arrow22 Comments
  1. DrugMonkey
    Aug 29 - 5:23 PM

    face time in the lab is a stupid place to compete or judge science productivity

    • David Kroll
      Aug 29 - 9:45 PM

      I find that face time in the lab is also sometimes used by others for the logical fallacy of confirmation bias: one decides that a lab member is lazy and then looks for every opportunity to say, “Ah-ha, not in the lab again.” I’m amazed that such a practice is so common among scientists – but it’s a faulty conclusion based upon a poor experimental design.

      Just as runners talk about avoiding putting in “junk miles” while training, I think it’s silly to put in junk hours simply to be seen.

  2. Anne jefferson
    Aug 29 - 6:02 PM


  3. Scicurious
    Aug 29 - 6:23 PM

    Applause from here as well.

  4. fejes
    Aug 29 - 6:41 PM

    As a blogger & PhD candidate, I certainly hope my PI agrees with you… (=

  5. Jim
    Aug 29 - 7:09 PM

    Hats off to you; a fine philosophy ;-)

  6. Liberal Chemist
    Aug 29 - 9:33 PM

    I worked in Durham (UK)for a while and in my lab there were three other graduate students. One was active in a local drama society, the other cultivated carniverous plants and was a published author on the topic while the third visited ancient ruins and wrote spiritual reflections on the sites. Me? I just worked in the lab, published twice as many papers and walked straight into an endowed fellowship and then a faculty position. Life is short, try to draw straight lines between what you do and what you want.

    • David Kroll
      Aug 29 - 9:40 PM

      Agreed, Liberal Chemist. The point of your story is that the decision to carry on as you did was your choice, your preference. Interestingly, your blog – title and content – has lovely balance. I don’t know how I’ve missed it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. Leigh Krietsch Boerner
    Aug 30 - 9:08 AM

    I think that if more PI’s agreed with you, we’d have a less “leaky” pipeline. While exceptions like Liberal Chemist do exist, the majority of grad students probably get burned out working all the time, and subsequently walk away from the bench after defending, not wanting to or not able to continue with that type of work ethic. I know of multiple people that left after several years with only a masters because their advisers “beat the love of chemistry out of them,” as a friend of mine used to say. Sad. And screwed up. And needs to change.

    Although maybe, right now, it’s a blessing in disguise. There aren’t enough academic and industry jobs to absorb all the new chemists anyway. So maybe it’s good that not all of us are staying in the traditional science job trajectory? (Just kidding. Kind of. Ugh.)

  8. Carmen Drahl
    Aug 30 - 9:47 AM

    During grad school I gave up hip-hop dancing because there was simply no time in the day, or night. (Though I was probably a rare grad student with a 45 minute commute every morning. The traffic on Route 95 ate up significant chunks of time).

    I wonder whether folks think that those types of PI’s are steadily becoming a smaller fraction of the whole. Does younger necessarily mean more likely to adhere to David’s philosophy? I’m not so sure.

  9. RB Woodweird
    Aug 30 - 9:51 AM

    On the other hand, you could have a PI who, like mine, comes in Monday and screams at you for being out Sunday when he knows full well it was the day of your daughter’s baptism.

    The good news is that S. A. Scoggin’s tale of such shenanigans is now available for free download:

  10. Hosea Handoyo
    Aug 30 - 10:22 AM

    Dear David, I think the main important thing is the efficiency. I am labelled as the laziest person in the lab as I work from max 40-45 hours a week compared to other people – but those 40-45 hours are real work no coffee time complaining about the Boss or why the pipette does not work. I have to agree with Leigh that this work ethos beat the love of science out of me. I think there is also lack of appreciation in academia. Oh, I wish we have more people like you David!

  11. Professor in Training
    Aug 30 - 10:44 AM

    As a PI who spends her weekends climbing, hiking, biking or sleeping, I have no problem with my trainees having a life outside of the lab. Lab time is about being productive, not the number of hours you log each week.

  12. Amanda Yarnell
    Aug 30 - 1:20 PM

    During grad school I built Habitat for Humanity homes a couple Saturdays a month. There was pressure to give it up, but I ignored it, and I was better for it. Building something concrete and tangible helped me weather those inevitable times when research temporarily stagnates.

  13. Cynthia P.
    Aug 30 - 3:40 PM

    I totally agree with you. I wish there are more PIs like you.When I was in grad school I worked late during weekdays so I could have time for myself on weekends. You’re right it’s rejuvenating. Thanks for the article.

  14. antipodean
    Aug 30 - 8:27 PM

    The less time I’m at work the more work I get done. I NEVER go to work on the weekends.

  15. Idiotic PI
    Aug 31 - 4:34 PM

    As a PI, I find the discussion here silly on both sides. Why don’t we all acknowledge that different people have different work habits? Some people like being in their lab doing their work and others need frequent breaks. Some people are sprinters and other as distance runners. Legislating or managing a group exclusively one way or the other is idiotic and close-minded.

    Are all of the people on this blog the “victims” of evil PIs? If so, have you ever considered that you and your peers may have different work habits?

    • JJM
      Sep 02 - 5:41 AM

      I don’t understand your comment. The question was about what some PIs think about absence from the lab, and we haven’t heard any horror stories. However, we know PIs who are bad about it. Also, it has been noted that people have different work habits.

      You wrote “Legislating or managing a group exclusively one way or the other is idiotic and close-minded.” We know that, and we also know of PIs who do not.

      What, exactly, was “silly” and what was your point?

  16. Patrick Donson
    Aug 31 - 5:47 PM

    My PI is always angered to hear that somebody has an interest besides chemistry. everybody goes home at night and does what the choose…its seems that if you go home and watch tv thats ok but if you go home and pursue another passion of your life (ie playing a musical instrument) this is looked down upon…i just avoid telling him or anybody else in my lab about my life or interests, its pretty sad.

  17. partial agonist
    Sep 01 - 1:51 PM

    Back in the days when I was in graduate school, I found early on that every now and then I needed a break from the all-out focus on labwork that was the norm in top synthetic organic chemistry groups. I adopted the plan that I would always take Sundays off. Not for religious reasons, or for football-watching, but it just seemed to be a time when I could re-charge and go bike riding, play other sports, watch a movie, spend more than 15 minutes with my girlfriend (now my wife of 19 years), etc.

    I never got any grief for it, and the other days were very focused, probably moreso because of the break. My advisor never complained. He was not the ranting and raving type, though. I found that many big-named guys can often be outright loud, profane, rude, and insulting beyond what would be captured by the adjective “demanding”.

    Now as a PI, I never complain about anyone’s work hours unless they become truly bizarre. I just ask about results and if I ask often enough and get no replies, the message gets through that the experiment is pretty important.

  18. Karen James
    Sep 04 - 7:47 AM

    That partial agonist felt he had to explain, and make a special justification for, taking just one weekend day off per week, and then followed that up with a surprised ‘…and I never got any grief!’ then that just proves the point, doesn’t it?

  19. Robert B
    Sep 08 - 7:13 PM

    I never gave my PI a choice. I was in the lab when I was in the lab. I came in between 11 and noon, which looked bad to people who had little more function than busybodies. But I was the last person to leave the building most days as well. I got to meet with and discuss my work with the people I needed to and had complete and unobstructed access to all of the equipment in the building.

    Every couple of months, I’d get a talk about putting in face time, but it was always couched in the understanding that my PI knew I was being productive, but department politics were such that he had to put on a show or people would think that he was a bad boss.

    Would I have gotten done faster if I had been in the lab every minute that I was awake? Perhaps (if I didn’t quit), but I would also be divorced, and I would have run the lab’s operating budget into the deep and bloody red for the sheer need of supplies.

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