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Faculty To Grad Students: Go Work 80-Hour Weeks! 454

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-stop-doing-that-annoying-sleep-thing dept.
New submitter Ian Paul Freeley writes "Controversy has erupted after a departmental email from faculty to astrophysics graduate students was leaked. Key tips for success in grad school include: 'However, if you informally canvass the faculty (those people for whose jobs you came here to train), most will tell you that they worked 80-100 hours/week in graduate school. No one told us to work those hours, but we enjoyed what we were doing enough to want to do so...If you find yourself thinking about astronomy and wanting to work on your research most of your waking hours, then academic research may in fact be the best career choice for you.' Reactions from astronomy blogs has ranged from disappointment to concern for the mental health of the students. It also seems that such a culture, coupled with the poor job prospects for academics, is continuing to drive talent away from the field. This has been recognized as a problem for over 15 years in the astronomy community, but little seems to have changed. Any tips for those of us looking to instigate culture change and promote healthy work-life balance?"
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Faculty To Grad Students: Go Work 80-Hour Weeks!

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  • truth sucks (Score:2, Funny)

    by alphatel (1450715) *
    Astronomy students don't want reality checks, Romney doesn't want healthcare, and muslims get mad when you draw cartoons of Allah.
    What's next, children don't want Santa?
    • Re:truth sucks (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#41673611)
      I think you mean cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. He was the dude who passed along stuff he heard from the Archangel Gabriel, who was Allah's PR guy.
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        You say that like it makes the angst/violence any more acceptable.

        It would still be just as unacceptable if he was merely his father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.

    • Re:truth sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitallife (805599) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:34PM (#41674409)

      The point is that if working 80-100 hours a week is the norm for those students, then many of them are going to suffer and be un healthy, and we as a society should not simply accept, condone or encourage that. I mean do the math: 100 hours of work in one week means 14.5 hours a day, every day. That's INSANE. Considering the average person needs 9 hours of sleep per night to stay healthy, that leaves them the choice of either not sleeping enough, or having 30 minutes of time away from work per day. No prob, it's just enough time for a shit and shower! You can eat while you work.

      If there's a joke here, it's that anyone thinks its ok for this to be a reality check.

  • strike (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Don't pay your tuition, organize, demand change, (kids at my university went on hunger strikes). Not advocating this but sometimes that's the only way the Regents actually notice this bs.
  • Med School (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:36PM (#41673599) Homepage Journal

    This reminds me of the push 10 years ago to reduce the hours inflicted on med school students and residents.

    Hasn't seemed to have made a huge difference in their workload, though.

    • Re:Med School (Score:5, Insightful)

      by readin (838620) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:50PM (#41673811)
      An important difference is that the reason for wanting to reduce the medical resident workload wasn't concern for the residents, it was concern for the patients. Who wants to be treated by a resident who hasn't slept in 48 hours?
    • by couchslug (175151)

      FWIW USAF aircraft maintainers are generally restricted from working over twelve hour shifts because decision-making and quality of maintenance deteriorates with longer shifts. As an experienced maintainer I agree. One incorrectly installed bolt and you can lose an aircraft, crew, and much more.

      Working longers shifts than that at any demanding task is usually stupid. I'll assume it's a macho holdover from Stupid Traditions Past, but if you are manned for 24/7 shifts then give orders to schedule your people

  • by Antipater (2053064) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:37PM (#41673605)
    This sounds shockingly similar to the (possibly still-ongoing, I'm not sure) controversy over 36-hour shifts for doctors. The only real justification is "We did it when we were young, so today's young'uns should do it too! Never mind what the data says!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This sounds shockingly similar to the (possibly still-ongoing, I'm not sure) controversy over 36-hour shifts for doctors. The only real justification is "We did it when we were young, so today's young'uns should do it too! Never mind what the data says!"

      Fortunately, black holes can't sue for malpractice.

    • by readin (838620) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:52PM (#41673829)
      The difference is that the concern about doctor shifts wasn't concern for the doctor's work-life balance, it was concern for the safety of patients being treated by doctors who hadn't slept recently.
  • Grad School (Score:5, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#41673609)
    It's not just a job; it's an indenture.
  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#41673621)

    I thought they were all already mentally ill to begin with.

  • i hear the stock market is like modelling the galaxy

    • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:53PM (#41673841)
      Hell no. I was in this exact position when I graduated with my Physics degree. I had a job offered to me to work at Goldman Sachs with a starting salary of $150k+signing bonus. It took a lot of soul searching, but I ultimately turned it down to pursue a Ph.D., where I get $20k a year and work the 60-80 hours quoted above, nights, weekends, and holidays (guess where I was 4th of July and Christmas Eve). But even after all that, For $130k more I couldn't buy the time I spend doing what I love each and every day. Sure I could buy boats and cars and a house, but I don't think any of that would make me truly happy as I am pursuing my passion that will one day (I hope) make a difference (as opposed to managing rich people's and corporation's money and helping them to make even more money. Oh how fun and rewarding.)
      • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:00PM (#41673923)

        Not a binary decision. Work the $150K job for 6 years or until downsized, bank the whole thing, go back to academia for your $20K/yr 80 hr/wk job, withdraw money from the bank account to hire a clone of yourself willing to work for $20K/yr at only 40 hours, then give him half your workload and both of you coast along at 40 hrs? At zero interest rate, 150 * 6 / 20 is still 45 years...

        • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:14PM (#41674085)
          I know you're half joking, but working for a number of years and returning to do a graduate degree was one option I considered. However, I came to the conclusion that it would be easier to do the phd first and go into a wall street job later than the reverse. My thought was, after 5-7 years on wall street Id be nearing 30 with perhaps a different set of priorities... Maybe a wife, maybe kids... I could never afford the time i can devote to my research now. And to be sure, a phd is not something you can do more efficiently by parallelizing the task (much like a baby didn't grow faster if more women are involved).
      • by JWW (79176)

        Pardon me, but what the hell in Astrophysics is so important that you have to work holidays!!!

        Its not like the stars are going to disappear, or the laws of physics are going to change overnight if you don't get it done now.

        • My field is not astrophysics, but I do know telescope time is hard to come by, so you get what you get. However generally, and in my case, if a conference deadline is coming up, especially the biggest conference of the year, you work around the clock to make ge submission. If you miss it, you'll be in a less preferred venue or wait a whole year to publish, which is a big deal for academics.
      • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:15PM (#41674103) Journal

        I hate to break it to you, but the eventual application of your research (if any) will primarily help rich people make even more money.

  • by na1led (1030470) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:39PM (#41673633)
    Most of us with degrees and skills usually put in more than 40 hours a week in our work. We do it because we enjoy the work, the pay is good, and our employers give us time off when we want it. Besides, it doesn't mean your stuck behind a desk for 10-12 hours a day. Many of us take our work on the go, or do some of it from home.
    • by operagost (62405) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:42PM (#41673683) Homepage Journal

      We do it because we enjoy the work, the pay is good, and our employers give us time off when we want it.

      One out of three ain't bad.

    • by kevkingofthesea (2668309) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:00PM (#41673917)

      "More than 40" is not the same as "80." I've hit 60 hours in a week before, but at 80 I doubt I'd be any more productive.

      • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:16PM (#41674129)
        Exactly.

        The letter-to-students suggests that 80-hours should be the regular work-week, that works out to:
        16/hours a day 5 days per week, or
        13/hours a day 6 days per week, or
        11/hours a day 7 days per week.

        Assuming 7 hours of sleep, three 0.5 hour lunch diversions, 1 hour for commuting, and 0.5 hours/day for bathroom breaks, this leaves the person with about 2.5 hours/day for everything else: running errands, doing laundry, exploring hobbies, relaxing, etc. This is not a fun way to live, and it's also not a sustainable way to live/work: trying to work that hard inevitably results in people being burnt-out, constantly tired, and not very productive. This is especially true in highly-skilled jobs, where the quality of your work comes down to how alert your mind is, and how creative you are... both of which require rest, relaxation, and time spent on diversions.

        The 80-hour week is also a lie. That's not how much the professors worked when they were in grad school. No doubt they worked 80-hour weeks on occasion, and those may have even been productive weeks. But there's no way they sustained that kind of work for the entirety of grad school. When I was in grad school we all routinely worked long hours (more than 40 hours/week), and occasionally crazy hours (80 hour/weeks not at all unheard of). But students who tried (e.g. because of pressure from their supervisor) to sustain crazy 70+ hour weeks burned out incredibly quickly.

        The letter was trying to encourage the students to work hard and be passionate, which are indeed crucial for grad school. But by setting an arbitrary and frankly ridiculous rule like "80 hours/week" undermines this message.
      • A typical work week for me, an English professor, is 50-60 hours, mostly grading papers. That's during the period August-May. In June and July I typically run an honest 30 hours a week. Every three years or so I take a month off in the summer to visit relatives. My monthly income is $3000, after medical and all that is taken out. I should deduct from that about $400 a month for student loan repayment, and I should be making about the same amount in retirement contributions, but I can't afford it. Anyway, th
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:02PM (#41673949) Homepage Journal

      40 is a far cry from 80 though.

      however.. astrophysicists? .. do they really get "more" done by working 80 hours vs 20 ? do their data analyze programs run more hours if they're at the desk more hours? is there more data available to them if they work 80 hours - will they come up with any better theories this way? do they get more hours assigned to them at their observatories?

      is there ANY benefit form them working more hours except it'll look better as in more worked hours per budget dollar on the institutions yearly report, that's the question.

      besides than that it's bullshit if they got told to work those hours or not - they most certainly were, not just on an official piece of paper because it sounds so fucked up.

      • by Crispy Critters (226798) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:39PM (#41674469)
        Dead on with your question "do they really get more done?"

        What I have seen in graduate students is lots of inability to concentrate and make good decisions on top of exhaustion and insomnia. I have seen months spent going down the wrong track because of an inability to think clearly. I have seen late nights spent fixing things that were messed up due to tiredness. I have seen students who can't get anything done in the lab because they hate grad school and can't enjoy doing anything else because they feel that they should be in the lab.

        Want proof? Look at how many graduate theses start with a 100-page literature review, covering material which is well known and not particularly important to the real research. The appropriate material would be 15 pages and lots of references. That review represents many months of wasted energy and probably lots of 80 hour weeks accomplishing nothing of value.

    • by xaxa (988988)

      Most of us with degrees and skills usually put in more than 40 hours a week in our work. We do it because we enjoy the work, the pay is good, and our employers give us time off when we want it. Besides, it doesn't mean your stuck behind a desk for 10-12 hours a day. Many of us take our work on the go, or do some of it from home.

      But why? I have all the above, except I never need to work on the go, and I work 37½ hours a week. I get 30 days paid leave a year, paid sick leave, etc.

      If you really meant only 40 hours then that's fine, but the article is about working double that amount.

  • I guess most people just don't like to hear that some of us enjoy our careers enough that it is one of our primary hobbies. I easily spend 60-80 hours working on some software development related task (even if it is just reading a book), and I don't consider myself overworked.

    • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:46PM (#41673739)
      Bosses love to hear it. Employees like you are easier to exploit. More work for less pay. Employees like you also make it easier to pressure other employees into similar behavior.
      • by ranton (36917)

        Who said anything about lower pay? When I was hired it was because of the knowledge and capabilities that I have because of the effort I put in. I would be a good developer if I never studied or worked on personal projects outside of work, but I wouldn't be as good. And based on discussions I have had with friends in the field about their pay, I am well paid for the extra skillsets I bring to the table.

        Employees should get paid less than me if all they do in their free time is go boating. They are less

        • Who said anything about lower pay? When I was hired it was because of the knowledge and capabilities that I have because of the effort I put in. I would be a good developer if I never studied or worked on personal projects outside of work, but I wouldn't be as good. And based on discussions I have had with friends in the field about their pay, I am well paid for the extra skillsets I bring to the table.

          Aah, there's the miscommunication - you apparently work somewhere cool.

          FTR, most employers I've encountered out there don't give 2 shits about your knowledge and capabilities, all they want is another drone who will earn them money while accepting shit for compensation, working far more hours than what they're really being paid for ('salaried' apparently == slave), and who won't stand up for themselves when said employer decides to put a little more boot pressure on their throats.

          Employees should get paid less than me if all they do in their free time is go boating. They are less valuable (unless their natural skill is great enough that it trumps my extra work).

          The irony, of course, is

        • I'm glad you asked, as this is an important point. Let's say you are hired at a great rate of pay (I'll just use 100k for this example). That's your pay when you work 40 hours. If you are working 80 hours without overtime, you are effectively cutting your rate in half. You are going from around 50/hr (50 * 40 hours * 50 weeks (2 weeks off unpaid) not considering benefits) to 25/hr. That's what I mean by lower pay. When you work unpaid overtime, you are giving yourself a paycut. Not to say this isn't a worth
        • by Applekid (993327)

          Who said anything about lower pay? When I was hired it was because of the knowledge and capabilities that I have because of the effort I put in. I would be a good developer if I never studied or worked on personal projects outside of work, but I wouldn't be as good. And based on discussions I have had with friends in the field about their pay, I am well paid for the extra skillsets I bring to the table.

          Employees should get paid less than me if all they do in their free time is go boating. They are less valuable (unless their natural skill is great enough that it trumps my extra work).

          That doing extra outside of business hours works for you is great, but what makes you think someone who doesn't is less valuable, and that if they're as valuable then it represents natural skill?

          There's a lot that can be learned from pretty much everything, hobby-level or not. I don't believe that efforts not directly related to one's work are useless.

          For example, I like to play Magic: the Gathering. Done it for years. While not certified, people in general like playing around me because I'm very good at th

    • This. I've been working on my Ph.D. for about 4 years now and spend at least 60 hours working per week in the Lab. When I'm not in the lab, I'm doing the same thing I would be doing in the lab but on personal projects. I only get paid about $20k a year (below minimum wage if you work out the per-hour wage), but I'm happier than I think I'd be if I had taken a job on wall street that was offered to me out of undergrad, for $150k a year. Plus I just got back from an all expenses paid vacation to a conference
    • In my present employment I can and do work over 80 hours a week and I'm happy as a clam, since it isn't 80 hours of corporate bullshit, it's 80 hours of engineering. The problem is not what I want or what the boss wants, it's what my family wants. When I was a college kid I could have logged those hours if I enjoyed it w/o a problem. But now, even though I actually have no problem with doing what I'm assigned to do, for as long as it takes to do it, I simply must not.

      No one should be in a position where any

    • I think the problem has to do with this being applied too broadly to expect that everyone should work 80 hours a week. Working 60-80 hour work weeks is becoming expected. Managers get it in their heads that anyone unhappy about working 80 hours a week for terrible pay is not "committed" or "a team player". Suddenly everyone feels the pressure to stick around the office until 8pm, even if they're just looking at Facebook, because the first person to leave the office is viewed as "lazy".

      And you know what?

    • by JWW (79176)

      Ummm, I don't count the time I work on my DVR at home as "work" even though its technically in the same field I work in.

    • by fermion (181285)
      There is a push to give kids a more balanced life. In high school they are not to have homework because it interferes with their free time to volunteer, play sports, have sex. There was a time when a full time student might be expected to spend at least 60 hours studying and many of us would spend 15-20 hours working. In graduate school, many are paid to do work, so they have their classes, studying, studying for qualifications or writing thesis, as well do any whatever they are to do for their professor
  • It's true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by adenied (120700) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:39PM (#41673641)

    My wife is finishing grad school with a PhD and getting the hell out of Dodge. She's already found a job related to science/academia in her field that pays more and has better benefits than anything she could expect as a post-doc or assistant professor. It's a stable job where she can see clear career advancement over the coming years. This as opposed to an academic career where she wouldn't have much say in what part of the country she ended up and would have to work like crazy (publish or perish is so true) in an attempt to maybe get tenure 15+ years down the road.

    Not to mention that more than a few of her advisers and colleagues have been having serious funding issues. She's in a field where lots of funding comes from the NIH and they're cutting back like crazy. It's not a very good climate right now.

    • Amen. I am at this moment engaged in a possible move from academia into contracting for the military. Pretty much the same work, but the pay is about double. Go military!
  • Supply and Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:41PM (#41673667)
    "It also seems that such a culture, coupled with the poor job prospects for academics, is continuing to drive talent away from the field."

    Good. That's what is supposed to happen. The truth is we don't have a need for a large number of astronomers. If we did then there would be more job prospects. Since we don't have the need, it's good that talent is being driven to other fields where there is greater need. Those who love astronomy so much that they can't work anywhere else and are willing to put in the long hours - those people can still work in astronomy. Those less committed can go make themselves more useful elsewhere. Supply and demand is not just a good idea, it's the law.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:20PM (#41674197) Journal

      How do you define a "need" for astronomers? This research is completely subsidized by the government. We could do ten times as much, we could do none at all. It's completely our choice. The laws of supply and demand don't work out normally when demand is arbitrarily determined by congress.

      I suppose you'd say that the free market should fund astronomical research. Well good luck making that happen.

    • by OG (15008) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:56PM (#41674657)
      The problem is that the graduate academic system doesn't necessarily choose for the best astronomers. The most dedicated? Sure. Those willing to sacrifice family lives, the ability to start saving for retirement, and a peace of mind that they have a future in that profession? Yeah. But that doesn't mean the smartest or most talented. It means the smartest and most talented of the subset of people willing to lead such an existence. The idea that the system has to be as masochistic as it is, with people now doing post-docs well into their 30's, having no real financial stability through all of that, and being expected to make huge sacrifices in personal relationships, all for a magical goal of tenure that well over half of those people will never achieve, is flawed. The rigid system of academic levels is flawed. Advancement and reward should be based on research done, quality of publications, and recommendations, period. The stress put on students for quals and dissertations is a huge waste. It's an out-dated hazing ritual. It's a source of cheap labor. And it kills the love that many people, some of them brilliant people, have for science. I agree that there are always going to be a limited number of positions for astronomers, or for scientists in general. But I damn well don't agree that the current system is the best, most efficient system. I think it loses a lot of great talent, I think that the establishment is not recognizing that it's becoming more and more stressful, and I think it's a real shame that we're stuck in a system that was developed a long time ago for a very different world, just because it's always been that way.
  • When your lab is often only open from midnight to 6AM, you might find yourself saying "screw it" and just staying at the office overnight. The solution to this isn't to tell the grad students to get used to it; it's to encourage them to keep better track of their hours, and if they've hit 40+ by Thursday night, go ahead and take a three day weekend. They've done their time for the school at that point.
  • This is not limited to Astrophysics. I know a lot of students (both, grad and PhD) that work basically 'round the clock, from fields as diverse as bio-chemistry, materials science and computer science. I'm hesitant to call this even call this a problem. What few realize at the beginning of their academic career is that science is actually a lot like sports: it is constant competition. It's all about who can discover/prove/engineer the next milestone first. There is no such thing in science as a runner-up. T

    • Every paper is a stunning breakthrough? Every paper is the one that gets your name in the history books? I don't think so, I recall grads doing a lot of bullshit papers for completely non-technical reasons (quotas, resume count, etc.). Drugs are not the only commodity in which addiction is bad for you, and in which you develop a broken frame of mind in order to get the next fix.

      • by gentryx (759438) *

        Can't find the word "every" in my post. Obviously there is a lot of BS out there. But brilliant stuff, too. Stuff that revolutionizes our lives.

        I'm not saying that the system by itself is good. I'm just saying that it drives people into enslaving themselves in pursuit of degrees, career, and yes, their place in history. Even though the latter are few. Approx. as few as there are, say... olympic gold medal winners? Would you call top athletes mental, too?

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What few realize at the beginning of their academic career is that science is actually a lot like sports: it is constant competition. It's all about who can discover/prove/engineer the next milestone first. There is no such thing in science as a runner-up. Those who come in second, are the first to be scooped. Period.

      This is the major problem with modern science. It encourages corner cutting, result hyping, and the file drawer problem.

      • by gentryx (759438) *
        Do you know the second guy to prove that a^2+b^2=c^2 in a right triangle? Or the second physicist to postulate that E=mc^2? Who was the second to reach the north pole? Right: their names are written in Wikipedia, the first ones are engraved in our brains. It's got nothing to do with modern science: it's always been that way.
    • by supercrisp (936036) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:35PM (#41674419)
      Oh that's a complete crock. My father-in-law ran a research lab for one of the world's largest electronics companies. He supervised people who won international awards for their work. They did a lot of research sitting in vineyards drinking wine, smoking, and chatting. Sure, they worked long hours too, especially at crunch times. But leisure is key to creativity. And they ate well and exercised, having cycling and skiing teams they belonged to (and still belong to as retirees). And they were all men in single-income families who were cared for intensely by their wives. They were pampered, fed, rested, exercised like thoroughbreds because that's what they were. (Not to mention Nobel winners.) In my field I have worked with internationally renowned literature scholars, people who crank out books like mad, win big grants, lecture around the globe. They work hard, but they also take care of themselves, taking breaks, eating right, exercising, etc. --- This talk of round-the-clock work, with no time for exercise, for family, it's not something I've heard from really successful people. Yes, there's crunch time, and yes, you have to work, but this "Work work and smile! Arbeit macht frei!" is the mantra of a drone or a future burnout.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:45PM (#41673719)

    I remember a time in college when I was working 64 hours a week and carrying a load of 12 hours, half of it comp sci. The trick there was to find at least one BS job in there (typically graveyard shift) where you could do your homework and, hopefully, another large company job that kicks educational benefits in for a least a class or two a semester.

    Tough? Yes. Would I do it again? Speaking from a zero-debt, never unemployed (unless I wanted to be) point of view - it was the best thing I could have done in my early 20s.

  • Witnessed this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:46PM (#41673723)
    I did some consulting for a company years ago. Some of their top employees worked 4 day weeks as a reward for function points delivered and bugs not delivered. One guy generated enough that he could have worked 2 day weeks (but didn't) and still held the top position on the leaderboard (ranked weekly). The top 3 employees were not gaming the system they were just really good; their total points were a huge multiple of the bottom 20 employees. Then the company brought on a new manager (a lawyer) who said this simply couldn't stand. He eliminated the days off and the top 5 employees all quit right after lunch. I left a few months later when they were getting slower and slower paying my invoices and then poof they were gone. This was after the previous year of 20 million in revenue generating around 6 million in profits. Those top guys had started a new company doing this crazy new thing (iPhone app development) got bought out for about 5 to 7 mil a tiny bit less than a year later.

    What I did involved coming in at random times of the day. I can remember was that the worst employees were the ones sweating the long hours. Then after the lawyer came in those same guys were singled out for their dedication and hard work.

    Oh the lawyer unsuccessfully tried suing them after their success.
  • As a code addict, I see nothing wrong with doing what you love +80hrs per week. Last I checked I was at ~108 hours per week of coding, it's what I do for fun & profit and I've been doing it since age 8 -- If people want to pay me for doing it, well that's just awesome. (repeat sentence with subject as: sex/masturbation, shopping, drugs, etc. instead of code until you "get it").

    I talked to a girl the other day who works in the mortgage industry managing compliance with government regulations in 50 states... I felt bad for her because her job actually feels like Work, and mine feels like poetry/pool/hide&seek/sculpture... Anything but "work", sure at times it's tedius but I could say the same about HO scale train sets. If you feel as passionate about astronomy as I do about writing code, go for it! Don't let them keep you from "working"!

  • Clearly, the point being expressed there is that people who love the field so much *choose* to devote those types of hours.

    Now, perhaps this was an indirect way of letting students know that they're *expected* to devote those hours, or that if they don't, they're likely to be out-competed. But taking the words at face value, it's saying that if you really love astronomy, you may find yourself spending hours like that.

    If you're a grad student who isn't comfortable with that, then don't do it. It's up to you

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      I wouldn't say that point is entirely missed. As a grad student, I can vouch for it being a very tough life (at times - it's not spreading tar on roofs after all). Some profs slog their students with work and it's not entirely 'right'. The conception is that something has to push the "lesser" students out so that only the best examples make it through a degree program. So you get things like unrealistic lab work and homework that amounts to three times the practice actually needed.

      Yes, if you like what you'

      • by vlm (69642)

        The conception is that something has to push the "lesser" students out so that only the best examples make it through a degree program.

        That's a correct conception. Depending on the field of course, there might only be academic positions for a small fraction of the people who make it all the way to the end of the program.

        Its very much like pro sports. Not a bad life if you end up as a NFL quarterback with a long career. Of course the odds of that are rather low.

  • by rs1n (1867908) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:47PM (#41673767)
    Though it sounds insane, they probably left out the some important details. When I was a mathematics graduate student, I too spent a LOT of time thinking about mathematics -- a lot of it was for fun. Did I spend 80 hours a week thinking about mathematics? Probably not, but likely close. However, it was not as though I locked myself up in a room and had someone from the real world slide slices of pizza underneath the door so that I could do mathematics. A lot of theoretical science happens in one's mind, and that can be done anywhere, anytime. On the other hand, you could not do this if your job was to be a surgeon or pilot -- it's not the same. Mind you, all that thinking does get exhausting even if only mentally. However, if you want to ever be a "star" in anything -- sports, medicine, mathematics, etc -- you have to "practice" (i.e. put in extra time). Maybe 80+ hours per week is a bit much, but it is not completely impossible in some areas of study. Of course, you could just go the "average" route and still be "ok" in the end.
    • Dirac once said that "no one can work hard on a serious intellectual problem for more than 4 hours a day."

      Your argument is invalid.

  • I can attest... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:48PM (#41673775)

    I was not a grad student in astrophysics, I was Electrical/Computer Systems Engineering, but I can attest that those hours DO have a detrimental effect on the mental health of the grad students. It happened to me. My work schedule was basically around the clock seven days a week. I was under a lot of pressure from school/work (same thing for me in those days) and from general lack of money. I was in a bad mood most of the time and my relationships soured. I began to feel isolated. I wasn't sleeping. My health started to suffer in a few areas, culminating in a hospital stay when I got mono and tried to work through it. Finally I had a run-in with the police that almost escalated to an arrest. I did still have to go to court for excessive traffic tickets. I had a mental breakdown. The next week my adviser came in and told me to write up my thesis and get out of there. It was a dark time.

    Anyway, that letter coming from the school is very, very disappointing. I feel sorry for the students in that program that must now bear that extra pressure.

    • by tapspace (2368622)

      I'm a grad student, and my life sounds a lot like that. Or, well, it used to. I decided one semester in that there was no way I was staying for a PhD. Even my research-heavy MS is overload. But, I've learned to avoid the people that I love unless I am in a stress-free state (the light day of the weekend or semester break or whatever). My girlfriend and I have had to set ground rules (my proposal) so that I don't unload all my stress on her. They mostly revolve around me taking some time to decompress

  • Tell me Professor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @04:57PM (#41673881) Journal

    So, Mr(s). Tenured Professor, how many hours a week do you work for that $200,000 salary?

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I can't tell which way you're arguing? Those overworked grad students and those well-off tenured professors are the same people, at different points during their career. Were it not for the hope of the tenured professorship, nobody would do the work of tenure track.

      The simple fact is that nice tenured positions are rare (and increasingly so), and they are given according to merit, and that is a recipe for harsh competition. Full professors at research universities are not just people who bothered to ge

    • So, Mr(s). Tenured Professor, how many hours a week do you work for that $200,000 salary?

      There are virtually no tenured professors in the US being paid that much. Whoever wrote that comment is pulling number out of their ass to push their misinformed agenda. The only people at most universities who are paid at that level are top executives (who don't teach or conduct research, and should not be called professor) or sports coaches.

    • Do a little research of your own and come back with some numbers on how many tenured full professors make $200k a year. Tenure is nice (I've got it), but don't kid yourself that it comes with a giant salary. That's one of the justifications for it - you're not paying people a fortune, so you have to add something like tenure to sweeten the deal.
  • My last two semesters in grad school (Computer Science) saw me spending about 16 hours a day in the lab, usually six days out of the week. Occasionally I wouldn't even go home to sleep. I would pass out for a couple hours on the floor and get back to work. Sometimes someone would kinda nudge me and say "Hey we've got a tour coming through, can you go sleep somewhere else?"

    Ended up having a complete mental break one night, after reading a story about a guy who's Mom had died and he found a bunch of gifts fro

  • If anybody thinks that they will be in academy for a nice simple life, they are dead wrong. Yes, you have to put in 80-100 hrs/week esp. until about age 40. After that, you can coast and do 50 or so. And yes, the work SHOULD be on your mind constantly.
  • To quote Dan Truman "beg'n your pardon sir, but it's a big-ass sky"

    http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0053372/quotes [imdb.com]

  • Simple steps (Score:4, Interesting)

    by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:23PM (#41674235)

    Any tips for those of us looking to instigate culture change and promote healthy work-life balance?

    You won't change the system from the outside. Therefore you must subvert it:

    1. Accept the advice: work 110 hours a week for four or more years.
    2. Publish more papers than you use in the toilets.
    3. Graduate with a PhD that will get you a killer postdoc
    4. Now that you have a postdoc, work 120 hours a week and publish even more papers. Study the methods of your PI so that someday you can supplant him!
    5. Find your next postdoc. Crank it up to 130 hours a week.
    6. Aha! You get a tenure-track appointment. And you're only 42 years old!
    7. In order to make tenure, you need your grad students and postdocs to generate trainloads of papers. You, of course, must spend your time on applying for grants.
    8. Crank up the schedule to 140 hours a week. And don't let those slacker grad students and postdocs get away with only 80 hours a week, because that would sabotage your plan to subvert the system.
    9. You made tenure! And before your 50th birthday, too, if only by a few months.
    10. Associate professors don't have enough power, though, to subvert the system. Crank up the hours to 150 a week. And don't let your grad students, postdocs, or collaborators get away with anything.
    11. Full Professor! Now you are finally in position to accomplish your true objective!
    12. Write a memo to those aspiring to follow in your footsteps, explaining how the secret to success is to never slack off by working only 100 hours a week.
  • Great discoveries rarely come from those who do not
    live for their work.

  • The professors want you to do their research for them, so they can publish it in a journal. So they come up with these requirements that you sit around and do their menial labor for them.

    Here's an idea - either accept that in grad school, you're your professor's bitch, or get out there and get a real job, and confine your research to your free time. Of course, if you aren't attached to a university no journal will publish your findings (no matter how interesting) but no longer do researchers have to lick

  • by allanw (842185) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @05:32PM (#41674373)
    This is a well written and funny letter: http://hardass-6owwz.posterous.com/listen-up-you-whiny-bitches [posterous.com]

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