arrow6 Comments
  1. Carmen Drahl
    Jan 09 - 12:59 pm

    The urge to not waste time is a powerful one in grad school. Even when you’re working 12 hours a day, six days a week, you can sit around on Sunday worrying that you’re not accomplishing anything. Great post Glen. How do we get your message to stick??

  2. Glen Ernst
    Jan 09 - 3:21 pm

    I think any lasting change is going to be hard to implement, but hopefully the dialogue that CJ and VA are having this week is a start and will generate some discussion within research groups. Unfortunately, I think, in some circles, it is seen as a necessity to require long hours and a singular focus on productivity—they’re a rite of passage and part of the crucible that produces the top science minds.

    I think industry has gone further toward recognizing that work-life balance is important (or at least giving lip-service to it). Then again, an industry scientist is more likely to push back—they’re typically going to be older than a graduate student, and more likely to have a family that is at least equally demanding of their time.

    Thanks, Carmen!

  3. Chad
    Jan 09 - 8:35 pm

    Somewhere buried in my old data files is an excel chart where I recorded all 3000+ hours I worked in my last year of grad school, including two stretches of over 100 days where I worked at least five hours without a day off. I used this file as evidence when my PI blew up when I demanded a week off in the middle of that year – my first real vacation in five years. No, I do not miss grad school and certainly understand why it drove me to the limit of my sanity. Earning 3-4 times the money with 45-50 hour weeks and about 25 days off a year, in contrast? That’s a pretty good argument for your mental health.

  4. Glen Ernst
    Jan 11 - 9:50 am

    Chad – I’m sorry that you had to go to those lengths to justify your need for a break to your advisor, but that’s a shrewd tactic that others might want to duplicate. You could add a macro that flags when you need a break, if your brain hasn’t already been screaming it at you. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. Matt M
    Jan 16 - 8:21 pm

    Grad school in Computer Science really does a number on one’s feeling of accomplishment – in a field where there is no such thing as tangible results or bench work, being a grad student who is relegated to trying to work in any environment at any time, including everywhere from in class to in bed at home gets very tiring.

  6. Bryan Sanctuary
    Jul 24 - 9:34 am

    You think grad school is bad. Think about the pressure on faculty to produce cutting edge research and peer reviewed papers all the time. I recall grad school as stressful, and indeed failure was always present, but keeping up the research in addition to everything else means long hours and stress for a faculty member. In fact the most tranquil days of my academic career were the two years I spent as a post doc. All there was to do was research and by then, after grad school, getting stuck was part of the job.

    I guess almost all jobs are stressful, but we need to distinguish between good stress (gotta get up and get going) and negative stress (I will never solve this). We need the good stress.

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