Typical day in the life of a physics grad student

  • Thread starter siyphsc
  • Start date
  • #26
90 pages of hwk? Either you or your department is doing something very wrong.
 
  • #27
1,198
25
Hawking was famous for not doing much work, at least as a student. I remember a student friend, now a physics lecturer, being asked about this, and he gave an account of how Hawking would read the hardest physics textbooks like novels and solve tough problems as if doing "times tables". Three hours a day would be overwork for him... At least at that stage. I think he started to work harder when he was told he had only a few years to live... and then no one could keep up with him! (Except Penrose). I also remember an Oppenheimer quote, in a docudrama, where he said his best graduate students could work eight times faster than his average graduate students. One average students left for med school soon after being told that... So if you *have to* work 40-60hrs a week in graduate school is it really worth you trying? Guys like Hawking and Oppenheimer (and Maverick?) will do everything in between a late breakfast and lunch, while you slave all day. Then when they *do* decide to work hard (maybe in final year of PhD?) they will leave you trailing in the dust and get the interesting postgrad posts. So if you are lazy, and have Hawking's IQ, grad school is a great idea. Otherwise, if you are just lazy, then look for jobs that don't need a high IQ but let you work 9 to 5 (and snooze most of it!) IT support?
 
  • #28
clustro
i find it incredibly obnoxious and rude to judge others schedules and put them down because of it.

"your schedule won't cut it when you do some research." just seems incredibly elitist. some people work better at different schedules. if he is producing results and is getting his work done... who cares?

Hell, my day isnt that different from maverick's (though i usually stay later than 5), and I am getting plenty of work done.
 
  • #29
1,564
6
i find it incredibly obnoxious and rude to judge others schedules and put them down because of it.

"your schedule won't cut it when you do some research." just seems incredibly elitist. some people work better at different schedules. if he is producing results and is getting his work done... who cares?

Hell, my day isnt that different from maverick's (though i usually stay later than 5), and I am getting plenty of work done.
I have to say, my schedule is a lot like maverick's as well although I'm an engineering major. It also varies greatly by what semester it is but it usually goes something like:

-Wake up at around 9:30ish, do a little work while eating oatmeal
-roll onto campus around 11am and read emails and stuff
-around 12pm, do my TA responsibilities for the day
-maybe around 2pm I'll work on my thesis project
-if I'm taking classes I'll usually have a class around 5pm, otherwise more time on my project
-around 7pm read some papers, maybe go work out
-around 8pm I'll go home, play some video games with some friends on-line
-11ish, read some papers, prepare presentations for friday, or a proposal or something
-midnight I usually go to bed while watching conan o'brian
 
  • #30
204
0
This discussion seems to have become just a pissing contest; "I can do more work than you in shorter time." I don't think you can compare different people's working styles that closely. Nobody ever said that "time to finish" is such an important indicator of academic or research success. Creativity, insight, stuff like that is also extremely important, and it isn't quantified by just the time it takes to finish. Whether an assignment takes 20 pages or 5 pages is just irrelevant, it just depends on your handwriting, how compact you are, how thorough, your style, etc. etc. I suggest that this be kept in mind.

Forty hours per week isn't that hard if you work a little bit on Saturday and Sunday as well. I guess it comes out to about 6 hours per day. That's maybe like 4-5 hours of studying per day, if you subtract class time. And you can really do a lot with that time. Two hours before lunch, two hours after lunch, and maybe an hour or two in the evening. If you split it up that's not unreasonable at all.

I definitely don't think academia should be a 9-5 kind of job where you go into your office and sit at your desk and then hammer out an entire day all at once. I feel that it requires a great deal more reflection and digestion of the work. That being said, if you're a professor or something then you may have to make compromises, and you may have to work 9-5 regardless. But still, obviously you have a lot of flexibility with your schedule and it doesn't have to be a Burger King sort of thing where you hit the grill and then flip burgers for four hours at a time.

Since forty hours per week is reasonable, I think you can really achieve a lot by going above and beyond this amount, but of course, that all depends on your personality and work habits and stuff like that.
 
  • #31
506
14
While I was a physical chem. grad student, most of the physics grad students that I knew reasonably well worked similar hours (at least 40 hours a week if you weren't on vacation, more typically about 60 hours.). In the first year, you've got classes, teaching, and trying to start on your research. In your second year, you've got maybe two or three classes you need to take (maybe they're either not offered every year or are followups to your first year material), some teaching, and needing to get more research done. And then you can start working insane hours at the end of your second year, since you've got all your requirements out of the way by then. I mean, it's really easy to walk into lab at 9 am and walk out at 11 pm since nothing went your way - I can't think of anyone who hasn't had days (or weeks) like that.

I mean, you can optimize your efficiency as much as possible, but things can and will go wrong in research, and you'll need to overcome those challenges, which may involve working more than you prefer.
 

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