10-11 09:23:01 AM
I don't get it. What's the problem? If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.
 
2012-10-11 09:41:06 AM

CreamFilling: If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.


I'm not a scientist but I find my work output starts decreasing significantly after the 9th hour or so. I can keep on going but what comes out is nowhere near as good as what came out earlier in the day. Part of this is that I'm older, I could easily work a 55-60 hour week when I was in my 20s and early 30s without a decrease in output. However, another part of it is that I've learned to work smarter as I've aged and acquired skills. I find that I just start losing the mental focus I need later in the day.
 
2012-10-11 10:03:58 AM

CreamFilling: I don't get it. What's the problem? If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.


Simple math: if you are told that you need to do 90 hours/week that would come out to 13 hours of work every day of the week. Does it not seem like a problem to you that people aren't even expected to have time to get groceries?
 
2012-10-11 10:16:39 AM

Andromeda: CreamFilling: I don't get it. What's the problem? If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.

Simple math: if you are told that you need to do 90 hours/week that would come out to 13 hours of work every day of the week. Does it not seem like a problem to you that people aren't even expected to have time to get groceries?


It's brutal, but the math on the other end is simple too: there are maybe 10,000 research astronomy graduate students in the whole world. There are maybe 250 - 1000 jobs for them. Most of those jobs are in positions that continually have to justify their existence to continue to receive the grant monies which they need to survive. Ergo, the only people who will be getting those jobs are the absolute top performers.

There's a reason so much of intellectual history is dominated by wealthy British and American eccentrics; they had the money and the obsession already, and didn't need to worry about this sort of thing. When you're competing with a legacy that includes such luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, Halley, Hubble, Kuiper, Seyfert, Wheeler, Dicke, etc etc, you have to bust your butt to shine. I'm not saying this email is conducive to a happy or healthy work environment - far from it - but it's still realistic. Do you think Newton took time off for laundry? Does Penrose pass his evenings watching American Idol?

Science is all about pushing limits, and if you're not prepared to push yourself when you're young and can handle, you'll never stand out from the crowd. They maybe could have phrased this better, but it's the truth nonetheless. And not just for research science - ask the young guys on Wall St. how much they work, or the young FSOs at State, or JO's in Afghanistan. You have to put in the time if you want to climb the ladder.
 
2012-10-11 10:27:39 AM

whistleridge: Andromeda: CreamFilling: I don't get it. What's the problem? If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.

Simple math: if you are told that you need to do 90 hours/week that would come out to 13 hours of work every day of the week. Does it not seem like a problem to you that people aren't even expected to have time to get groceries?

It's brutal, but the math on the other end is simple too: there are maybe 10,000 research astronomy graduate students in the whole world. There are maybe 250 - 1000 jobs for them. Most of those jobs are in positions that continually have to justify their existence to continue to receive the grant monies which they need to survive. Ergo, the only people who will be getting those jobs are the absolute top performers.

There's a reason so much of intellectual history is dominated by wealthy British and American eccentrics; they had the money and the obsession already, and didn't need to worry about this sort of thing. When you're competing with a legacy that includes such luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, Halley, Hubble, Kuiper, Seyfert, Wheeler, Dicke, etc etc, you have to bust your butt to shine. I'm not saying this email is conducive to a happy or healthy work environment - far from it - but it's still realistic. Do you think Newton took time off for laundry? Does Penrose pass his evenings watching American Idol?

Science is all about pushing limits, and if you're not prepared to push yourself when you're young and can handle, you'll never stand out from the crowd. They maybe could have phrased this better, but it's the truth nonetheless. And not just for research science - ask the young guys on Wall St. how much they work, or the young FSOs at State, or JO's in Afghanistan. You have to put in the time if you want to climb the ladder.


So I shouldn't buy groceries, there's no reason you might want a PhD except becoming a tenured research astronomer, and the fact that European systems where researchers do fewer hours for increased productivity over Americans should just be ignored. Got it.
 
2012-10-11 10:47:24 AM
I drew stars on my Poetry 101 Trapper Keeper and wrote a love poem to Mitzi Gaynor that referenced the moon, so I kind of feel like an astronomist.
 
2012-10-11 10:51:08 AM

whistleridge: Andromeda: CreamFilling: I don't get it. What's the problem? If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.

Simple math: if you are told that you need to do 90 hours/week that would come out to 13 hours of work every day of the week. Does it not seem like a problem to you that people aren't even expected to have time to get groceries?

It's brutal, but the math on the other end is simple too: there are maybe 10,000 research astronomy graduate students in the whole world. There are maybe 250 - 1000 jobs for them. Most of those jobs are in positions that continually have to justify their existence to continue to receive the grant monies which they need to survive. Ergo, the only people who will be getting those jobs are the absolute top performers.

There's a reason so much of intellectual history is dominated by wealthy British and American eccentrics; they had the money and the obsession already, and didn't need to worry about this sort of thing. When you're competing with a legacy that includes such luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, Halley, Hubble, Kuiper, Seyfert, Wheeler, Dicke, etc etc, you have to bust your butt to shine. I'm not saying this email is conducive to a happy or healthy work environment - far from it - but it's still realistic. Do you think Newton took time off for laundry? Does Penrose pass his evenings watching American Idol?

Science is all about pushing limits, and if you're not prepared to push yourself when you're young and can handle, you'll never stand out from the crowd. They maybe could have phrased this better, but it's the truth nonetheless. And not just for research science - ask the young guys on Wall St. how much they work, or the young FSOs at State, or JO's in Afghanistan. You have to put in the time if you want to climb the ladder.


Right, so we should go back to leaving science to gentlemen of independent means? A respectable hobby for the wealthy? Come on.
 
2012-10-11 10:54:05 AM
For my PhD, 60-80 hours/week were the norm and we were expected to work a full day 6 days a week. The problem was that it was largely unproductive time, sitting around for a reaction to complete, enzyme to do its job etc. Nowadays I do about 40 hours a week, set my own schedule and am just as productive, mainly due to better utilization of work hours.

Its important to remember that academia has become a vicious competition for research dollars as the numbers of faculty increase and federal grants dwindle. In order to obtain those dollars, faculty essentially need slave labor. Interestingly, grad students do not generally provide that labor, its the postdocs. They are hired under the guise that the work they will do will lead to their own faculty position but that is largely bullshiat. For every 20 postdocs that come through there is 1 faculty position available and most will have to find alternative positions.

In my position the scientists I have interacted with in industry are far more dynamic, both scientifically and socially, mainly because they have to.
 
2012-10-11 11:02:49 AM

whistleridge: When you're competing with a legacy that includes such luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, Halley, Hubble, Kuiper, Seyfert, Wheeler, Dicke, etc etc, you have to bust your butt to shine. I'm not saying this email is conducive to a happy or healthy work environment - far from it - but it's still realistic. Do you think Newton took time off for laundry?


No. Newton spent his free time, and there was a lot more of it than you'd think, getting plastered with the Freemasons and nailing hairy women of plump physique like everyone else his age in those days.


Science is great and all, but discoveries happen when discoveries happen. You can't rush what you don't know. A million experiments with expected results is mostly just wasted time. The million and oneth won't break any ground. So publishing it is just a bid for funding, of which there's not enough.

So really, it's sad this email gets published when really you ought to see an email like this.

"You should want to work 60-100 hours a week, but you shouldn't. RE-farkING-LAX. I'm shutting the lab down after 6pm for the rest of the semester. I advise you all to get laid more.

-Dr Cool"
 
2012-10-11 11:05:23 AM

Andromeda: So I shouldn't buy groceries, there's no ...


God Is My Co-Pirate: Right, so we should go back to leaving scien ...


No, not at all. But if you think that you're going to get one of a very, very scarce number of research astronomy positions without being A)very, very smart B) obsessed with astronomy and C) willing to put in insane hours to prove it, you're dreaming. "I'm kind of fond of astronomy, and I'd like to do it 40 hours a week when I'm not doing other things" just isn't going to cut it in that kind of field. And if you think it is, well...how cute for you.

I'm not defending the situation. I think it's tragic. But life is hard. That's why they call it 'life', and not 'never-ending happy fun time'. Not everyone gets to be Bill Nye or Carl Sagan when they grow up. And what they don't tell you about Nye and Sagan is, they put in the 100 hours a week when they were 23.
 
2012-10-11 11:12:52 AM
Most first year associates face that at larger law firms. Of course, it never really stops. I know attorneys who still put in six and seven day work weeks and log 80 to 100 hours of office time. If you want to excel at the highest levels of any profession, you have to be willing to do that. You aren't likely to separate yourself from the rest of the pack putting in no more than 40 hours per week, especially when a huge chunk of the pack is putting in far more than that.
 
2012-10-11 11:21:27 AM

whistleridge: Andromeda: So I shouldn't buy groceries, there's no ...

God Is My Co-Pirate: Right, so we should go back to leaving scien ...

No, not at all. But if you think that you're going to get one of a very, very scarce number of research astronomy positions without being A)very, very smart B) obsessed with astronomy and C) willing to put in insane hours to prove it, you're dreaming. "I'm kind of fond of astronomy, and I'd like to do it 40 hours a week when I'm not doing other things" just isn't going to cut it in that kind of field. And if you think it is, well...how cute for you.

I'm not defending the situation. I think it's tragic. But life is hard. That's why they call it 'life', and not 'never-ending happy fun time'. Not everyone gets to be Bill Nye or Carl Sagan when they grow up. And what they don't tell you about Nye and Sagan is, they put in the 100 hours a week when they were 23.


You might have missed the part where I am a PhD student in astronomy right now, so I know with familiarity that no one in my department works 100 hours a week (except maybe in the two weeks leading up to your thesis submission). We definitely all do more than 40 hours, but even my adviser who is head of the department will take off a month in summertime and I legally get in trouble if I don't take off 5 weeks of vacation.

Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.
 
2012-10-11 11:23:20 AM

Andromeda: Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.


B-b-but my MBA friend put in 200 hours a day 8 days a week!
 
2012-10-11 11:23:25 AM

Nabb1: Most first year associates face that at larger law firms. Of course, it never really stops. I know attorneys who still put in six and seven day work weeks and log 80 to 100 hours of office time. If you want to excel at the highest levels of any profession, you have to be willing to do that. You aren't likely to separate yourself from the rest of the pack putting in no more than 40 hours per week, especially when a huge chunk of the pack is putting in far more than that.


Exactly.

It's the same in all competitive professions: doctors in residency, musicians at major orchestras, interns in fashion design, research chemists, what have you. In fact, companies like Google that give the famous 20% time, and industries with mandatory down time (like truck driving and air traffic controllers) are the exception rather than the rule.

Of course not all of this time is productive, or even useful; as DrySocket noted, anything past about 60 hours is usually spent watching a program compile, or waiting for an experiment to finish, or what have you. But it's technically time spent in the lab, and definitely NOT time spent at home/playing disc golf/drinking beer/etc. No, you're not getting anything done, but you still need to at least appear to care. It's a bad culture, and one that could use changing, but currently that's the way of the world. And has been for many, many years.
 
2012-10-11 11:26:15 AM

whistleridge: Nabb1: Most first year associates face that at larger law firms. Of course, it never really stops. I know attorneys who still put in six and seven day work weeks and log 80 to 100 hours of office time. If you want to excel at the highest levels of any profession, you have to be willing to do that. You aren't likely to separate yourself from the rest of the pack putting in no more than 40 hours per week, especially when a huge chunk of the pack is putting in far more than that.

Exactly.

It's the same in all competitive professions: doctors in residency, musicians at major orchestras, interns in fashion design, research chemists, what have you. In fact, companies like Google that give the famous 20% time, and industries with mandatory down time (like truck driving and air traffic controllers) are the exception rather than the rule.

Of course not all of this time is productive, or even useful; as DrySocket noted, anything past about 60 hours is usually spent watching a program compile, or waiting for an experiment to finish, or what have you. But it's technically time spent in the lab, and definitely NOT time spent at home/playing disc golf/drinking beer/etc. No, you're not getting anything done, but you still need to at least appear to care. It's a bad culture, and one that could use changing, but currently that's the way of the world. And has been for many, many years.


And it's why Japan remained the number 2 economy in the world at its peak, as opposed to rising up to number one.
 
2012-10-11 11:27:24 AM

Andromeda: Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.


I tend to agree, but in Big Law, time = billable hours = $$$ = you live at the office and like it.
 
2012-10-11 11:28:38 AM
That sadly is not satire. This is also not just that field of science where it happens.
 
2012-10-11 11:29:46 AM
BTW, I work in a small firm, by choice, and have no desire to work Big Law hours, but if I were interviewing an associate who said they weren't willing to put in more than 40 hours per week, they aren't getting hired. Sometimes the nature of the beast requires us to put in some 60 and 70 hour weeks, particularly during trials. I won't demand it of someone on a regular basis, but sometimes the job will. If you want to punch a clock, I'll hire you as file clerk and pay you accordingly.
 
2012-10-11 11:42:52 AM

Andromeda: whistleridge: Andromeda: So I shouldn't buy groceries, there's no ...

God Is My Co-Pirate: Right, so we should go back to leaving scien ...

No, not at all. But if you think that you're going to get one of a very, very scarce number of research astronomy positions without being A)very, very smart B) obsessed with astronomy and C) willing to put in insane hours to prove it, you're dreaming. "I'm kind of fond of astronomy, and I'd like to do it 40 hours a week when I'm not doing other things" just isn't going to cut it in that kind of field. And if you think it is, well...how cute for you.

I'm not defending the situation. I think it's tragic. But life is hard. That's why they call it 'life', and not 'never-ending happy fun time'. Not everyone gets to be Bill Nye or Carl Sagan when they grow up. And what they don't tell you about Nye and Sagan is, they put in the 100 hours a week when they were 23.

You might have missed the part where I am a PhD student in astronomy right now, so I know with familiarity that no one in my department works 100 hours a week (except maybe in the two weeks leading up to your thesis submission). We definitely all do more than 40 hours, but even my adviser who is head of the department will take off a month in summertime and I legally get in trouble if I don't take off 5 weeks of vacation.

Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.


Yeah, and I work at a research funding agency, so I know the issue pretty well too. Of course, I get to work government hours.

It seems a huge shame that students are basically being told, "If you want to do this, you can't do anything else with your life. No family, no vacations, no house (you can't afford one on your salary and even if you could, you're skipping from one post-doc to another so you can't settle down). I still miss academia, but if I went back, I'd basically have to leave the husband and kids and head off to the library for years, for virtually no pay.
 
2012-10-11 11:53:54 AM

doglover: And it's why Japan remained the number 2 economy in the world at its peak, as opposed to rising up to number one.


No, that was due to demographics. A rapidly aging population that was 1/3 that of the US simply couldn't keep up forever. It's the same reason the future looks less than rosy for the US if China and India continue their current upwards progressions.
 
2012-10-11 11:58:43 AM

Andromeda: You might have missed the part where I am a PhD student in astronomy right now, so I know with familiarity that no one in my department works 100 hours a week (except maybe in the two weeks leading up to your thesis submission). We definitely all do more than 40 hours, but even my adviser who is head of the department will take off a month in summertime and I legally get in trouble if I don't take off 5 weeks of vacation.

Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.


That's (seriously) great for you. But my academic experience and that of my brother were the exact opposite. He was in a particle physics PhD program run by a couple of Nobel Laureates, and if he put in less than 80 a week (entirely of his own volition, of course), he got a stern talking to about not being dedicated enough. One girl in his program dared to fly all of 3 hours away for her sister's wedding and return the same day, and basically had to beg her committee not to quit on her for it.

I wish more departments were like yours, but they're not. Also, may I ask if you're in a top program or not? Usually the subjective experience is very different once you're not in a Top 5/10 school...
 
2012-10-11 12:04:34 PM

Andromeda: CreamFilling: I don't get it. What's the problem? If you don't have the passion and inquisitiveness to want to do what's necessary to stay afloat in the field it's good that they tell you that ahead of time. More fields should be that honest.

Simple math: if you are told that you need to do 90 hours/week that would come out to 13 hours of work every day of the week. Does it not seem like a problem to you that people aren't even expected to have time to get groceries?


What makes you think that's any different from a lot of doctors, people working multiple jobs, etc? If you don't like the hours, don't take the job. If you spend 78 hours a week buying groceries they're probably looking for someone more efficient anyway.
 
2012-10-11 12:09:54 PM
For 5 individual months out of the year I work anywhere between 60-85 hours a week (and with anything over 40 I get great OT)... the rest of the time 32 hrw.

In one of the slow periods right now, it's nice getting home just after 3:30 in the afternoon, sitting on the porch with the dog, a cigar and a beer :)

/assist. editor for a publishing house
 
2012-10-11 12:10:52 PM
As someone taking a break from writing NSF dissertation proposals all I can do is laugh dryly until my laughs turn into sobs. I'm in social science but it's no different over here. I definitely work up to 80 hours a week and it's exhausting mentally and physically and sh*tty for personal relationships. I'm just glad I had a different career and had fun in my 20s before deciding to do a PhD.
 
2012-10-11 12:14:33 PM

Nabb1: BTW, I work in a small firm, by choice, and have no desire to work Big Law hours, but if I were interviewing an associate who said they weren't willing to put in more than 40 hours per week, they aren't getting hired. Sometimes the nature of the beast requires us to put in some 60 and 70 hour weeks, particularly during trials. I won't demand it of someone on a regular basis, but sometimes the job will. If you want to punch a clock, I'll hire you as file clerk and pay you accordingly.


I think you're missing the point of Andromeda and others here. It's not about not being willing to work long hours. The problem is rather the opposite- that we are SO willing to work such long hours. We've conditioned ourselves in America to work long and hard and expect that as the default setting. It fits the whole Protestant Work Ethic narrative, but once you step out of this bubble and look at other cultural contexts, you realize there are other ways to form a stable society. It doesn't involve working that many hours a week and loving it.
 
2012-10-11 12:16:56 PM

CapeFearCadaver: For 5 individual months out of the year I work anywhere between 60-85 hours a week (and with anything over 40 I get great OT)... the rest of the time 32 hrw.

In one of the slow periods right now, it's nice getting home just after 3:30 in the afternoon, sitting on the porch with the dog, a cigar and a beer :)

/assist. editor for a publishing house


Are you in Wilmington, by any chance? If so, I may have to email a question to you...
 
2012-10-11 12:16:58 PM
Since when did working the back of the house of a restaurant count as "research"?

/I've always averaged 60-80+ hrs/wk
//not always counting recipe and menu development
 
2012-10-11 12:17:44 PM
Nice guy? We don't give a fark. Good father? Fark you, go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here, RESEARCH!
 
2012-10-11 12:23:20 PM

coco ebert: Nabb1: BTW, I work in a small firm, by choice, and have no desire to work Big Law hours, but if I were interviewing an associate who said they weren't willing to put in more than 40 hours per week, they aren't getting hired. Sometimes the nature of the beast requires us to put in some 60 and 70 hour weeks, particularly during trials. I won't demand it of someone on a regular basis, but sometimes the job will. If you want to punch a clock, I'll hire you as file clerk and pay you accordingly.

I think you're missing the point of Andromeda and others here. It's not about not being willing to work long hours. The problem is rather the opposite- that we are SO willing to work such long hours. We've conditioned ourselves in America to work long and hard and expect that as the default setting. It fits the whole Protestant Work Ethic narrative, but once you step out of this bubble and look at other cultural contexts, you realize there are other ways to form a stable society. It doesn't involve working that many hours a week and loving it.


Btw, I just re-read that and realized it sounded really patronizing. My apologies.
 
2012-10-11 12:25:51 PM

doglover: But then I met some working physics profs and they had a completely different attitude towards it all. It wasn't fun, it was deadly serious and more boring than watching dry pain remain unmoisturized.


You obviously went to the wrong parties, specially the ones that didn't invent the infinite probability generator.
 
2012-10-11 12:36:22 PM
Basically?

The people who can't or don't want to work that much are whining about the people who can and will. They're whining because the people who can and will are, as should be expected, out competing them.

People are not complicated no matter how smart they are. If you ever played an MMO you've seen this. The people who can't or don't want to spend stupid amounts of time playing the game will regard those who can with disdain.

MMO or high levels of academic research. People who have the ability to spend more time doing it will accomplish more and everyone who hasn't accomplished as much as you is "beneath" you while anyone who has accomplished more "has no life".
 
2012-10-11 12:43:01 PM

whistleridge: Are you in Wilmington, by any chance? If so, I may have to email a question to you...


Uhhh, actually, according to your profile we're in the same city...

/farking weird
 
2012-10-11 12:47:36 PM

whistleridge: Andromeda: You might have missed the part where I am a PhD student in astronomy right now, so I know with familiarity that no one in my department works 100 hours a week (except maybe in the two weeks leading up to your thesis submission). We definitely all do more than 40 hours, but even my adviser who is head of the department will take off a month in summertime and I legally get in trouble if I don't take off 5 weeks of vacation.

Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.

That's (seriously) great for you. But my academic experience and that of my brother were the exact opposite. He was in a particle physics PhD program run by a couple of Nobel Laureates, and if he put in less than 80 a week (entirely of his own volition, of course), he got a stern talking to about not being dedicated enough. One girl in his program dared to fly all of 3 hours away for her sister's wedding and return the same day, and basically had to beg her committee not to quit on her for it.

I wish more departments were like yours, but they're not. Also, may I ask if you're in a top program or not? Usually the subjective experience is very different once you're not in a Top 5/10 school...


I'm at University of Amsterdam so I guess the answer is no because Europe is outside the ranking system. Even my collaborators at Oxbridge definitely do not work that much a day and what you suggest with that girl would be illegal (but then over here I count as an employee not as a student as a PhD and we've unionized- damn socialists!). If you go by postdoc fellowships though, the Netherlands is by far the highest per graduated student in the world on this- read best at getting their PhDs academic jobs.

A lot of it has to do with American culture which as someone else said here is highly filled with Protestant influences where people think lots of work is a virtue. This culture just plain doesn't exist over here, and the fact that people appear to be just as successful should say something.

/ typed at 7pm while still in the office
 
2012-10-11 12:51:06 PM

Andromeda: I wish this was satire, but I happen to know PhD students at this school where this was sent out.

And people wonder why we're having problems getting more scientists in the USA...


Well, since our floundering, underfunded education system is only turning out half as many, those that we have must work twice as much. It's corporate science!
 
2012-10-11 12:52:05 PM

Andromeda: whistleridge: Andromeda: So I shouldn't buy groceries, there's no ...

God Is My Co-Pirate: Right, so we should go back to leaving scien ...

No, not at all. But if you think that you're going to get one of a very, very scarce number of research astronomy positions without being A)very, very smart B) obsessed with astronomy and C) willing to put in insane hours to prove it, you're dreaming. "I'm kind of fond of astronomy, and I'd like to do it 40 hours a week when I'm not doing other things" just isn't going to cut it in that kind of field. And if you think it is, well...how cute for you.

I'm not defending the situation. I think it's tragic. But life is hard. That's why they call it 'life', and not 'never-ending happy fun time'. Not everyone gets to be Bill Nye or Carl Sagan when they grow up. And what they don't tell you about Nye and Sagan is, they put in the 100 hours a week when they were 23.

You might have missed the part where I am a PhD student in astronomy right now, so I know with familiarity that no one in my department works 100 hours a week (except maybe in the two weeks leading up to your thesis submission). We definitely all do more than 40 hours, but even my adviser who is head of the department will take off a month in summertime and I legally get in trouble if I don't take off 5 weeks of vacation.

Quality and productivity matter, not how many hours you put into it. 100 hour weeks do not automatically translate into twice as many publications or moments of brilliance- in fact usually it means less, as our brains are not designed to work and think like that for long stretches unless you want to encounter burnout.


Europe has a significantly different standard on work though. America is 'here is artificial deadline I will beat it' whereas everyone I've worked with from Europe was 'Sorry Dave's on vacation till Tuesday. We don't really care that he has the critical info for your project, we will handle it when he gets back'.
 
2012-10-11 12:53:03 PM

doglover: The culture fermented at some point. We went from the likes of Einstein and Feynman, with the playful approach that true science enjoys, to a bunch of semi-autonomous adding machines with a complete joylessness in the endeavor.

I spent my whole childhood preparing to go to college to study physics. Seriously. I even owned a 50's Geiger counter. I mean, where did I even get it? It was so old the only radiation sources it could still detect were well past the dangerous thresholds and straight on into "Call you wife." territory.


Ah, really? That's a shame. The department where I am seems to have a fairly fun attitude. It may be that I'm also in an emerging field, more or less (YAY NANOPHYSICS), or that I've always held the firm belief that a good scientist MUST have an active inner five-year old. A capacity for wonder is *crucial* to being a scientist.

/Of course, I also suppose it helps that my ultimate life/dream goal (that will probably not happen,b ut who knows, I should start aiming for it!) is "Be the next Bill Nye."
//Failing that, a nobel prize would be cool.
 
2012-10-11 12:54:45 PM
Castration is probably the best solution to graduate students having families and subsequently spending less than 100 hours a week in the lab. Students who do not submit to a mandatory sterilization procedure obviously lack dedication to science.
 
2012-10-11 12:56:28 PM

Andromeda: I'm at University of Amsterdam so I guess the answer is no because Europe is outside the ranking system. Even my collaborators at Oxbridge definitely do not work that much a day and what you suggest with that girl would be illegal (but then over here I count as an employee not as a student as a PhD and we've unionized- damn socialists!). If you go by postdoc fellowships though, the Netherlands is by far the highest per graduated student in the world on this- read best at getting their PhDs academic jobs.

A lot of i ...


Comparing the Netherlands (population: 16 million, highly homogenous) to the US (population: 300,000,000, highly heterogenous) is comparing apples and fish. And when it comes to a working environment, well...your idea of a tough week is our idea of a light week. And I'm not saying that to brag.

There are pretty much zero legal protections here. You work long long hours, you get very little pay, no vacation, and if you don't like it there are always 15 other potential students willing to take your fellowship. It's indentured servitude, plain and simple.
 
2012-10-11 12:58:07 PM

Felgraf: /Of course, I also suppose it helps that my ultimate life/dream goal (that will probably not happen,b ut who knows, I should start aiming for it!) is "Be the next Bill Nye."
//Failing that, a nobel prize would be cool.


My goal is to be the next Carl Sagan. See you on PBS if Romney doesn't cut it! *high fives*
 
2012-10-11 12:58:46 PM
Sounds like three jobs that I have had in the past.

First was a retail job where the District Manager had a meeting with our store complaining about the number of employees who said 'No' to being asked to work on their day off. He said "If you have the day off, be expected to get called in to work. If you are scheduled to open, be expected to be asked to close, and if you're scheduled to close be asked to come in early and open. And when I say 'asked' think of it more as a friendly way of saying 'required'." I wasn't there much longer. I was called in to work on my day off, I said "No, I have a job interview." and suddenly found myself without a job.

Another company was a small business where the owner had a contract to get the job done or lose money, he under hired us and worked us 13 days straight, 10 plus hours a day over the winter and in summer he said that we could expect longer hours. This was construction working on roof tops (no shade) installing/repairing/upgrading the a/c and heating units. So as soon as the building had air conditioning, our job was done and we were moving on.

And finally was an MLM that I worked for. I won't say what the name of the company is. Started out just part time, then the person who ran that office told us that we weren't going to make any real money until we quite our jobs and went full time there. She also said that we weren't free in a real job, but working at this company we were free to make our own schedules. So I did. Then she told us that we were kidding ourselves if we weren't coming into the office at 7am and not leaving until after 10pm. Not quite free. Then there were other things like the annual required trip to Colorado (from Texas) that we had to pay for out of our own pocket, the local events that were $20/person to attend and required to go to. And if there was a company event or convention, anywhere in the country, we were expected to attended. Now that wasn't just my direct boss who said that, but that came from the people who ran the company. In the end I was facing the possibility of divorce from a wife who didn't like the company or the people who ran it and hated that in a 24 hour day I was basically spending 18 working. Not counting the required conference call once at week, and the required meetings one day a week from 5pm until 9-ish followed by the (not required officially, but unofficially required) group dinner that followed (ass chewing followed if you didn't attend the dinner, family was never an acceptable answer, same with "I've got to get up early in the morning.", because in their view, the only place you had to go in the morning was to the office and if they had no problems staying late, neither did you). If there was a company party that weekend, we weren't asked to attend, we were required to attend (they said Family came before the company, but when my family had a party the same night as a company party, I was humiliated in front of everyone for picking my family's party over the company party. That's when I realized it wasn't the truth, it was a slogan or a motto). And if the powers that be in the office decided on a big event that week, like a Super Saturday or Maniac Monday or Wild Wednesday, I was expected to be there for the entire event, no excuse. Had a friend die on meeting day and was told "He's dead, missing the meeting won't change that." my friends and family needing me, who cares??? Glad I'm out. Had I stayed then today would be meeting day, tomorrow would be an extra special meeting and this weekend would be the $20/person local meeting event. (low point was wife and I took a trip on our anniversary. As we traveled on that trip I got a text message about a special conference call that night. So I made the conference call, thinking it might be twenty minutes. It was 2 hours. My boss spoke for twenty minutes telling us that she was going to speak longer than she was allowed because we weren't corporate people, and there was nothing more important to do on a Friday night than to make this call, and not being corporate people, we weren't bound by clocks, so who cared how long the call lasted? My wife, on the other hand, cared as she wanted to continue our vacation. Then on Monday I had to justify my trip to her (freedom??? You said we have it here, but you aren't proving it) since an anniversary trip didn't seem to matter to her and then prove to her that I did in fact, make that conference call. Mother farker.

/end rant.
 
2012-10-11 01:01:17 PM
Speaking as a student who's fighting to finish her PhD in engineering, it wasn't the long hours that were expected - it was the productivity.

But I think the larger issue is that these folks are saying 'you are a physicist, which means that you're not a wife, mother, or generally well-rounded person. Your life is your research.' That's fine if you choose it, but it's not healthy and shouldn't be expected of anyone.
 
2012-10-11 01:03:05 PM

whistleridge: Andromeda: I'm at University of Amsterdam so I guess the answer is no because Europe is outside the ranking system. Even my collaborators at Oxbridge definitely do not work that much a day and what you suggest with that girl would be illegal (but then over here I count as an employee not as a student as a PhD and we've unionized- damn socialists!). If you go by postdoc fellowships though, the Netherlands is by far the highest per graduated student in the world on this- read best at getting their PhDs academic jobs.

A lot of i ...

Comparing the Netherlands (population: 16 million, highly homogenous) to the US (population: 300,000,000, highly heterogenous) is comparing apples and fish. And when it comes to a working environment, well...your idea of a tough week is our idea of a light week. And I'm not saying that to brag.

There are pretty much zero legal protections here. You work long long hours, you get very little pay, no vacation, and if you don't like it there are always 15 other potential students willing to take your fellowship. It's indentured servitude, plain and simple.


... which is why as an American I left with my M.S. from there and came here for my PhD. It was just not going to work for me because I am far too interested in my public outreach activities (and plan on making that my bread and butter, not research) and travel. In deference to the Netherlands though, it curiously has the highest number of astronomers per capita and about 50% of them do their Boobiesdoctoral position in the USA. Personally from what I've seen as someone who has experienced both, I think the strangest thing about the American system is the idea that it must be the best way to do things because that's what they do, even though it's obviously not the case.

/there are of course things I don't like about the Dutch system in turn, but that's a topic for another thread
 
2012-10-11 01:06:20 PM
I wish this was a joke. I've actually been told, after commenting on setting up a benefits system for postdocs, that "Real scientists don't care about money." Or hours. Or a family. Or job security. Or benefits.

If you do manage to jump through all the hoops, try not to notice that the tenure track position you were hoping for is not only occupied, but there is a line of staff scientists already waiting to fill it.

You should also ignore the fact that funding rates are at about 5% for RO1s, meaning even excellent (not good, excellent) scientists are being dropped.

Oh and you should probably keep your mouth shut, since they can replace you with an H1B in a farking heartbeat, and they'll usually work until they lose consciousness, if asked to.

And you should probably not think too much about the cries of "We need moar young people in science!", because you might realize they've been saying that for twenty years, and it has nothing to do with staffing the higher levels of science, or having the best science in the world, but nothing more than keeping labor costs as low as possible.

/PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology
//Fighting as hard as I can to get away from the bench
///Wish I had become an accountant
 
2012-10-11 01:07:13 PM
FTFA Not only should you work 80-100 hours a week, you should WANT to. If you don't want to, then maybe research isn't the right career choice for you. If you have a family, maybe you can get by with only working 60 hours a week.

Absolutely. If you are in a top-tier research program. Those the facts & if you don't want that, don't do it.

Luckily I have found the stipend paid is small enough to discourage leisure time, so you pretty much want to stay in lab.

/not joking
//postdoc, chemist at top tier institute
 
2012-10-11 01:08:25 PM

Andromeda: Felgraf: /Of course, I also suppose it helps that my ultimate life/dream goal (that will probably not happen,b ut who knows, I should start aiming for it!) is "Be the next Bill Nye."
//Failing that, a nobel prize would be cool.

My goal is to be the next Carl Sagan. See you on PBS if Romney doesn't cut it! *high fives*


That would be awesome! I gotta get off my butt and start making some youtube videos, though.

/Yeah, they're a dime a dozen, but it's probably a good way to get started.
 
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