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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Open Thread | Main | Three Times Is Enemy Action »

September 30, 2010

The Hours You Put In

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Posted by Derek

Several people have brought this editorial (PDF) to my attention: "Where is the Passion?" It's from a professor at the Sidney Kimmel Center at Johns Hopkins, and its substance will be familiar to many people who've been in graduate school. Actually, the author's case can be summed up in a sentence: he walks the halls on nights and weekends; there aren't enough people in the labs. Maybe "kids these days!" would do the job even faster.

I'm not completely unsympathetic to this argument - but at the same time, I'm not completely unsympathetic to the people who've expressed a desire to punch the guy, either. The editorial goes on for quite a bit longer than it needs to to make its point, and I speak as someone who gets paid by the word for printed opinion pieces. It's written in what is probably a deliberately irritating style. But one of the lessons of the world is that annoying people whom you don't like are not necessarily wrong. What about this one?

One of the arguments here could be summed up as "Look, you people are trying to cure cancer here - don't you owe it to the patients (and the people who provided the money) to be up here working as hard as possible?" There's no way to argue with that, on its face - that's probably correct. But now we move on to the definition of "as hard as possible".

He's using hours worked as a proxy for scientific passion - an imperfect measure, to be sure. At the two extremes, there are people who are not in the lab who are thinking hard about their work, and there are people in the lab who are just hamster-wheeling and doing everything in the most brutal and stupid ways possible. But there is a correlation, especially in academia. (In many industrial settings, people are actively discouraged from doing too much lab work when they might be alone). If you're excited about your work, you're more likely to do more of it.

Unfortunately, it's hard to instill scientific excitement. And if anyone's going to do it at all, you'd think it would be the PIs of all these grad students. What surprises me is that more of them aren't falling back on the traditional grad-school substitute for passion, which is fear. The author does mention a few labs at his institute that have the all-the-time work ethic, and I'm willing to bet that good ol' anxiety and pressure have as much or more to do with their habits. And a little of that mixture is fine, actually, as long as you don't lay it on with a trowel.

So yes, I wish that there were more excited, passionate researchers around. But where I part company with this editorial is when it goes into get-off-my-lawn mode. The "You have to earn your way to a life outside the lab" attitude has always rubbed me the wrong way, and I've always thought that it probably demotivates ten people for every one that it manages to encourage. The author also spends too much time talking about the Good Old Days when people worked hard, with lousy equipment. In the dark! In the snow! And without all these newfangled kits and time-saving reagents! That makes me worry that he's confusing some issues. An idiot frantically digging a ditch with a spoon looks like a more passionate worker than someone who came through with a backhoe three hours ago, and is now doing something else.

Still, the point of all those time-saving kits is indeed to keep moving and do something else. Are people doing that? I'd rather judge the Sidney Kimmel Center by what comes out of it, rather than how late the lights burn at night. Is that the real "elephant in the room" that the editorial winds up invoking? That what the patients and donors would really be upset about is that not enough is coming out the other end of the chute? Now that's another problem entirely. . .

Update: Chemjobber has some questions.

Comments (138) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Graduate School | Who Discovers and Why


1. Chemjobber on September 30, 2010 7:31 AM writes...

Oh, heck -- I posted on it, too and offer a quantitative challenge. (Linked in my handle.)

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2. Laura on September 30, 2010 7:47 AM writes...

I really can't stand this attitude in research or in anything. There is No One Thing that should so overwhelmingly dominate someone's life to the literal detriment of everything else. I love my research, I love to put an enormous amount of time in, but you know, I'm going to be doing that for a long time after - decades, surely. I want to go home, and get the sleep I need so the next day, I can keep going. I'm going to break to eat. I'm going to have other parts of my life that allow my research to be done with fresh thinking and renewed energy. There's really no way we can say categorically that people 30 years ago worked 'harder' than we do now, there's no accurate way to compare the effort.

At the end of the day, there's a broad range of what's 'working hard enough' with some space on either side for 'too hard' and 'clearly not enough'.

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3. Ken Bob on September 30, 2010 7:48 AM writes...

Ok, the obvious question: if the cancer research is so important to him, why is he wasting time walking around taking census in these precious minutes and writing these editorials? I don't see any cancer curing going on with this.

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4. Anon on September 30, 2010 7:50 AM writes...

What about all the people walking past the building who don't work there - why aren't they INSIDE passionately fighting against cancer, armed only with passionate science and their passion? How can they sleep at night?!


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5. alig on September 30, 2010 8:01 AM writes...

Want me to put in more hours? Pay me for it. Time & a half for overtime, double time for weekends.

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6. anon on September 30, 2010 8:09 AM writes...

I am a scientist in academia and I love my job - but its a job. no 5 is right. We get lousy annual salaries, compared to many other professionals. Those professionsals get higher salaries and often have to work 50-60 hour weeks. I'm not going to do that unless I get paid 25-50% more each year.

I like doing other things than just science, and I think doing those things makes me better at science. I'd rather go and do those other things (like have relationships, read books, running, hiking, cycling, etc.) than spend more time breathing in chemicals and running NMR spectra.

I have observed many chemists run off and try to solve a problem. Often the would do better spending more time thinking about it beforehand and less time (and reagents) running reactions. The time off from research is what helps you solve those problems.

and finally, the guy sounds like an idiot.

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7. Dannoh on September 30, 2010 8:14 AM writes...

To number 5: Its even simpler than that. You dont need to pay me for it, overtime or double time, just express some appreciation for the effort invested.

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8. emjeff on September 30, 2010 8:25 AM writes...

I am trying to imagine the inhuman monster who would begrudge anyone (even a grad student) a Sunday afternoon off.

Show me a person who works 80 hrs a week, and I'll show you a a divorced and bitter wreck of a human who will someday deeply regret his choices.

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9. Will on September 30, 2010 8:27 AM writes...

All I can say is this

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10. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 8:32 AM writes...

Ha ha! Will, I almost expected that to be a link to the new Cee-Lo Green song.

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11. Dr. Smalls on September 30, 2010 8:40 AM writes...

This is kinda like the numbers game in organic chemistry. The more molecules you make, the more productive you are.

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12. Tt on September 30, 2010 8:48 AM writes...

In my lab, I really don't care how many hours people put in. I just care about results. The people I rate best at the end of the year are the ones who work smarter and not harder. The ones who utilize the best resources at their disposal and take the time to talk with others. It's been my general experience that the slaves I knew in grad school do not necessarily succeed later. In fact, the most successful ones are the ones who were engaged, excited, had hobbies, and were talented drinkers and socializers. PI's should actively encourage excitement and innovation, not hours at the bench.

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13. processchemist on September 30, 2010 8:50 AM writes...

I worked 5 years in an industrial environment appreciating overtime work over anything else.
The most stupid and improductive attitude I've ever experienced. Productivity in our work is not extensive, it's intensive.

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14. Anon on September 30, 2010 8:54 AM writes...

Fortunately in grad school I had one of those rare breeds of advisor who never demanded long hours from us. I even asked him when I started what his expecations were, and he said 40 hours a week plus 8 hours "sometime" over the weekend. That's pretty generous compared to most advisors.

Inevitably most folks in his lab put in way more hours than that, because our advisor understood that the passion for science has to come from within. Nobody can instill that in you by demanding long hours, which is often a proxy for actually caring about the work. Everyone will find their own balance of work and the rest of their lives that works for them. I know plenty of brilliant people who barely seem to lift a finger but get a lot done, and plenty of folks who put in long hours to get nothing done.

The hell with hours worked. Your innate abilities, your drive, and your efficiency will all have a much larger impact on where your scientific career takes you.

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15. Aspirin on September 30, 2010 9:21 AM writes...

For someone who prowls the halls on Sunday, Mr. Kern's publications don't seem to be particularly more prolific than those spend five or six healthy days on research and take Sunday off.

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16. Nick on September 30, 2010 9:27 AM writes...

The view that full-time, to-the-exclusion-of-all-other-activity commitment is required to be a scientist is troubling to say the least. Do people who think this not have families, or does there "passion" for their work mean that they neglect them, and will be strangers to their children? Are they tedious, one-dimensional people who have no non-scientific interests to pursue or activities in which they wish to participate? Do they use housekeepers (either paid or spousal), or are there places of residence pits of filth and disrepair?

People (scientists and otherwise) who are browbeaten and intimidated into working 80-hour weeks have always struck me as unfortanate souls; those who work such hours voluntarily have always struck me as obsessive nutcases who would probably be heavily medicated if the subject of their obsession didn't pay well. I have no desire to be either, and would have left science in a heartbeat if I thought one had to be such a person in order to be a scientist.

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17. darwin on September 30, 2010 9:45 AM writes...

I dont have TEVO. If I dont leave early, I will miss Oprah. ...and it is the last season.

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18. Cellbio on September 30, 2010 9:46 AM writes...

Well, I for one am very unimpressed with Dr. Kern's thinking. Makes me think of the great John Wooden quote: "Don't confuse activity with achievement". I think chemjobbers curve B is an accurate decision of the long term productivity loss with excessive hours.

The standout periods where I would expect more hours/wk are during grad student and post-doc training periods. Whether motivated for timely results, or by fear, and often facilitated by a period of life without a spouse or children, this time is often associated with really long hours. Or at least used to be.

Maybe Dr Kern trained in an earlier period, or thinks his experience should apply across the board. In truth, however, jobs are scarce, post-docs spend much more time in this "transition" period, so what would people be rushing into work at all hours to accomplish? As discusses often here and well documented elswhere, the training system and grant system is broken, rewarding established PIs and offering fewer well paying stable jobs than are needed to meet the numbers of scientist being trained in labs like Dr Kern's.

Finally, the general assertion that these folks are curing cancer is laughable. They are conducting basic research with grant dollars, generating publications not cures. if Dr. Kern is interested in curing cancer, then examine the research programs that he others direct that appear to be very short on inspiration.

Of course, that could have been the other conclusion from the study, namely, he and the other PIs are failing to direct meaningful research that has a clear implication for relieving human suffering.

Dr Kern, weak thinking, and apparently, very weak management skills. Manage toward your stated goal of curing cancer and people will follow. Try to bleed them for productivity to assure your next grant, tenure, career aspirations, whatever, and they will see right through it. Self-serving behavior is the most common phenotype of academics, and creates many problems, including the one you decry.

Last point, how does family fit into this equation? How do women have careers if this is the metric for productivity?

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19. Chris D on September 30, 2010 9:48 AM writes...

Others have already pointed out that researchers should be allowed to be normal human beings.

To look at it another way, Derek, you repeatedly point out that cancer research is a series of tiny incremental improvements on what turns out to be a dizzying array of causes and treatments for different cancers. It's pretty clear that no single researcher is going to "cure cancer". Beyond putting in an honest day's work of being curious and interested and dedicated, is it really reasonable to ask people to sacrifice themselves, and their lives and relationships, for those tiny incremental bits of knowledge? I know in my field, when people sacrifice themselves for little to no reward, all you get is burned-out, cynical people.

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20. Mike on September 30, 2010 9:48 AM writes...

This type of mindset made me decide to leave with a Master's (with my sanity and love of chemistry intact), and to stay as far away from academia as possible. A PhD (or anything else, really) is not worth being burned out/depressed/too tired to have hobbies or do non-lab/non-work related things.

It seems to me that this Prof is just continuing the "I worked 60+ hrs per week in when I was in grad school, so my students should too" culture.

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21. Donough on September 30, 2010 9:49 AM writes...

Two quotes come to mind
I'm no writer; but if I were, it seems to me I'd want to poke my head up every once in a while and take a look around; see what's going on. It's life, Jake! You can miss it if you don't open your eyes." - Benjamin Sisko, STDS9

I mean is, you can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking your head up a butcher's ass... No, wait. It's gotta be your bull.
- Tommy, Tommy boy

Most if not all major discoveries are probably stated at work. But sometimes the finishing touches or the ability to apply the discovery comes from external sources such as discussions over beer. If someone is always in the lab or always in the books, I should worry.

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22. FC on September 30, 2010 9:51 AM writes...

I would think most of the professors should care more about the results than the hours. That is not always the case. My adviser in grad school (15+ years ago) is a big name org. professor in an Ivy league chem. dept. He worked about 60+ hours a week (in his late 40's). For us, we had to work (be there) at least that many hours just to keep up with him. Although he did not say how many hours we had to work, but he did check each lab every day before he went home (at 7-8pm) just to see who was still here.

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23. Chemoptoplex on September 30, 2010 9:59 AM writes...

Why don't you use this valuable hall prowling time to bunk beds over everyone's desks and install food pellet dispensers. If your researchers publish ten papers and are really really good, they get an hour of sunlight. If they publish one hundred papers they get the picture of their family back.

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24. Industry Guy on September 30, 2010 10:13 AM writes...

It sounds to me that the author is simply jealous of the fact that everyone else has a life away from research and he cant understand why he is alone strolling in the halls on a Friday evening

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25. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 10:13 AM writes...

Laura #2, I couldn't agree with you more. My graduate advisor had a motto "If you're not sleeping you should be working". He was insane. People hovered around the labs all day, all night, all weekend but nothing really got done. Lots of sitting around, drinking coffee, "chewing the fat" was confused with actual productivity. After sitting around all day, they'd come in at midnight and start a little experiment that would run to 3:00am. These people would be seen as the dedicated heroes of science with all the passion because they worked at midnight! Oh my!!! I on the other hand worked from 7am to 7pm every day but was not seen as not dedicated or passionate because I wouldn't come in and work the midnight shift as well. I have no time for these academics. They are full of themselves and couldn't cut the real productivity and discipline expected in industry. In fact my advisor would also brag that the most successful academics where the people so neurotic they would'nt be able to hold a "real" job. Yeah....I want to aspire to be like that!

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26. Greg Hlatky on September 30, 2010 10:20 AM writes...

I can't help but bring up this excerpt from Colin Eaborn's profile of Henry Gilman:

"He expected total dedication: students were required to be in the laboratory working every day, including Sundays, late into the night, but there is no indication that at that time they resented this... In the 1930s, however, his demands gave rise to much discontent among the 30-40 members of his research group (an abnormally large number for those days), as several correspondents have made clear. To some extent this was probably a reflection of the general unhappiness during the Depression, when there was much unemployment, poverty and uncertainty, but the complaints of Gilman's students of those days centre on three specific aspects of his behaviour. First the unremitting pressure on them to work all and every day, and to produce results each day; second the low stipends he paid them; and third, and the most important, the length of time, and the uncertainty of its duration, that they were normally required to stay before receiving their Ph.D. degrees.

"The students certainly had no opportunity to slack. Gilman went around his laboratories three times each day, in the morning, afternoon and evening, questioning each student in turn about what he had done since his last visit, what he was now doing, and what he intended to do next. When a project was at an especially interesting stage the student concerned would be questioned on all three visits. Gilman remembered exactly what he had been told on the previous visit and so the hours in between had to be accounted for. The initial questioning usually took the form 'What's new?' and the answer was followed by the question 'What else is new?' and the answer to that by the further question 'And what else?'. One of his students from those days has written: 'Always we would begin to think that we had done very little. The cunning ones soon realized that you should keep some results up your sleeve to report next week in order to make your achievements seem more impressive.'

"He did not visit the laboratory every Sunday, but did so sufficiently often that the students could not risk being absent that day. At all times students in the laboratory were expected to be giving their full attention to experiments in progress, and those caught seizing an opportunity to study for graduate course or preliminary examinations were sharply reprimanded... Gilman himself frequently stayed in the building until after 10 p.m. and then went home to work until after midnight reading or writing. During the whole of his career, except at the time of his eye operation, he was rarely, if ever, away from Ames for more than a week or so at a time, and when he did go away he told no one, not even his secretary, when he would be back, so that his students could not risk taking a day off.

"As for the stipends he paid, he fixed the amounts by working out carefully exactly the minimum sum on which each student could manage. This had the secondary advantage of leaving them little to spend on leisure activities which might have kept them away from the laboratory. Someone who worked for him as postdoctoral fellow in the 1940s has told of how, in fixing his salary, Gilman asked him whether soap was provided free in his lodgings, and made an appropriate allowance when told that it was not.

"The majority of the graduate students took 5-7 years to get their degrees, at a time when in other universities three years was still usual. Some were required to stay even longer; at least one is known to have taken ten years (and he, tragically, was killed in a fall from a ladder before leaving Ames) and some abandoned the attempt after a lengthy stay. One factor was that Gilman did not in most cases assign a graduate research project but instead directed the student to carry out a series of preparations, often unrelated, which could be expected to give rise to a number of short publications, and it required considerable initiative and ingenuity on the part of the student to devise and carry out additional experiments that would enable him or her to draw the material together into a coherent whole for a thesis. The preliminary examinations that had to be passed before the Ph.D. thesis could be submitted also presented a major hurdle, because they could be taken only with the supervisor's permission. This was normally not readily forthcoming from Gilman, and many students were too afraid of him even to seek it until he offered it."

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27. Any on September 30, 2010 10:33 AM writes...

I find that the people that appreciate what it really means to SAVE LIVES are the people who HAVE LIVES.

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28. Fellow Old Timer on September 30, 2010 10:42 AM writes...

Simon Flexner, the first president of Rockefeller University, said that to run a research institution one should be capable of cruelty.

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29. LNT on September 30, 2010 10:44 AM writes...

I appologize in advance for plagerism here. I'm re-posting an annonymous comment from "Chemjobbers" web site:

Maybe if we spent more time having relationships outside of lab, with our loved ones who are going to die of cancer, we would be more inspired to work harder in the lab to cure cancer, but that is just crazy talk.

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30. Erik on September 30, 2010 10:44 AM writes...

Re: Gilman

What a sad, bitter husk of a human being.

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31. Mike on September 30, 2010 10:50 AM writes...


This reminds me of tales of disciplinarian captains in the 19th century Royal Navy. Often such captains would be unfortunately injured, shot, killed, or knocked overboard during battle, or be subject to mutiny. I am surprised something similar did not happen to Gilman.

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32. quintus on September 30, 2010 10:51 AM writes...

Perhaps this idiot is looking for a job in industry, which is exactly where he would fit in.

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33. DingDong on September 30, 2010 10:52 AM writes...

Maybe this thinking correlates with the increasing publication of poor work.
OK, you can work faster, purify faster and get through library's of conditions and products faster, so you have to complete papers faster...

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34. Ax on September 30, 2010 10:58 AM writes...

People who are passionate about their work will *want* to work all the time.

And yes, those who are passionate about their work do much better job at it then those who are not (all else being equal).

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35. processchemist on September 30, 2010 11:12 AM writes...


Sure, and they don't want to be paid for their work, and they eat only a dish of rice once a day.
Ever heard the word "compulsive behaviour"?

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36. PDF on September 30, 2010 11:16 AM writes...

Here is a European's comment: I did my PhD at a Max-Planck Institute, and I have never seen a more motivated and capable crowd, which at the same time knew to appreciate the good things in life (beer, hobbies, partners). Research there was great - everyone was part of the team. We would all put in extra hours if necessary but no one forced us to do so - people rarely worked on the weekend. And this was a good strategy - everyone believed in their work, felt good about their work, and we all were successful despite the apparently shorter hours.

Now I am a PDF in North America and this whole "put in 80 hours or I will fire you" attitude of some PIs coupled to a sometimes extreme competitiveness of the PhD students and PDFs (that apparently seems to be widespread?) feels rather annoying and pointless. Some people never seem to have heard of the word "teamwork" but rack hours like crazy.

More hours in the lab do not mean better research. Forcing people to stay in the lab definitely does not mean better research. And if your lab work is the only thing you have in your life that is pretty damn sad if you ask me.

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37. PlatoMolloy on September 30, 2010 11:18 AM writes...

Anyone else notice that this guy used to work at Ann Arbor? I wonder if he thinks you need 100 hrs a week in lab because if you don't your cell lines get poisoned?

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38. anchor on September 30, 2010 11:22 AM writes...

Working hard with out any results at the end of the week, means nothing. I say work smart!

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39. TFox on September 30, 2010 11:33 AM writes...

People do indeed work extraordinarily hard while accomplishing world-shaking work. That doesn't mean that merely being present more hours in the lab will magically turn your current project into a world-shaking one. People doing solid but ordinary work, of the kind that can get funded by conservative committees in a highly competitive environment, will have an ordinary work-life balance. Extraordinary is different, but if it happened all the time, it wouldn't be extraordinary.

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40. Andrew on September 30, 2010 12:05 PM writes...

This professor is a fool. There's a certain amount of time above which the employees will not be further compensated. If they won't get fired for working short hours and no one is paying them to work long hours, they have no incentive to stay in the lab. In fact, it costs them money to work long hours. There's an opportunity cost to going above and beyond that which is required to get a fixed income.

If society (and the Center's big donors) wants people to work longer hours, it simply needs to offset the employees' opportunity costs. Pay higher salaries, get longer hours. The professional sectors (e.g., law, finance, etc.) have figured this out -- why haven't academics? I think this professor needs to go back and learn some basic microeconomics, and I think the journal that published this piece needs to reconsider the employment of its editor. This editorial is better suited for a second-tier college newspaper than a peer-reviewed journal.

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41. Jordan on September 30, 2010 12:10 PM writes...

This article nauseated me and reminds me of why I now work in industry.

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42. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 12:12 PM writes...

I totally agree with #36. I am in the very same situation, and have the very same impression. I second every single word.

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43. Greg Hlatky on September 30, 2010 12:25 PM writes...

In my 25 years of industrial research, I've found virtually all my colleagues creative, hardworking, collegial and productive. None of them worked 60-80 hours a week either.

A scenario: a PI tells his group, "The lab will be open only between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM Monday through Friday. What you otherwise do with your time - consistent with your research - is up to you." Would grad students and postdocs come to work better prepared with a clear plan for that day during those hours? Screw around less? Read the literature more widely and carefully? Cooperate better?

Just wondering.

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44. RKN on September 30, 2010 12:31 PM writes...

He's using hours worked as a proxy for scientific passion - an imperfect measure, to be sure.

Yeah, he does say that, yet near the end of the article he clearly agrees that productivity is more important than merely hours put in.

With respect to his conclusion that working long hours "betrays a private aquifer of passion", my thought on reading that was, it could betray that. It might also indicate a grad student eager to finish her PhD as quickly as possible, who knows that occasionally working weekends will forward that selfish goal. Cancer be damned.

He seems somewhat naive about the wide variability of explanations that might account for why any given person is in the lab during nominally "off hours". We used to joke when I worked in industry that it was easy to spot the new fathers on our floor, they were the ones who suddenly started working late.

The article would have greatly benefited from a good editor. Particularly in the first half, I found many sentences were very unclear.

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45. Hap on September 30, 2010 12:41 PM writes...

40 - Why pay people more when fear is so cheap? It probably makes the professor feel better, too. No need to learn economics - all you need to learn is how to purge that pesky conscience, and you're good to go.

As to "people are dying from cancer- you can't sleep", well, how does my agony save them? it doesn't - all they care about are whether there will be something to save them, and barring that, whether they can live what they have with meaning. The author might want to keep that in mind - 1) asking me to kill myself for his research helps him, but does little necessarily for the patients whose interest he claims to serve, and 2) meaning is important to people's lives, and meaning is expressed in what they choose, not what they are forced to do.

Oh, and if you think grinding your students to dust is a good idea, you might not have to wonder why so few of the students you want want to enter your field. At minimum, you really shouldn't be so brutally honest about it if you expect to recruit more cannon fodderXXXXXXXXXXXXXstudents to your field.

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46. anonymous on September 30, 2010 12:56 PM writes...

Reminds me of a time, in industry mind you, when during a performance review my supervisor dinged me for rarely staying in the lab past 6 pm. I replied that I had never seen him there when I was working on weekends. I'm glad I got out of that situation while the getting was good.

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47. RenegadeSci on September 30, 2010 12:56 PM writes...

These PI's should watch out about making claims.

We we're accused of not being in lab late, and the PI said he was in lab. Truth was, we know he wasn't in his office because we we're at the scopes. He did see us leave, so apparently we're not allowed to eat.

It really hurts your credibility for telling those around you to work long hours when you exaggerate the hours you work.

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48. Cloud on September 30, 2010 12:59 PM writes...

Sometime in graduate school, I realized that if I spent 50+ hours in the lab I actually got less done than if I worked a 40 hour week. As other people have noted, when I tried to pull the long hours, I wasted a lot of them.

I've worked a 40 hour week ever since, with exceptions for a few weeks or months at a time to meet a particular deadline (like, say, writing up my thesis 3 months earlier than I planned so that I could take my first job).

No one has ever complained about my productivity. In fact, I am often complimented on it.

Also, there is apparently data showing that even people who think they are working 80 hour weeks are actually WORKING a lot less than that. Most people fall in the 30-50 hour actual work per week range. (I read this in a book called 168 hours, by Laura Vanderkam, but she was citing someone's published research. I just can't remember whose.)

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49. mikeymedchem on September 30, 2010 1:13 PM writes...

Indeed, #8. I am a major proponent of the thinking that the person who has a balanced, happy life is more productive -- whether they are a grad student, postdoc, faculty member, or, frankly, anyone who has job. It is indeed difficult to enforce passion and enthusiasm. Historically it may have actually been motivated in a lot of people by fear, rather than sheer love of what they are doing, and, owing to new ways of thinking of managing people, we know that fear isn't the way to keep people engaged and productive.

In addition, much of the drugery work that had to be done AT work can now be done at home....literature searching, writing, computational modeling work. So these tasks that can be done anywhere should be done anywhere that makes the most sense for the worker, especially if it means that they can go home, do what they need to do, and then add some more time to their day remotely, when they aren’t rushed, pressed for time…the change of scenery can be a good thing.

A third point – I think that the “typical” academic mindset of “you keep working on your project until I tell you you’re done” is outdated. Defining a project scope and goals, and working towards those goals should be key. If you have goals (and for a PhD, they will be difficult ones…), you can get a feel for how long it will take, at a given pace. So, if you don’t work hard, achieving your goals will take a loooong time, which should be a de-motivation, especially when you’re making $25k a year and your PhD program kicks you out after your sixth year. The converse, if you count hours and value people based on their hours, they will often spend their time trying to make you THINK they’re at work (leaving a jacket around, leaving their computer on…), rather than focusing on getting anything done (see #25)!

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50. RKN on September 30, 2010 1:14 PM writes...

The author of the article didn't claim time put in was a good proxy for productivity, he indicated it was a proxy for passion (for research). So all the comments here critical of the former can not be criticisms of what this author evidently believes.

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51. kismet on September 30, 2010 1:25 PM writes...

PDF, Derek and others:
I have been wondering about that fundamental question, as some people have claimed that working as a scientist is not compatible with a "normal" life, family, friends or most hobbies.

It is a scary thought that you cannot be any good or productive working "only" 50 hours for someone who wants to go into science (molecular biology/translational research to be exact).

Perhaps a little naively I would love to hear more people put numbers to it.

How many hours do you have to put in to be successful? (perhaps defined as 'getting things done' and publishing in decent journals)

Are 50 enough or is it indeed 60-80h all year round?
Is there really such a difference between the US and Europe? "elite" universities vs regular ones? Do you really have to work so much more (unpaid) hours in academia vs industry? How long do you work?

Are there any Nobel laureate-level scientists who worked normal hours?

Are there huge differences between the fields, e.g. (med) chem. vs molecular biology vs others; and do you have to work more in a "competetive" field (e.g. CVD, neurodegenerative disease, etc?)

I understand that YMMV, hours are only a correlate and diminshing returns exit (as raised by chemblogger), but I do not get the whole picture.
I would appreciate some more comments or if you could point me to any articles...

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52. pete on September 30, 2010 1:32 PM writes...

I remember an interview of Mark Ptashne from decades ago that went something like this. Question: What's made you so successful/productive in science ? Answer: I'm no smarter than many of my peers but I was in the lab when they were not.

For better or worse, I tended to take that sentiment to heart during my graduate days. However, over the years I've worked with many people who fit the "work smarter, not harder" phenotype, and many of them have been very successful in science.

In contrast, I've been successful but not so clever -- I HAD to put in those long hours in the lab to get the better pubs I've amassed. In fact, some of my clearest thinking/most inspired moments came when I was all by my lonesome in a quiet lab.

So what's the cure ? No single prescription, I think. People are different and will mature as scientists at different rates. Most lab heads I've worked with have thankfully realized this and have kept a lid on their inner Mark Ptashne.

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53. Anon on September 30, 2010 1:34 PM writes...

It is interesting that one of the article's key words is "professionalism". Does Dr Kerr really believe that the definition of professionalism is being in the lab on a Sunday afternoon, or that passion for one's work can be so simply equated to hours spent at the bench?

Maybe he should reflect upon how much research was achieved while he was writing this self-righteous editorial.

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54. ABC on September 30, 2010 1:37 PM writes...

There was a time when scientists were working day and night, out of mere passion, driven to answer THE question that twisting their brains. On the same lousy salary. What changed?

The questions you could answer. New oncogenes could be discovered. New pathogens. New techniques like PCR were developed by a single person. What can you discover today? Look at Nature, Cell and Science. You fall asleep. The 57th surface molecule on HIV, the 239th regulator of the cell cycle, the 142nd tumor type in which cmyc drives tumor progression? (Not to forget you need three shared authors to produce the data). Science today is an industry. Working out the smallest little details. It needs to be done, but most of the time it is neither exciting, nor stimulating, nor rewarding. I can get no ... satisfaction.

Add to this this the declining quality of scientific journals. How can you calculate a standard deviation if n=2? Where is 'This data is representative of X experiments' in the figure legends, is it out of fashion to repeat experiments? I can get no ... solid data.

And do we even need to discuss how corrupted publishing and peer review has become? Do I really need to have one of the Big Shots as co-author to get it through? Or will another Big Shot hold back the paper to publish his own article in the meantime? I can get no ... publication.

I could add more and more and more reasons. But I have to go and cure cancer. To 'rescue' the society that does not even respect us. That craves more for having the latest iphone than for having a cancer drug. I can get no ...

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55. Todd on September 30, 2010 1:43 PM writes...

"52. pete on September 30, 2010 1:32 PM writes...

I remember an interview of Mark Ptashne from decades ago that went something like this. Question: What's made you so successful/productive in science ? Answer: I'm no smarter than many of my peers but I was in the lab when they were not."

This is how I was trained. You are competing with the people who are working harder than you. Not the folks who work banker's hours.

How many of the Directors or Tenured Professors come out of the 'banker's hours' approach, and how many come from the total commitment and work as hard as possible approach?

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56. bailing out on September 30, 2010 1:48 PM writes...

Kimmel just doesn't realize that the academic pyramid scheme has crashed. Back in the day, if you gave up your life in pursuit of your mentor's scientific goals, eventually you would be given a small cadre of drones that would in their turn give up their lives in pursuit of your scientific goals. That doesn't happen anymore and everyone (except maybe Kimmel and others of his generation) knows it.

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57. pete on September 30, 2010 1:53 PM writes...

55. Todd on September 30, 2010 1:43 PM writes...

"You are competing with the people who are working harder than you. Not the folks who work banker's hours."

Agreed, it's usually so.. (and a nod to MY inner Mark Ptashne)

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58. =GiMP= on September 30, 2010 2:00 PM writes...

Maybe a slightly different perspective...

I am a manager in large pharma and am lucky to enjoy flexible working hours. I have routinely observed increased focus and productivity from colleagues who work 'compressed' hours i.e. 40 hrs / week in 4 days...

Whilst tired at the end of the week, they go like a train Mon thru Thu...

Almost seems like an optimum?

Just my 2 cents.

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59. Rhenium on September 30, 2010 2:18 PM writes...

Doesn't anyone get it? He's trolling you all...

The amount of hits and links and rebuttals will more than outweigh the general perception of him as being being a crotchety old geezer.

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60. Mark on September 30, 2010 2:19 PM writes...

In grad school, one of the most productive members of the faculty sat us all down, and said something to the effect of "You're only really productive 6 hours a day. The remaining time is an illusion of productivity. Do mindless things: track down citations, organize your reading, spend time with your partners, exercise, what not." It made a difference. I work 4/10s in industry now, but I generally structure my day the same: 6 hours of focused, productive work, and 4 hours of administrivia, e-mail reduction, etc.

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61. Hap on September 30, 2010 2:23 PM writes...

It was always assumed that more hours meant more productivity, but obviously it doesn't work that way everywhere or for everyone. (My postdoc was one of those who hewed to that advice and who did well, while one of my labmates had close to bankers' hours and has been even more successful in his career.) In research, all your advisor can control is how many at bats you get (how many chances to find things), not how good the at-bats are or how much they actually achieve - advisors thus tend to manage what they can measure. Hence, I can see how you could think that driving your students harder would benefit everyone - it just doesn't, always.

I would think that driving people to endless time in lab is an easy way to exhaust their passion. Great for you, but not so much for anyone else. And, of course, you still haven't got productivity, which is ultimately what pays the bills and what is useful for everyone involved.

The other part of the equation is the feeling that whether or not you work hard, you are expendable. In school, the safety nonchalance isn't comforting, let alone things such as the Carreira letter, while in real life, you can get nailed for the bad choices of your management, because people elsewhere are cheaper, or for a host of other reasons that have little to do with you. When outcomes and your effort and work are disconnected, well, it becomes harder to get people to drive themselves. People in school can see what awaits them and wonder if the only consequence of their passion and work will be a nice spot in the unemployment line, and well, you can figure out what the consequences might be.

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62. Greg Hlatky on September 30, 2010 2:53 PM writes...

"The other part of the equation is the feeling that whether or not you work hard, you are expendable."

Shorter version: "We keep you alive to serve this ship. Row well and live."

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63. CMCguy on September 30, 2010 3:00 PM writes...

Many good comments and does seem Kern's may be missing concept of law of diminishing returns or over correlation to passion with science endeavors. More than a few PIs/Bosses I am acquainted with had attitude that since they learned (suffered) by certain approach, like extra long hours in the lab, then that was the best way to teach (enforce on) underlings. Also seen others who recognized the value of balance in life and acknowledge insights may come elsewhere (OK interactions at bars perhaps too overused but potential is good).

I do not know location of the facility here but I am under impression Johns Hopkins may not be in a nicer part of Baltimore which has(had) general reputation as rougher city. Is there another factor at play in that people have concerns about Security so do not work beyond busier times?

Did he mention if went to the library every time and add that to the total numbers? Now-a days how many people do most their literature reading/review at home/outside the lab? TMI I am sure yet how many go over articles while sitting in the bathroom (some of which should be flushed there)? This reminds me there is a saying which in that a few hours searching the literature will save weeks/months in the lab.

My guess is most people, even in industry, have stretches that require extra long hours to complete a project/met a deadline and do so without complaint (too much at least) or real recognition for such efforts.

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64. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 3:01 PM writes...

This professor is hopefully a soon to be extinct Neanderthal. Women, and the men who have families with them, have been fighting for academics to stop being a macho 24/7 life style for a generation. That psychology forces both men and women to sacrifice their families and social lives on the alter of professorial ego gratification and was a major reason so many talented women abandoned academics. This anti-woman, anti-family rant is a call to nullify 20 years of human progress in the academic work place. It should be shouted down before these old white-haired white-men who have stayed too long at the party send us back into the dark ages.

Given how long it takes to get a PhD degree and the mandatory extra long post doctorial stint these days, women are lucky to not be in menopause by the time they get tenure. That is if they can find an academic job at all. Maybe if PhDs were granted in 3-4 years and post docs lasted two years max, just maybe this kind of work environment could be justified. It is just wrong to demand people to throw away the best years of their lives (and believe me at my age, I know they were) for some sorry vision of post graduate work-life.

So let me understand this moron's argument. People should sacrifice their families and personal life to save us all from cancer. Right! I was in graduate school when Nixon declared war on cancer. I have worked in pharma oncology drug discovery the past 20 years. Best I can see, after all those billions of dollars given to academic cancer researchers during the past 40 years, cancer is still winning the war. By the way, when did modern academicians ever produce a "cure" for any cancer? Oh yeah the early 1950s.

The intractability of cancer has very little to do with peoples' work ethic. Making young women's lives hyper stressful, ruining young people's marriages and destroying their families working 27/7 in the lab for some egomaniac is not the solution to the cancer problem. So what is this old guy's beef? Is it:

1) I worked so hard to get a grant to build this building and fund this work, you own me your every breath, and you life and happiness be damned?
2) I need you to work harder, so I can publish more papers to get more tax payer's money to enhance my fame?
3) I need you to work harder, so I can win all kinds of awards?
4) I need you to work hard, so I can keep my employment slot filled, because none of my students will ever be good enough to replace me?
5) I need you to work extra hard, so I can take your work effort to start a company and get rich on the sweat of my post docss and grad students' brow without giving up my day job?

The one thing I definitely know he is not doing. He is not hassling his underlings to make drug molecules that could actually make a difference to cancer patients. No, those future cures for cancer will spill out of the Chinese and Indian medicinal chemistry labs, not some ivory tower organization of blowhards. God how I miss the forced age-65 retirement policies.

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65. RenegadeSci on September 30, 2010 3:02 PM writes...

At #56.


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66. p on September 30, 2010 3:26 PM writes...

I don't have a problem with anything anyone above has written. The idea that one "has to" work 55-80 hour weeks is nuts. The idea that anyone can keep that schedule up for long periods is nuts. The idea that fear should be a prime motivator of students is nuts.

BUT, show me a scientist who NEVER works late or on weekends or who doesn't take some work home with them and I'll show you someone who isn't going to either get much done, learn much or make much impact. And I know such people.

Scientists aren't going to become extremely wealthy, certainly not as wealthy as a lot of other fields can make you. If you're sitting in your lab, hewing to a rigorous 8 to 5 schedule, tolerating scientific discussion until you can get to the bar all in the hopes of a big pay day at some point, you should find something else to do.

And, if you're working for an a-hole who yells at you, tries to scare you and expects 80 hour weeks, why haven't you quit? Grad school isn't the army. You can leave. And if you're miserable and have a jerk for a boss, you should.

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67. Hap on September 30, 2010 4:26 PM writes...

66: They don't because of sunk costs (the time they spent in school, which they can't recoup anything for unless they finish) and because they figure that it might be hard to get a job if they leave (in chemistry). The coauthor of Danishefsky's recent ACIEE minireview on natural products (or rather his lab's use of "diverted synthesis" to make drug candidates) is one of the few people I've heard of to leave one group with a master's degree and enter another in the same field. If that probability is accurately assigned, well, that might explain a lot. In addition, even if you do leave, and go elsewhere, it's hard to know that you won't find the same thing again, because it's common enough in chemistry.

Another whiny note: when he took his job at JHU, I assume he looked at pay and environment and lots of other things before he took the job. I assume that he has the passion whose absence he bemoans in others, yet those things mattered to him. Why should they not matter to others?

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68. GladToMoveToProcess on September 30, 2010 4:32 PM writes...

Re part of Cloud's comment (#48): before I got married, I spent around 100 hours a week in the Chem building. However, that included at least 3 hr in classes I sat in on, 6 hr in group meetings and group problem solving sessions, and 2-3 hr in department seminars. Then, several hr a day in the library, granted while things were refluxing. And, while in the lab, time was spent talking with other students, washing glassware, and figuring out what to try next. So, the time really spent at the hood was probably closer to 60 - 70 hr. My PI didn't expect us to put in anything like those hours, it just was addictive.

As for fear being a motivation, the only time that happened was when the PI mentioned a rumor that Woodward had a student working on the same target. THAT was scary. Fortunately, said student got diverted into something related. The threat sure got me doing more reactions, but not spending more time in the lab.

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69. Soitgoes on September 30, 2010 4:41 PM writes...

Many large research groups have 50 people burning the midnight oil at sub-minimum wage. They write the grants, do the research yet

only the PI is invited to the awards ceremony..

only the PI gets the patent rights and grant money..

only the PI gets to be considered rewarded by society for the communal effort.

That stinks.

The whole chemistry system is a feudal system run by despots and ivy league a-h*les.

Only fools and kids on trust funds should go into chemistry today.

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70. Quintus on September 30, 2010 4:54 PM writes...

@58 a manager eh, what do you contribute except to slap people around the face at performance review time. Get off your ass and get back in the lab.

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71. p on September 30, 2010 4:56 PM writes...

Sure, I get that. And I'm not really advocating a 5th year PhD student who is close to done to quit. I'm just trying to get it out there that there are good advisors to work for who aren't out simply to exploit their students and who can be identified by asking around. In my experience, it isn't hard to get students to talk about their advisors in a negative light.

As you might be able to tell, I had a good experience with my advisor. I was certainly expected to work hard and to get results but I was also complimented when things went well and got advice, not derision when things went badly. It was, all things considered, a great experience. In turn, I don't expect my students to break their backs or sacrifice their families/pursuit of interests.

If someone chooses one of these big name jerks for the reason that they're a big name, then they're buying into the system - a system that ranks them as just above used mag sulfate. I would urge no one to buy into that system unnecessarily.

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72. hmmm on September 30, 2010 5:03 PM writes...

67: Hap - I don't understand your sentiment about folks who are afraid to leave grad school because they feel they won't get a job. How do you mean? I knew quite a few people in school who left with a MS, and some left with nothing. All of them seemed to find employment in chemistry pretty readily (if they wanted it and weren't planning to leave the field) - much easier than the PhD's.

Of course, this is regarding industry. Name professors like Danishefsky don't really need staff scientists in the lab since they have tons of people wanting to be their post docs (or grad students when they were taking them).

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73. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 5:20 PM writes...

Hello all this post today stir some feelings that I've been having and I really need some advice, how can you gain your passion back? I love doing research, working at the bench, reading about cool things that other people are doing in my field and others but the problem is that lately I've been feeling unfocused and uninterested on my work. I feel really bad about this and almost like an impostor for being here and not putting the same effort that I used to do but this feeling is still not enough to push me to do my best and that causes me to feel even worse. It makes me wonder if one gets this way as one gets older, or if its is one of those moments that would go away just as it seem to appear. Have you ever experience something like this? if so, what did you do to get your passion/mojo/enthusiasm back? so far what I've been doing is filling my works days with things to do, so I won't stop to think about how I feel and it is not working well as you can imagine but I do manage to be some what productive. Thanks to all for the advice.

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74. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 5:26 PM writes...

I wonder how many people who might have gone on to successful careers got burned out and left the field because of professors like this guy. When I quit grad school with a master's, I stayed in the field for the most cynical of reasons - I hated chemistry and never wanted to see the inside of a lab again, but knew a chemist job would pay better than some entry-level cubicle job would. Now that I've been in industry for a while, I like science again, but a good number of my friends are out of the field now because of bad experiences in grad school.

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75. Hap on September 30, 2010 5:28 PM writes...

I don't know so much that they don't think they'll get a job, but that if they actually want to get a PhD later, that they won't be able to. Most of the people who left grad school that I knew were able to do OK in finding jobs, including me. Even if you can transfer, there's still some cost in transferring (though, admittedly, a lower cost than your sanity). I don't think that people necessarily realize how bad people are until they work for them, though, and by then, it's costly and difficult to leave, though not impossible.

I didn't have a good time in grad school, but my advisor wasn't really part of that. He wasn't the opposite of the author, but he didn't really care how much time you spent in lab, just that you got real results and didn't mind lots of red ink on your paper drafts. That seems to have worked out well for a lot of the people coming from his lab, which seems to indicate that demanding time in lab isn't the only way to get people doing useful things. If you only showed up two or three days a week, though, and didn't achieve anything, well, then that wasn't going to go well for you. Other groups tended to demand or pressure lots of time from students, and I don't know how good that was - they were productive, but not necessarily happy places to work (and some highly not happy).

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76. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 5:30 PM writes...

73 - what's your situation? To give advice, it would be helpful to know whether you're a grad student or in industry. If you are in grad school, whether you'd be better off quitting with a master's or sticking it out would depend on how many years you've put in already.

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77. Anon_Scientist on September 30, 2010 5:31 PM writes...

This is exactly why I am leaving the United States for my PhD, and why I will never return to American academics. Time spent "in the lab" is a poor proxy for energy spent solving big problems.

The vast majority of academics in the USA are "try hards", antisocial, and lack imagination or creativity. Their dogmatic approach to science has forced me to leave my country, and it I am unlikely to ever return.

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78. CMCguy on September 30, 2010 5:51 PM writes...

#71 p IMO you have nailed the question/suggested topic of yesterday about what makes a good boss (milkshake). You state "I was certainly expected to work hard and to get results but I was also complimented when things went well and got advice, not derision when things went badly." Since in doing research one is more likely to encounter failure than success those elements do keep things positive are crucial.

Like most of life its makes sense to be an "Educated Buyer" when it comes to selecting a PIs if going to grad school. One does have to attempt to explore the demands/personality of the PI as well as group dynamics with some probing questions may be needed to make sure compatibility. Asking grad student opinions not always a guarantee as I did experience a false start when 1-2 people had hinted the lab/PI could jerk people around while others where fully positive until after I joined the group and found some of those people had the most negative perspectives.

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79. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 5:53 PM writes...


feeling sexist and racist today, are we? did you come up with this yourself or did you pick it up in one of your women in science meetings?

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80. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 6:14 PM writes...


No, I just observed the world around me and how women (and men with families) in science including my ex-wife - a PhD chemist- were treated by male professors. I am actually a 63 year old white male chemist who has seen more than enough of these jerks ruin peoples' lives to last a life time. This author is just another one of those jerks. He has stayed too long at the party and should be retired to make room for a more enlightened person.

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81. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 6:48 PM writes...


Well then, with those observations in hand you should realize that this kind of jerk-ness is not limited to males or to white folks. Perhaps some sensitivity training is in order.

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82. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 7:18 PM writes...


In my 40+ years in the lab and corporate management, it has pretty much been limited to those folks. When I went through school, chemists all looked like me. They are my peers and early on my father's generation. These kind of individuals need to be rooted out any positions of power over young people where ever they linger. They are awful people, and we have no need for them or their management style.

Sensitivity training is just so much corporate BS as well you know. How about just treating others the way you would want your loved ones treated?

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83. psi*psi on September 30, 2010 7:34 PM writes...

@73: Take a vacation. Then start a side project.

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84. anon the infinite on September 30, 2010 7:42 PM writes...

I haven't had a chance to read all the comments...
Somewhere in my travels I've seen people say that the downtime away from work actually allowed their subconscious to mull over problems.

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85. Anonymous on September 30, 2010 7:43 PM writes...


I guess you missed the diversity train then. It's sad to hear a self-admitted white male putting down other white males based on that gender-ethnic factor alone. You're lucky you're at the end of your career because let me tell you - it gets pretty discouraging reading all the wanted ads which all but explicitly state that white men are on the bottom of their hiring priority.

So yeah, how about it - I would want my loved ones judged on the basis of their character rather than their sex and skin color, how about you?

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86. cliffintokyo on September 30, 2010 7:55 PM writes...

1. It is possible to be dedicated and human; see some of the Nobel Prize winners talking about their work.
2. Young people are lazy and need pushing (to some extent; with sublety, for the intelligent ones), but leadership is much more important.
(Communication again!)
3. Show your supervisor that you are serious about your research; your excitement and passion will probably develop with time.
4. Considering the wide readership of Derek's blog, all the motivated scientists *listening-in* must be cringing at the awful advertisement for being a researcher that this old *dinosaur* is presenting. If he was a physician, he would probably be debarred for bring disrepute on his profession.
5. Mark's (#60 ) '6 + 4' is probably just about spot on, with some flexibility for unexpected events.

My Austrian? (memory fails) chemical friend once transliterated one of his country's proverbs for me as:
"Those that haven't got it in the head have got it in the feet"
Perhaps this applies to most of us?
Disillusioned chem profs probably believe all of their grad students are like this.
Food for thought?

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87. Brian on September 30, 2010 8:54 PM writes...

Here is an interesting TED presentation relating to motivation.

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88. @PDF on September 30, 2010 9:37 PM writes...

Before you continue extolling the superiority of German research and work efficiency, remember that most American research chemists have to work longer hours. Funding is tough to obtain and our social welfare system is pitiful compared to anything in the EU. With research and manufacturing jobs in the West being outsourced to the Developing World, Americans have no choice but to make sacrifices and become hyper-competitive. If you have such disdain for the American system, why the hell are you here as a postdoc courtesy of the Deutschen Forschung Gemeinschaft? Oh secure a bigshot American reference and improve your career opportunities! Anyway, you must not be chained to the fumehood since you're writing on this blog.

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89. cliffintokyo on September 30, 2010 9:38 PM writes...

Good stuff in the TED video and comments, Brian.
Respect, power, money, in that order?
Autonomy, mastery, money sounds like ducking of responsibility by cowardly MBA execs ;-)
Is experimental research difficult because it requires simultaneous, concentrated L + R brain activity?

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90. Lu on September 30, 2010 10:04 PM writes...

This guy is delusional. Many of academic scientists are.
A person like him creates an ideal world inside his head and is gravely hurt when his delusion clashes with reality.

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91. Burton on September 30, 2010 11:51 PM writes...

Nobody ever went to their deathbed thinking they should have spent more time at the office.

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92. Piter on September 30, 2010 11:57 PM writes...

Unreal and ICQ were still dated in 2005. By a good 5 years.

That aside, you're right. It's the appearance, more than anything. I work at a job where there are entire days I have no duties at my desk. I occasionally get an early afternoon off, but I have to be here because my colleagues are here and it would be unfair for me to leave. It's one of the contractual obligations they like to cherry-pick when it comes to enforcement.

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93. bcpmoon on October 1, 2010 1:01 AM writes...

When I was working for my PhD I always hated it to have to keep results "up the sleeve" in order to satisfy my supervisor. I also hated it to adjust my schedule to his, i.e. coming late and staying later, so that he had the right impression. So I stopped that. And what was the return? Surprisingly: respect. Of course, I was not the darling, working 24/7 (that was the Postdocs job), but we developed a working relationship.
One thing that grates me is: Does anybody go into or stay in science for the easy life? No, everyone is there because of a passion for it, there are far easier ways to make a living. And this suggestion that you are a lesser scientist because you dare to have a life and therefore you do not care about science? Well, f*** you.

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94. bcpmoon on October 1, 2010 1:39 AM writes...

After PhD, I started working in the industry, for a CRO/CMO. It was like lifting a veil: Only results count, do it as effective as possible, work your a** off to meet timelines and then stay home, as your hours are booked on a project budget and you are punching the clock like a blue collar worker. Best of both worlds. I mean it.
Aaaaand this is true both for industry and academia: If you are working exotic times or alone, not only accidents happen more often, but you are also risking your insurance coverage. For this reason, if you have to work more than 12h in one go at my company, you are obliged to call a taxi to go home.
But perhaps these things are of no concern for the young. I thought I would live forever as well.

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95. Process Researcher on October 1, 2010 1:45 AM writes...

I have worked in an extremely relaxed lab during my Ph.D. and a really intense lab during my post-doct. Both experience have helped me over the years in the industry. You just know what to do and what to avoid. Having said that, I think we should just leave scientists alone and not force them to work long hours or few hours. Those who have great ideas and passion will make it happen regardless of the number of hours. And that does not mean that they will necessarily get things to work by spending fewer hours or for that matter the converse. And let's not comment on who has a life outside the lab and who does not. A person who does not have a life outside can still be a good at work and a good human being. A highly opinionated attitude reflects our own insecurity just like the author of this article. It should be a personal choice. Two hours or twenty hours - what's the difference as long as the science is novel, efficiently and well investigated?

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96. bcpmoon on October 1, 2010 2:15 AM writes...

I think no one in this forum has a problem with people who do the extra time because they want/like it. Of course, in the end it is a personal choice and if you want to put in extra hours, fine. But the editorial was about external expectations and as soon as you apply this kind of pressure, you are not free to choose anymore.

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97. naughtymonkey on October 1, 2010 3:35 AM writes...

It amazes me how stupid intelligent people can be.

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98. cliffintokyo on October 1, 2010 3:56 AM writes...

Yes! Isn't chemistry research just like war?
All the misunderstandings, bung-ups, friendly-fire incidents, and blind-alley *adventures* are swept under the rug when we congratulate our fine fighting forces for the magnificent job they have done (assuming we won/ cracked the synthesis).
You need to put in the hours just to get to completion, because nobody is nearly as smart as they like to make out.
IMHO both activities need a heavy dose of telling it like it really is.....

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99. Eka-silicon on October 1, 2010 4:10 AM writes...

OT, but relevant too.

"[LLY] ...has virtually no new products to market until 2013, when it hopes to start rolling out two a year."

Yup, that'll happen for sure!

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100. mmol on October 1, 2010 5:53 AM writes...

Pete has it about right. Some of us have to work harder than others to get where we want to go, and some don't. Reality of life. As a UK academic who has postdoced in the US, I see less evidence of the “work ethic" (which translates to, work long hours or I won’t write you a good reference) here, but there are (depressingly) still some groups where hours count more than productivity or an individual’s development. My approach has been that what you put into the hours is more important than the hours themselves but, and esp in graduate school, when students are discouraged from reading literature for example, one has to wonder what the PI's motivation is. His (usually) career/ego and not the education of the grad students is generally at the root of this and wouldn’t it be great if most of those careers were actually focussed on doing something truly worthwhile, like curing cancer or even just quality/innovative science? Reality check again, they’re not.........

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101. Sulphonamide on October 1, 2010 7:03 AM writes...

As one who decided to quit the US system on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon when everyone was in a panic about the anger the boss would feel on Monday if they didn't get their results (whilst normal people thanked the almighty for such a perfect day), I feel both huge admiration and sympathy for researchers in the US - it takes a very special person to live a happy life in that system.

However, one lesson I feel the US "teaches" very well is the "work hard play hard" mentality - no hour should be wasted on something trivial. Sleeping and seeing friends are not trivial, but mindlessly flicking through the TV channels when you could be reading up on patent law is...however it seemed to me that that the only people that actually preached this mentality were those who felt that we should love our work so much that it constituted the aforementioned play.

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102. CRH on October 1, 2010 7:17 AM writes...

@91 - Burton:
"Nobody ever went to their deathbed thinking they should have spent more time at the office."

Ah, but I think one of his points is: Somebody went to their deathbed hoping other people spent more time in the lab looking for a cure.

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103. austinwiltshire on October 1, 2010 8:01 AM writes...

It's like this in almost every field. We're measured by how many hours we put in, not the results we put out.

I'd claim that it's a more passionate researcher that cuts her workweek off at the standard 40. With discipline, the rich and varied personal life a person who works a standard workweek has becomes a source of energy and inspiration back at the office. When I see people putting 80 hours a week in the office - in a job that requires creativity no less - I usually end up seeing people asleep at their desks. Or painfully solving a problem in the least useful way possible because they're too dull from fatigue to realize they're doing it wrong.

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104. HappyDog on October 1, 2010 8:25 AM writes...

I read an interview once with the CEO of Honeywell. He said that when he took over, he told his management team not to work more than 40 hours per week. If they didn't cut back their hours, they were fired. His reasoning was that if they couldn't do their jobs in a 40 hour work week, then they were either too disorganized or didn't know what they were doing.

My thesis advisor had a similar philosophy. He never pressured us to spend time in lab. In fact, he made a point of telling us that it didn't impress him to see us working nights and weekends. To him, it was just a sign that we couldn't get our work done during regular hours, when we were probably goofing off instead of working. The one caveat is that at 4:30 every Friday he kicked everyone out of lab on his way out the door and told us to go drink beer.

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105. Nick on October 1, 2010 8:26 AM writes...

A friend of mine left grad school partially because her professor was of a similar opinion. People have lives, and more than one interest. Pushing them to do one thing and only one thing at the exclusion of all others — will just push them away from that one thing.

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106. g on October 1, 2010 9:56 AM writes...

People will work very hard for something that will benefit them as well as society. But there is an equilibrium between the two. Who on earth would work their tails off to get a paper that will be a line in their CV but still won't get them a job? Whereas lawyers regularly put in 60 hour weeks and they can get paid enormous sums.

The career structure for young scientists has too many disincentives. The majority of benchwork is not done by the old, gray-hairs. They write grants and go to conferences. The people doing the benchwork (postdocs and grad students) will probably not ever become PIs. So why would they work so hard? They won't. They will work hard enough so they won't get fired.

I am a science, nerd through and through. I love it. So many questions and clever ways of testing those hypothesis. . . But I was disillusioned as I entered grad school. Many people were good at science, but few were passionate about it. Over the ensuing years, I realized that with science, many people do not "choose" science, but rather, they fall into it. They are smart but not terribly money oriented so they chose a science degree because they like science. They got good grades, but did not want to be a doctor or pharmacist. They go into grad school because that seems much better than managing a convenience store. But they are not hugely passionate about science.

Many of the future hard workers, who work to the point of obsession, have gone onto careers as doctors, lawyers, bankers, business people, etc. where their passion for accomplishment is financially rewarded and socially praised. But the lowly postdoc may work as passionately and may still be looking for a new job (or any job) in a few years. The incentives for passionate, hard working, science-loving people are not there.

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107. Jonathan on October 1, 2010 10:28 AM writes...

@ HappyDog my PhD supervisor was the same; I think I had to work less than 20 weekends during my PhD and I wrote up and completed in 3 years.

That was followed by a couple of postdocs in the US that involved in vivo models of atherosclerosis where you'd spend 3+ months waiting for mice to get fat before you had anything to do! My problem was finding stuff to do to keep busy - when the mice are $200 a pop and antibodies cost a fortune, there's only so much my PIs would let me do on my own. Around that time I worked out I really didn't want to stay in academia and spent the downtime writing for Ars Technica and working on skills that would get me a job in policy.

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108. Hap on October 1, 2010 11:04 AM writes...

102: True, but there's the question whether complaining that your students and others aren't spending enough time in lab without actually doing any of the things the rest of world does (like pay more, better benefits, or appreciation) to get people to work harder is an effective strategy. I don't think his complaints are going to be saving anyone on their deathbed anytime soon, if ever.

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109. Anonymous on October 1, 2010 12:38 PM writes...

I know Scott Kern well (trained with him), so let me clear up a few misconceptions that have been propogated in this thread:

1. Scott is a pioneer in the identification of genes that cause pancreatic cancer. He deserves an enormous amount of credit in this area. His publication record is remarkable. Anyone who writes that his publication record is relatively thin for someone having the attitude displayed in his written piece does not know what he is talking about. Scott is an endowed full professor at Hopkins - nothing to sneeze at (or denigrate).

2. Scott is definitely not a psycho. He is reasonable, smart, and fair. He often has an unusual, often interesting take on things. He loves to play with ideas such as this one.

I also tend to agree with Scott. Performing academic biomedical research is a remarkable luxury that is not available in the vast majority of countries worldwide. PhD students actually GET PAID to get their PhDs, which is remarkable and in contrast to virtually all other fields.

I do not think Scott is saying "everyone needs to work harder." I think what he is really saying is that people without the internal drive to work harder probably should not be in academic biomedical research.

I have a feeling alot of the post-ers on this thread are from industry, where you are providing a service for the larger success of your company. You are getting paid for this service, and are expected to work a certain number of hours and (to some extent) do what you are told. In contrast, in academic science you are not providing service for a salary. It is different, and you probably shouldn't do it unless you absolutely love it and want to work weekends, since there are many many better jobs that pay more and with discrete hours.

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110. Goldplated on October 1, 2010 1:04 PM writes...


Hi Scott Kern,

Just one question per your comment ...
"probably should not be in academic biomedical research."

So tell me, oh wise one, how can I get a PhD in science if I want work-life balance?

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111. Anon on October 1, 2010 1:19 PM writes...

Anon 109: Scott Kern may consider himself to be a grounbreaker as far as pancreatic cancer goes, but this disease still kills. From this, I can only conclude that Kern is a jerk with a large ego.
Secondly, I know of plenty of Industrial and Academic scientists who have made enormous contributions whine having a normal life.
Did you know that Einstein wrote his theory of relativity for fun while working as a patent clerk? Real genius is not just working 24/7.....

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112. Anon on October 1, 2010 1:26 PM writes...


FYI #109 is not Scott Kern.

You can get a PhD in science if you want work/life balance. You can easily be passionate about science, work very hard, love what you do and are captivated by it, AND have work/life balance. You can work 40 hours a week and be passionate about science, or work 60 hours a week and be passionate about science.

But, working 9-5 is a very inefficient way to be a cancer molecular biologist (perhaps more efficient in other fields). Unless you are specifically setting up your experiments so that they do not need to be tended on evening and weekends (which causes you to lose a lot of days inefficiently working around Sat and Sun), you NEED to go into lab alot at night and on weekends.

I encourage people in my lab to leave when they have nothing to do during the workday (our common euphemism is - "go to the beach"). But, we expect that this is coupled with an interest and willingness to come on on nights and weekends when there is work to be done (which is frequently). If that interest and willingness is not there, it betrays a lack of passion that does not bode well.

Sure, you can get a 9-5 PhD (and many do). But, it sure doesn't sound like a "doctor of philosophy" to me. Sounds more like an MBA.

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113. hn on October 1, 2010 1:28 PM writes...

I worked with 3 very successful PIs (2 are NAS) who ran very relaxed labs. The environment was fun, and coming to lab was something to look forward to. I love science, but if the research and social environment are bad, I won't look forward to coming to lab.

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114. Wagonwheel on October 1, 2010 1:32 PM writes...

This just smacks of a professor who sees students as nothing more than hands in the lab to execute his great plans, minions, drones, more hours equals more output, more papers for me...

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115. cancer survivor scientist on October 1, 2010 1:38 PM writes...

I'm a scientist as well as a cancer survivor. When I was sick, I absolutely did not wish I had worked in lab more. I felt tremendous gratitude to fellow scientists who had contributed to medical advances. The last thing on my mind was, "Damn lazy postdocs! They need to work 24/7!"

Faced with possible death, I learned that life does not revolve around me. Embrace life, and be grateful for everything!

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116. CMCguy on October 1, 2010 3:06 PM writes...

#109 Anon- I think like Kern's you seem to be substituting a surrogate marker for passion that may not hold up. His was time spent per week and yours seems to imply acceptance of academic position verses an industrial job. I don't disagree that having a passion is critical, in science and pretty much most professions, and is why most people get into occupations (because recognize can have easier more financially rewarding careers) however there are different ways to express, measure or judge the dedication and focus of people.

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117. Virgil on October 1, 2010 3:38 PM writes...

"PhD students actually GET PAID to get their PhDs, which is remarkable and in contrast to virtually all other fields."

Well, that depends on your viewpoint. Given that most graduate students are still saddled with debt from their undergraduate training, the term "salary" is debatable when referring to a pitiful $22k stipend that many grad' programs pay. Considering the salary they could earn on the open market, settling for 1/2 to 1/3 that amount for 5-6 years is a pretty fine commitment in my opinion.

I also take serious issue with your other statement in that paragraph... "Performing academic biomedical research is a remarkable luxury that is not available in the vast majority of countries worldwide."

This is the kind of attitude that will lead to Chinese researchers coming and biting you on the ass because you thought that research was the preserve of the rich western nations! Research in academia is not a luxury, it is something we do to stay ahead of the competition. In this case, the competition is the BRIC nations, and if you think they will not take over and surpass everything that "western" (U.S.) science has done, wake up!

The reason to work hard, is not as Kern says (because you "owe it" to those who have invested in nice shiny buildings for you), it's because if you don't work hard then you will be superseded by someone, from what you probably consider to be a 3rd world country.

At some point in the next decade, major disease charities will have an increasingly hard time justifying the costs of biomed' research in the U.S. to their donors, and will actively seek to outsource that research to the cheapest bidder (likely a BRIC nation). It's only a matter of time before the NIH follows suit. Why spend $1m to fund 1 lab' for 4 years, when you could fund 5 labs for the same cost overseas. The potential out-sourcing of academic biomedical research, is the biggest thing right now that's driving my lab to find new and unique research avenues. Still, if you wanna work long hours because you feel guilty about a $50m shiny building, go ahead.

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118. FC on October 1, 2010 5:26 PM writes...

Hi Scott Kern,

"I also tend to agree with Scott. Performing academic biomedical research is a remarkable luxury that is not available in the vast majority of countries worldwide. PhD students actually GET PAID to get their PhDs, which is remarkable and in contrast to virtually all other fields."

Are you kidding??? My question to you is "how many people really want to have that luxury, particularly for people from this country?".

I got my Ph.D in chemistry from an IVY school some 15+ years ago. I worked those 60+ hours. I did not think much about it at that time as I was a foreign student and did appreciate the opportunity to study in the U.S. and in a very fine school for an internationally known big-shot.
Mind you, my PI worked long hours (50-60 hours) and he did not demand us to work 60+ hours.
Now looking back, the reward and effort don't seem to correlate. For law and medical students, the potential rewards seems to justify that kind of efforts. For chemists/biologists, I do not think so for majority of the cases.

I have two kids. There is no way that I would want them to enjoy such "luxury". I do not work to touch such a "luxury" with 10-foot pole. Just look at the chemistry depts around the country, it seems that most of the people who "enjoy the luxury are wide-eyed foreign students (just like me 20 years ago).

That kind of horsecr*p can't fool people anymore, particularly for kids from this country. They and their parents know better.

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119. anon on October 1, 2010 10:05 PM writes...


I think you are misinterpreting what I mean by luxury. I do not mean that biomedical science is a luxurious profession - as you say, in many ways it is truly awful (especially these days). But, what I mean is that the mere existence of the ability in this country to have a creative scientific idea, apply for a multimillion dollar grant to study it, and in some cases actually receive that grant enabling you to study an idea IS IN ITSELF remarkable. Most countries are too busy trying to feed their populations to make that kind of intellectual curiousity possible.

Academic scientists provide no services for our salary (though some do teach a bit) - our job is basically to follow our noses in the search for discovery. I think that this incredible luxury should be reserved (to some extent) for only the most passionate among us. I suppose I (and I am NOT Scott Kern but I do know him) think showing up at lab on nights and weekends is one reasonable surrogate marker for passion.

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120. FC on October 1, 2010 10:56 PM writes...

Time has changed. So should academic research.

That grant is tax payer's money, yours and mine. As a tax payer, I would not be very keen to support somebody's "pipe dream" or pie-in-the sky idea or buy a very expensive "toy" to play with (read: Super collider). Just look at the demise of once-great Bell Laboratories. We live in a real world, not utopia. Academic researchers tend to forget that.

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121. Resveratrol Receptor on October 2, 2010 1:27 AM writes...

@87; very nice find. i think his argument that autonomy is a powerful motivator explains why many academic scientists (myself very included) eventually lose momentum.

i worked hard for an authoritarian PI during graduate school, brought in grant money, and published in one of the big vanity journals under the delusion that this effort would lead to some modicum of independence. despite an aggressive search (which included institutions of dubious and extremely dubious quality), it lead to another place in the postdoctoral lumpenproletarit (probably until 40), plus several declined industry offers to test the in vivo effects of different me too lead compounds against the world's most uniteresting drug target.

i'd be delighted to work for a horrible salary anywhere on the planet (with a decent supply chain) for 40 sq. ft. of bench space, a centrifuge and independence.

suggestions anyone? (until then i'll be sleeping in).

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122. Polymer Bound on October 2, 2010 11:47 AM writes...

As a scientist in training, I really think you have to work those long hours just to learn everything you need to learn AND contribute something original to the scientific literature. It's the rare talent that can walk in, work their 8-5 and leave with exciting science and a PhD. I think the exceptions to this are students with prior experience (say, from industry) who can hit the ground running.

Even at my company, the most exciting times drove me to spend more time in work or working from home, and those were also my most fruitful times. Productivity isn't staying late... productivity comes when you're so driven by your science that you don't realize it's 8 pm and you haven't eaten anything since breakfast. I don't get enough of those moments these days.

Do none of you stay late or at least wish you could? I'm I the crazy one? I don't know many passionate and creative people who don't do this.

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123. Hmm. on October 2, 2010 1:34 PM writes...

I guess discussion is heavily shifted by chemistry guys.
When you handle live objects like cells, it is not an exception that you simply have to take care for them during weekends. Further you have to accomodate for biologically meaningfull timepoints. And to find them you have to experiment, you often do not know whether it would be 4, 8,16,24. Following the changes in time is standard as well, so you harvest at various timepoints. Add all preparation, sample processing (not always you can freeze the samples)...

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124. ExHopkins on October 2, 2010 4:56 PM writes...

@63, CMCguy:
The Hopkins hospital/medical school, etc are indeed in a rough part of Baltimore. I don't know if Baltimore is much rougher than a lot of cities, but there have been a number of incidents (attacks, kidnappings, rapes) in or near the medical campus over the years. And this does cause researchers there to be more careful about their hours and commutes. However, in my experience, an extended period of 40 hour work weeks among grad students or postdocs is unheard of there.

It's true that the opportunity to do the kind of research that is done in academia in the US is not present in many other countries. However, neither is basic sanitation for much of the world. I really don't see the point you're making.

While US science graduate students are lucky to bear less of a financial burden for their training than, say humanities grad students (whose dedication always awes me) it is at least equally lucky for the professors, universities, and taxpayers that they can get such high quality labor at such low prices. The existence of graduate stipends is not due to an act of generosity on anyone's part.

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125. Anonymous on October 2, 2010 6:23 PM writes...

Everybody wants to be a scientist, nobody wants to do the benchwork.

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126. gippgig on October 2, 2010 10:45 PM writes...

Saturday's Washington Post newspaper published a letter from the executive director of the National Postdoctoral Association titled (in the published version) "Pay 'postdocs' their due respect" (available at
Did you know that the week beginning on the 3rd Monday in September is National Postdoc Appreciation Week?

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127. CMCguy on October 2, 2010 11:37 PM writes...

Thanks for the data #124 ExHopkins and so can only speculate on that particular influence without further info on an individuals work hours.

There is another way to look at this security issue as if one considers that one of the possible results of an increase of passion is a lessening of reasoning then perhaps Kern is correct and working late reflects those more willing to risk personal safety for science. Of course not sure inverse relationship is a factor in science/career passion verses the emotional/sexual kind.

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128. MIMD on October 3, 2010 10:33 AM writes...

Workaholism is a disease.

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129. bbooooooya on October 3, 2010 4:54 PM writes...

"Workaholism is a disease."

Maybe, but sloth is a sin....

There is a balance, I hope.

Re the twit who wrote "think showing up at lab on nights and weekends is one reasonable surrogate marker for passion."

Is taking a Ford Pinto to the garage every day a surrogate for a Bentley?

This kind of mindless attitude is dangerous: it implies that just trying hard will get you results. I get that effort is helpful, but give me 5 good hours over 12 mindless hours any day.

Hours in the lab is not a substitute for well thought out science.

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130. anon on October 3, 2010 8:00 PM writes...

Certainly passion without brains is useless, and no one was suggesting that hours in the lab are a substitute for well thought out science. My opinion is that brains/well thought out science is necessary but not sufficient for scientific excellence, at least in the academic setting. You need passion as well, and I believe that spending time in the lab on nights and weekends provides one potential indication of passion.

Also, I agree that five good hours a day might be sufficient for scientific excellence. The argument is not that a certain amount of time is required. Instead, the argument is that people who are truly outstanding are sufficiently passionate about their science that they are putting in more time than that/working nights and weekends because of their passion for what they do. That is, time spent in lab does not cause scientific excellence; rather, it is simply a marker of excellent/passionate scientists.

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131. bbooooooya on October 3, 2010 8:16 PM writes...

"truly outstanding are sufficiently passionate about their science that they are putting in more time than that/working nights and weekends because of their passion for what they do."


I feel sorry for the families of these "truly outstanding" scientists. I imagine their flasks are a joy to come home to.

Science would be a much better field if people like you did not exist. Please remove yourself.

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132. barno on October 3, 2010 8:58 PM writes...

I wonder if any Nobel Prize winner was a 9-5er? I bet not.

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133. Anonymous on October 3, 2010 9:30 PM writes...

Ya..there are individuals in pharma who apparently show up at work at 7AM and leave by 4 PM (but no one is actually there to see them early on...kinda like the tree falling in the forest but at 7AM). For some people in research it's "power" that drives them. For others it's "money". For the few (albeit highly respectable) it's the "sense of purpose". What quality would you rather have on the management team of a phama co.?????

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134. mad on October 3, 2010 11:35 PM writes...

Funny stuff

The slaves are slowing down..this guy is cracking the guilt whip!

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135. bbooooooya on October 4, 2010 7:20 AM writes...

"What quality would you rather have on the management team of a phama co"

Easy, generating the highest sustainable EPS for shareholders.

Next would be the best ED or GERD or weight loss drug development.

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136. Anonymous on October 4, 2010 7:22 AM writes...

109. Anonymous on October 1, 2010 12:38 PM writes...

"I have a feeling alot of the post-ers on this thread are from industry, where you are providing a service for the larger success of your company. You are getting paid for this service, and are expected to work a certain number of hours and (to some extent) do what you are told. In contrast, in academic science you are not providing service for a salary. It is different, and you probably shouldn't do it unless you absolutely love it and want to work weekends, since there are many many better jobs that pay more and with discrete hours."

I agree. What's sad is that you can earn three times more and work half as much for industry, but in academia you are expected to give up your life for science, and all for the love of science. Don't expect anything in return. And the academic world is surprised that most people want a fair return for their work?

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137. Anon on October 4, 2010 7:26 AM writes...

109. Anonymous on October 1, 2010 12:38 PM writes...

"I have a feeling alot of the post-ers on this thread are from industry, where you are providing a service for the larger success of your company. You are getting paid for this service, and are expected to work a certain number of hours and (to some extent) do what you are told. In contrast, in academic science you are not providing service for a salary. It is different, and you probably shouldn't do it unless you absolutely love it and want to work weekends, since there are many many better jobs that pay more and with discrete hours."

I agree. What's sad is that as a PhD I earn two times more and work half as much for industry as I did for academia. In academia you are expected to give up your life for science, and all for the love of science. Don't expect anything in return. My graduate advisor would say "you have to continually do more and more for less and less in this field to have the benefit of doing what you want." The academic world is surprised that most people want a fair return for their work?

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138. Hap on July 3, 2013 4:03 PM writes...

The academic environment doesn't seem to reward passion, and the reward later on (a job) seems less probable. So, you want to inspire excellence without any possible reward? Good luck with that. For your galley slaves, self-flagellation is much easier, doesn't require eight years of practice, and their wounds heal more easily afterwards.

I'm sure that if an advisor cracks the whip hard enough, he/she will inspire passion. Of course, the passion's expression may result in panicked 911 calls, but nothing's perfect.

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