working hard

Mon Mar 3 17:17:26 EST 1997

I have just gotten around to reading this thread, so pardon any oversights...

Being a post-qualifying exams (3rd year) grad student, I expect to have some
weeks (months) where I'm going like a bat out of hell, as fast as my little
yeast will grow, in order to get the data (or whatever) I need/want. It's part
of the territory. I did agree with one of the previous posts (sorry I can't
remember who!) that you learn to become more efficient at planning your
experiments as you go through grad school. I can do MANY more things in one day
than I could have when I started here. I think that's part of the process.
Learning to juggle classes, lectures, papers, research, teaching, family, and
relationships comes along with grad school. I'm expecting it to be worse as a
postdoc and just a tiny bit better when (and if!) I'm in charge of my own lab. I
hope I'll be pleasantly surprized - but I'm not holding my breath. 

As to whether it has to be this way, I know that yeast/gels/preps don't wear
watches, don't care if you have to go to your son's game, don't care if it's
your wedding anniversary and you're late for dinner at the Rainbow Room. I guess
you learn to build the down time that you need into your experiments. You learn
to not try and 'help the cells divide' in order to get/stay ahead. Many times
the more hours worked -> really silly experimental oversights => more time to
correct the oops'es!

Science will never be a 9-to-5 job. Being a P.I. or a grad student or a postdoc,
you've agreed to that 'lifestyle.' But you (as the all-hours person) have to
work w/ and around techs and others (administration, etc) who do by necessity
have a more rigorously structured week. Most techs I know work 'overtime hours'
because they are genuinely interested in seeing the results - not because they
are forced to do so. Maybe that's the exception to the rule, I don't know. This
is probably why industry is appealing to lots of people. From where I am now, it
seems like a middle ground. I may not personally view it that way later, but it
has been a happy  medium for many Ph.D.'s I know.

My college mentor told me that a good experiment - or _any_ result - almost
never leads to less work. My fiancee is tired of hearing me repeat this every
time I have to go to the lab on Sundays after I say "I got this _great_ result
today", but he knows it's true. Family is easier to deal w/ if they have an
understanding of what the constraints your job is up front - reguardless of
whether you're a grad student, PI, tech, or postdoc. 

I'm going home - while my cells grow. I'm taking work with me of course!


Robyn Temple
SUNY HSC at Brooklyn

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