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Day in life of Graduate student?

  1. Aug 17, 2015 #1
    I hear it's 60hrs + What's a day like for you? From waking up until going to bed. What's it like year round? Do you get any vacation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2015 #2
    I'm not a graduate student, but I usually hear "it depends." Depends on your advisor, your own motivation, etc. I know grad students that work a 40-50 hour week, but I've heard of grad students that work 80 hour weeks. It also possibly depends on the availability of equipment if you're an experimentalist.
  4. Aug 17, 2015 #3


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    As Axmls points out "it depends", but I can give you an idea of what I do as an experimental physics PhD student in Australia. In Australia, PhD students get 4 weeks of leave a year. In the first two years of my PhD I used most of those 4 weeks, I'm unlikely to use them this year.

    Like I said, I'm an experimental physicist, and my apparatus involves a particle accelerator. So my PhD involves two basic work modes: Setting up and performing an experiment, and "not doing an experiment" -- analysing data/writing papers/travel/teaching/meetings/talks.

    Particle accelerators like the one I use are like telescopes - you apply for time to use it a few times a year, and you will be given some number of days of beam-time to use it before the next group uses it - if you don't finish, too bad. So, in the weeks leading up to an experiment, my collaborators and I will set up and test our detector array. These days tend to be long, and if things are going poorly, we'll be in the lab as long as it takes to get it ready to go before our beam-time starts. Then, during the experiment we run the machine 24/7 in shifts that the research group fills. If it's not "my" experiment, a normal day will be nominally 8 hours (but really 12) long in one of the three shifts we have. If it's "my" experiment, again, you stay as long as it takes to make sure everything is working. I think a 20 hour day in the lab is my "best" here. After that, I'm pretty non-functional.

    But the bulk of my time is spent not doing experiments. On an average day, I'll turn up at about 9 am, and work until 7 or 8, 20 minutes of lunch. On days like this, I'm analysing and interpreting data, working on models, going to talks, sitting in meetings, etc. Today, I'm working on writing a paper. If things are going really poorly (or really well) I'll stay later. I tend to work M-F, and avoid working on weekends and at home if I can avoid it. My fellow students do other things - some work 8-5, some work only at night, or a lot at home, some work very (seemingly random) hours. It depends on your work style, really. Too much time on PF will tend to blow out my day. :wink:
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