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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

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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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September 7, 2011

Hard, Hard Work in the Lab

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Posted by Derek

Nature News has a good piece on the 24-hour laboratory. And they're not talking about automation; they're talking about grad students and post-docs staying around all night long. Interestingly, they're focusing on a specific lab to get the details:

But these members of neurosurgeon Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa's laboratory are accustomed to being the last out of the building. In a lab where the boss calls you at 6 a.m., schedules Friday evening lab meetings that can stretch past 10 p.m., and routinely expects you to work over Christmas, sticking it out until midnight on a holiday weekend is nothing unusual.

Many labs are renowned for their intense work ethic and long hours. When I set out to profile such a laboratory, I wanted to find out who is drawn to these environments, what it is really like to work there and whether long hours lead to more or better science. I approached eleven laboratories with reputations for being extremely hard-working. Ten principal investigators turned me down, some expressing a fear of being seen as 'slave-drivers'.

Number eleven — Quiñones-Hinojosa — had no such qualms. His work ethic is no secret. . (He) is gregarious and charming, with an infectious energy and a habit of advertising his humility. But he also knows how intimidating he can be to the people who work for him, and he's not afraid to capitalize on that. In 2007, just two years after he started at Hopkins, he rounded a corner in the cafeteria and saw his lab members sitting at a table, talking and laughing. When they caught sight of him, he says, they stopped, stood up, and went straight back to the lab.

I think that most of us in chemistry have either worked for, or worked near, someone who ran their lab like that. The article makes a point of showing how this professor tries to select people for his group who either like or will put up with it - and as long as everyone knows the score going in, I suppose that I don't have a problem with it. No one's forcing you to go work for Quiñones-Hinojosa, after all (but if you do, he'll certainly force you to work once you're there!) I would personally not make the choice to enter a lab like that one, but others might regard it as a worthwhile trade.

But there's the larger question of whether science has to (or even should) be done that way. As the article goes on to say:

But not everyone agrees that more hours yield more results. Dean Simonton, a psychology researcher at the University of California, Davis, who has studied scientific creativity, says that the pressure for publications, grants and tenure may have created a single-minded, "monastic" culture in science. But some research suggests that highly creative scientists tend to have broader interests and more hobbies than their less creative colleagues, he says. Chemist Stephen Buchwald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology urges the members of his lab to take a month's holiday every year, and not to think about work when they're gone. "The fact is, I want people to be able to think," he says. "If they're completely beaten down, they're not going to be very creative."

My guess is that we're looking at two different kinds of science here. If you're in an area where there's a huge amount of data to be gathered and processed (as there is with the tumor samples in Quiñones-Hinojosa's lab), then the harder you crank, the more results come out the other end. They know what they have to do, and they've decided to do it twenty hours a day. On the other hand, you can't put in those hours thinking up the next revolutionary idea. "Be creative! Now! And don't stop being creative until midnight! I want to see a new electrophilic bond-forming reaction idea before you hit that door!" It doesn't work.

Robert Root-Bernstein's Discovering goes into some of these questions. It's an odd book that I recommend once in a while (much of it is in the form of fictional conversation), but it brings together a lot of information on scientific discovery and creativity that's very hard to find. A quote in it from J. J. Thomson seems appropriate here:

"If you pay a man a salary for doing research, he and you will want to have something to point to at the end of the year to show that the money has not been wasted. In promising work of the highest class, however, results do not come in this regular fashion, in fact years may pass without any tangible results being obtained, and the position of the paid worker would be very embarrassing and he would naturally take to work on a lower, or at any rate, different plane where he could be sure of getting year by year tangible results which would justify his salary. The position is this: You want this kind of research, but if you pay a man to do it, it will drive him to research of a different kind. The only thing to do is pay him for doing something else and give him enough leisure to do research for the love of it."

So there's room for both kinds of work (or should be). Just make sure that you know if you're getting into a pressure cooker beforehand, and that that's what you want or need to do. And if you're going to try to big creative route, you'd better have some interesting ideas to start from and some mental horsepower to work with, or you could spend the rest of your career wandering around in circles. . .

Comments (57) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Who Discovers and Why


1. Aspirin on September 7, 2011 9:42 AM writes...

Quiñones-Hinojosa should now brace himself for a ton of email invective akin to that gathered by fellow Pharaoh Erick Carreira.

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2. PharmaHeretic on September 7, 2011 9:45 AM writes...

The world would be a better place if people like the slave-driver mentioned in that article were made to suddenly disappear- forever. What truly bothers me about such scumbags is that all this "hard work" will not pay in the end for either the postdocs or students.

A neurosurgery residency can be a brutal 60-80 hours per week, but once you finish it the payoff is a very stable, respected and extremely well compensated career. Same with lawyers in large law firms who do actually make the big bucks after doing all that. Postdocs and grad students make less than those who clean their offices.

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3. Innovorich on September 7, 2011 9:51 AM writes...

This is slavery, pure & simple!

When will the authorities wake up to the systematic abuse of grad students by some professors?

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4. NHS doc on September 7, 2011 9:55 AM writes...

I've worked very long hours for the NHS in the 1990s. Not an experience I want to repeat. Productivity over duration for me.

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5. PharmaHeretic on September 7, 2011 9:58 AM writes...

I hate to say this but the 'slave-driver' problem cannot be fixed unless more than a few of the aggrieved parties independently take matters in their own hands. Waiting for "justice" or "fair play" is a bad delusion.

Some of the "techniques" used by drug gangs in the ongoing Mexican drug wars would be optimal against entrenched academics- in any case many of the affected have little left to lose.

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6. startup on September 7, 2011 10:05 AM writes...

I think it's worthwhile to note that 10 out of 11 PIs contacted for this piece refused to be interviewed "some expressing a fear of being seen as 'slave-drivers'", meaning that deep down in their hearts they know exactly what they are doing.

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7. Grad on September 7, 2011 10:22 AM writes...

Just because those joining Quiñones-Hinojosa group know the score doesn't mean he isn't an asshole.

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8. Anonymous on September 7, 2011 10:28 AM writes...

If you're in an area where there's a huge amount of data to be gathered and processed (as there is with the tumor samples in Quiñones-Hinojosa's lab), then the harder you crank, the more results come out the other end.

The thing I found scary is that all that hard work actually doesn't seem to come to much. Sure, Quiñones-Hinojosa's has published 113 papers in the past 6 years, but most of them are apparently from dry-lab data-cranking. Only 29 of them are from the wet lab section - which is made up of 27 people. I don't know what's typical for other clinical-associated wet labs, but that seems like meager rewards for working 20+/7 at the bench.

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9. TJMC on September 7, 2011 10:37 AM writes...

I tend to be more in Simonton's camp. My experience, and observation is that creative insights and breakthroughs come more from a curious mind, and through chance encounters of new ideas or problems outside of your main focus. Hinojosa's approach might enable his own creativity, but I think it may deaden the curiosity of those under that typoe of regime. As a leader, one has to facilitate or inject opportunities for those chance encounters with disparate ideas, views or problems outside of you sphere. Unless it is all about you.

A lot of recent discussions have been around the lack of innovation (and resulting productivity) in R&D. Many grand experiments are being described on how to organize or enable them, to stimulate Innov./Creativ/Product. I wonder how best to measure or compare those experiments? How long a timeline? Metrics other than "I recognize it when I see it"...?

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10. Anonymous on September 7, 2011 10:38 AM writes...

"Quiñones-Hinojosa later offered him a spot in the lab if Bakhsheshian could get a fellowship"
So...."I will only pay you 40k/year if you give me the money to pay your that."
..and people wonder why the PhD is becoming a technician's degree...

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11. b on September 7, 2011 10:39 AM writes...

Wait a minute, while these working conditions are difficult, these people are not forced to join the lab. They made the CHOICE. I worked in a grad lab that put in quite long hours, while it was not as bad as described in the article, I know the hours were long enough to strain coworker marriages. In my grad group the culture was dictated by the fellow grad students, more than the PI. It was not cut throat, we all enjoyed working together and the chemistry we were working on. If you have a problem with the long hours, blame the chemistry culture, the PIs, the grad students, the departments, and the funding sources. Those that produce more tend to get rewarded for it!

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12. PedroS on September 7, 2011 10:40 AM writes...

"Many labs are renowned for their intense work ethic and long hours"

Slave-driving is NOT "intense work ethic"

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13. MoMo on September 7, 2011 10:43 AM writes...

This Quinones-Hinjosa fellow needs studied more thoroughly to make sure he isnt causing PTSD like I've seen in Harvard Chemistry graduates.

It would be easy to dart him with a benzo-tiletamine cocktail and put a collar on him-like we do for sport up here in VT with the other lumbering bruins. Then we could follow him, see his habitat and his territory-measure his incisors.

Just because you work 80-hour weeks does'nt make you special, even with a Ph.D.-we know who the special ones are in drug design-and few masters I know come from these animals. Most of the time their offspring stare at the ground speechless and mute, probably remembering some horrible mistake they made in school or their career path.

But more power to Q-H! This is America and if he wants his charges to work 100 hour weeks so be it!

I just hope he doesn't scratch off his collar-he needs studied for future generations.

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14. Anonymous on September 7, 2011 10:47 AM writes...

"Those that produce more tend to get rewarded for it!"

By getting laid off from the swank med-chem job.

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15. FutureSurgeon on September 7, 2011 11:05 AM writes...

If you look into his background a bit, you'll see that Quiñones-Hinojosa is actually quite a remarkable character. He was once featured in ABC's mini-documentary series "Hopkins," where he is seen treating patients and talking about his path to medicine & research. The mini-documentary series is worth watching if you're interested in this sort of thing, but I haven't been able to find it online. Instead, here's a short (4 minute) local news segment that highlights his very intense personality and upbringing (Replace the x's with t's to watch):


summary of the video: Originally a migrant worker in Mexico (he picked tomatoes), Quiñones-Hinojosa illegally immigrated into the US (hopped the fence), somehow managed to enroll in UC Berkeley for undergrad, then Harvard Med, UCSF residency and is now one of the country's top neurosurgeons.

This guy has an insane work ethic and drive like none other, and while I agree that he shouldn't necessarily demand similar qualities in his graduate students, referring to him as a "scumbag" is pretty poor form. Try to understand him before writing him off as a terrible person, and at the very least, try to recognize that he does a lot of good for his patients.

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16. Ir2 on September 7, 2011 11:10 AM writes...

"but others might regard it as a worthwhile trade."

Maybe some people do see it as worthwhile - but a trade? what's to gain from the underlings' point of view?

Also there is no guarantee that these students know in advance what they are getting into, although this will not always be true.

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17. PedroS on September 7, 2011 11:19 AM writes...

"Many labs are renowned for their intense work ethic and long hours"

Slave-driving is NOT "intense work ethic"

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18. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on September 7, 2011 11:28 AM writes...

All this talk of slave driving is comical. Last I heard slaves are owned property and have no choice in their situation. The people that join these labs either make a decision to subject themselves to this lifestyle, or unknowingly stumble into it. Either way, they can simply leave if they don't like it. That type of life isn't for me, but it clearly fits what some people are willing to put up with. I see nothing wrong with Quiñones-Hinojosa, so long as he doesn't misrepresent what he expects from people up front.

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19. TJMC on September 7, 2011 11:34 AM writes...

Great emoting & invectives, but...

How do YOU promote or enable breakthroughs? Any ideas or proof from the trenches? Results?

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20. startup on September 7, 2011 11:38 AM writes...

David, you probably also blame victims of domestic abuse for "simply not leaving" their abusers?

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21. barry on September 7, 2011 11:43 AM writes...

thirty years ago the (possibly apocryphal) story was rife at Harvard of a professor there coming on one of his post-docs reading in the Chemistry Library. He sent him back to the lab saying only: "I'll do the thinking here"

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22. andrewD on September 7, 2011 12:26 PM writes...

I have worked 12 hour shifts(rotating days and nights), worked long days, (14 hrs) when required but I was a Process Development chemist and these things could be scheduled correctly. Plant support often required flexible working (especially in emergencies)BUT there was always premium payment(Overtime or Shift differential).

I worked for in the UK chemical industry

MY comment has always been "I work to live NOT live to work".

I also think that Quiñones-Hinojosa actions could be illegal in the EU-the applicability of the working time directive is, I ,unclear about students.

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23. SteveM on September 7, 2011 12:27 PM writes...

I think the important subtext is the context (or lack of context) the grad students and Post Docs have going into a Slave-Driver environment.

Big Law junior associates and junior consultants at the egregiously wasteful Big Something consulting firms not only know exactly what they're getting into, but also what the potential payoff is on the other side. I.e., Partnership.

They are essentially making a rational play in a sell-your-soul to the devil professional lottery.

Only as science R&D gets crushed, the opportunity space for people in training is becoming microscopic in scale.

Is anyone making them aware that there probably is no upside on their other side?

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24. CR on September 7, 2011 12:39 PM writes...

@20, startup (and all others):
"@18 David, you probably also blame victims of domestic abuse for "simply not leaving" their abusers?"

Please stop. Do not compare graduate students to domestic abuse victims. Do not compare graduate students to slaves. Just stop. It really shows ignorance and a lack of understanding.

In this particular instance, he is upfront with his demands. Take it or leave it. Not all professors are that upfront, but there is always a choice to leave if the students don't like it.

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25. MTK on September 7, 2011 12:41 PM writes...

I'll actually give Q-H some credit for going on record here. At least he was straight up enough to allow himself to subjected to whatever judgments people may have.

As for the question of productivity, if I were an advisor I'd be of the mind that as long as you are getting good results at an acceptable pace, I don't care how it's done. For some that means contemplative carefully thought out work. For others that means volume driven methods. Find the one that works best for you. However, if you're not getting results using the 9 to 5 or 8 to 6 approach, I better see some evidence that you're driving yourself harder.

I hate to say it, but it's an ends justifying the means in this case. If you ain't getting the ends, you better be changing the means.

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26. MoMo on September 7, 2011 12:55 PM writes...

So I am surfing the net and Scifinder, in the rain and woods of VT waiting for Jackie Brown (momma bear) to come sample my bucket of donuts so I can dart her and I see Q-H has 175 publications- mostly surgery papers, blah, blah, blah. He sure has saved quite a few fellow humans! Bravo Q-H!

No patents though. Nope, not too creative here.

Is surgery really science though?

Q-H isnt worth a dart after all.

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27. Aspirin on September 7, 2011 12:55 PM writes...

I am not sure I agree with those here who say there's nothing in it for the grad students and postdocs. I don't know about Quinones-Hinjosa but especially in these hard times (and otherwise), wouldn't you give preference to a Corey/KCN student for a position? I know people who cursed the working conditions at some of our top total synthesis labs, yet were happy in the end because the brand name on their resume went a long way in getting them interviews and jobs.

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28. Hap on September 7, 2011 12:57 PM writes...

Grad students are old enough to make their own choices, and that they know at least some of what they're in for is helpful, but it is not exactly an open trade. Grad students are supposed to be educated and trained, not abused (that is after all at least part of what funding agencies are paying for). Driving people that hard early probably makes them less productive in the future, makes them more likely to burn out (thus wasting their training), and may cause even worse problems in the group. It helps the advisor, but probably no one else, unless your students want to go into the military (another choice less reversible than it seems).

New grad students particularly probably don't have much context to make informed decisions about work environments (many of them probably haven't had much work experience), and their department certainly isn't going to give it to them. (As to 23 - why? It's not fair to spoil the surprise!) While people can walk away from grad school, the cost is significantly greater than in walking away from a job - not only weren't you paid a whole lot for the time you spent, but if you want to continue in your field you will have to spend it again (and probably with more difficulty than the first time).

If you give people absolute power over their students' careers, what do you think will happen? There's a reason we don't practice slash-and-burn agriculture here anymore.

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29. drug_hunter on September 7, 2011 1:28 PM writes...

I heard a podcast version of this story and it made him sound like a great guy. Certainly none of the negatives that appear in the longer written article....

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30. Anonymous on September 7, 2011 1:43 PM writes...

Two thoughts:

1. That guy has basically never done any science that anyone cares about. His papers basically suck (although the history of science ones are pretty interesting and unique). Instead of working so hard, his people should go to the beach instead. Better use of their time.

2. He is attempting to follow a well-trodden path for Hopkins neurosurgeons (and Hopkins clinicians in general). That is, since clinical medicine is basically all the same (and his research doesn't pass muster), the best way to get tenure etc at Hopkins is to generate a publicity-based cult of personality around oneself. See Ben Carson, who is basically a pediatric neurosurgeon like many others but has maneuvered himself into hero status with books, speeches, and self aggrandizement. This guy is doing the same.

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31. FutureSurgeon on September 7, 2011 2:37 PM writes...

@26 & 30:

"That guy has basically never done any science that anyone cares about."

"No patents though. Nope, not too creative here. Is surgery really science though?"

Easily the most myopic comments I've read in a long time. Bravo.

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32. Mutant Dragon on September 7, 2011 2:57 PM writes...

Y'know, I can't believe some of these comments. There's no "slavery" involved here. This guy is honest and upfront. He tells people what to expect and if they still want in, well, can't say I didn't warn you. Plus, he works (and has worked) pretty damn hard himself, if you see the NYT story about him:

He's not expecting anything from anyone he hasn't done himself. Sure, yeah, we can argue about whether his methods actually produce results. But in terms of personal work ethic and dedication, wow. I've got to say I really admire this guy. (Come to think of it, the people who work for him too.)

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33. dearieme on September 7, 2011 2:58 PM writes...

Rutherford used to say that if your experiment hadn't worked by six o'clock you should go home and give the matter more thought. He used to tour the Cavendish turning lights out and urging people to leave.

For some decades the Cavendish was probably the best science lab there has ever been.

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34. Anonymous on September 7, 2011 4:02 PM writes...

Whether he says it or not, we all know he is holding their careers over their heads. The problem these days though is that science is so competitive very few faculty can make someone's career, but just about all of them can destroy it (or prevent it from taking off).

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35. hn on September 7, 2011 4:15 PM writes...

That's just poor training. You turn out people who are only good at turning the crank. They're the first to be replaced by our Chindian friends, if not machines.

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36. anon on September 7, 2011 4:24 PM writes...

He has 1 R01 grant and a small K08. How can he support 27 people? They must be unpaid or minimally paid undergrads.

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37. lunchstealer on September 7, 2011 4:52 PM writes...

From an ethical standpoint, there's an important question of what, exactly, these labmonkeys are getting out of the process. What is the reward for these long hours? Obviously it's not money. Theoretically, it's advancement in the field, but if all you're doing is running lab equipment, are you really going to be able to advance in the field? That was certainly the assumption when I was in grad school, but there's no guarantee that the assumption is valid. Worth looking into the correlation between long hours as grad student and career success.

I'm more concerned about things like lab safety and the quality of the work produced. I recall hearing of a study during WWII that studied British factory output as a function of length-of-workweek. They would study absolute productivity of a factory as they increased the length of the work week from 40 to more than 65 hours, and at some point around 60 hours (IIRC) total productivity stopped increasing, and began to drop. Not productivity per man-hour, but total productivity. They produced less war-widgets when their people worked 60 hours than when their people worked 65 hours The implication being that fatigue caused by a lack of rest and relaxation caused more errors that cost more time than the additional hours could make up for. Quiñones-Hinojosa may actually be harming his own career by overworking his staff.

It's possible that this is less true for grad-students, but that seems unlikely. Knowledge work should be most affected by fatigue.

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38. lunchstealer on September 7, 2011 5:32 PM writes...

Oops. In the above sentence: "They produced less war-widgets when their people worked 60 hours than when their people worked 65 hours" I got things reversed. They produced less war widgets in a week where workers averaged 65 hours than in weeks when they averaged 60 hours. So the extra time at work didn't just waste money on more wages, and waste the time of the workers, but also prevented them from accomplishing as much.

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39. Dorfman on September 7, 2011 6:44 PM writes...

The word slave for all BS, PhD and postdoctoral workers is appropriate.

It's legal to kill a slave.

A Yale student was killed in April and according to the Journal Nature- Aug 24, 2011.

"But OSHA did not fine the university over the problems because it has jurisdiction over workplace incidents only if they involve paid employees"

Under current US laws it is perfectly legal to kill your students and walk away. That's a slave.

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40. Jose on September 7, 2011 8:06 PM writes...

"Y'know, I can't believe some of these comments. There's no "slavery" involved here."

I think there's significant evidence to the contrary my friend:

(w3).nytimes(dot)com/1998/11/29/magazine/lethal-chemistry-at-harvard (hotel tango mike lima)

If someone else is holding you future hostage that you have worked your a@% off since age 16, then... I think slavery is not too far off.

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41. WB on September 7, 2011 11:52 PM writes...

I agree with #7. The people who come and work for this guy know what they are getting into, and they're willing to do it because they too are ambitious and results-driven. When I was a PhD student, I spent weekends and very late evenings in the labs doing my work despite the fact my supervisor worked only 9 to 5. It all comes down to personal choice--some of us do want to work hard and get ahead, and we're willing (and committed) to work under tough conditions.

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42. Anon on September 8, 2011 12:49 AM writes...

Maybe the comments here are a snapshot of the current work culture.. When I spent my 11 years in the US it was considered an honorable thing to work your tail off and not be a lazy European !@#$%^. My advisor worked as hard as me (7 to 7, 5 days a week, 15 min lunch breaks and 9 to 4 on Saturdays). We didn't do this because he was a slave driver and I was his slave. We did it because we liked what we were doing. There was of course our sense of duty to the generous US taxpayer who was funding our research. I spent one year of my grad school on a non-NCAA sports team and trained on a regular basis with the team afterwards. On top of all of this, I used to cook my own meal 3 days a week. I learned one thing from my high school teacher: people who do a a lot of things have time for a lot of things; people who do nothing have very little time for anything.

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43. Iridium on September 8, 2011 1:27 AM writes...

Just speaking science (and leaving aside for a moment moral issues):

- how many good ideas can come out from a guy working 24/7?..... after first 3 months...not many
- Would I hire in my company a guy that can work but that is not trained to think?, CROs are cheaper
- Would I like to work side by side with a person that prefer to work hard rather than to think?.... no, personaly I wouldnt

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44. Anonymous BMS Researcher on September 8, 2011 2:13 AM writes...

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45. bbooooooya on September 8, 2011 7:30 AM writes...

Interesting article, and he's clearly an impressive guy.

The sentence: "spending more time with his kids and shuttling them to swimming lessons, (although phoning lab members on the way)", made me feel sorry for him, though, as though he's wasted his life.

Maybe he will be the first person to have "I wish I'd spent more time at the office" on his tombstone.

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46. Org Chemist on September 8, 2011 12:43 PM writes...

No one is effective when working 16 to 20h a day in the lab. I have realized it when I was a postdoc in Japan.
113 pubs in 6 years. Great, Mr. H.-Q.! The Nobel Prize is yours...

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47. Tim on September 8, 2011 5:09 PM writes...

"The area in which I have failed the most is as a father"
Sounds like a pretty big failure regardless of publications, and his method of fixing it is laughable. The biggest loser in this method of 'research' is the spouses/families of these poor scientis.

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48. Secondaire on September 8, 2011 5:55 PM writes...

Put me in the Simonton camp too. My Ph.D. advisor was a very laid-back guy; he didn't impose any demands on people beyond be productive, and the ends shall justify the means. I came out of graduate school feeling much better psychologically than I did when I went in. He encouraged people to take time off and rest and set their own hours. The group of approximately one dozen publishes like, fifteen papers per year, has two drugs in clinical trials, and a bunch of super-active leads waiting in the wings. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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49. imatter on September 8, 2011 8:34 PM writes...

"When they caught sight of him, he says, they stopped, stood up, and went straight back to the lab."

That's not normal.

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50. iridium on September 9, 2011 1:20 AM writes...

to n42 just on this sentence:
"On top of all of this, I used to cook my own meal 3 days a week."

oh come on.... you cant take credit for that one!
That is called life (and 3 is not really a lot since there are 7 days in a week).

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51. maxmash on September 9, 2011 8:10 AM writes...

"Quines-Hinojosa" this is interesting....some of this careers requires one to sacrifice inorder to fit onto the field...or else they will end calling themselves slaves...its a matter of going for what you love best not minding of working at odd hours or working over the holidays.

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52. chow on September 9, 2011 8:40 PM writes...

I'd be interested in seeing who the other 10 PIs were?

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53. Bodipy on September 10, 2011 8:23 AM writes...

working 12-15 hr days or more is quite standard in Japan, whether its a good or bad thing I wont comment on, currently pursuing my PhD here myself. We have a very strange system in my lab where our bosses more of less forces us to be creative for good or worse. "I dont care how you do it, but get results" kind of attitude.

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54. Anonymous on September 14, 2011 11:24 AM writes...

My favourite part is about using the cancer patients to guilt the students into working harder and longer.

How about replacing the "company mission statement" screen savers with pictures of dying children to increase innovation and productivity in the workplace?

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55. Nessa Carson on September 15, 2011 12:20 PM writes...

I imagine the reason most commenters here are negative on this guy is that we have the time to be on the Internet talking.....

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56. LabMan on September 23, 2011 7:35 AM writes...

America is fortunate to have people like Dr Alfredo Quinones Hinojosa. Short sighted and ignorant comments like those of #26 and #30 come from mediocre minds.

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57. munmunsha on January 20, 2012 10:48 PM writes...

I am sorry to say but most of the people have misunderstood this great man Dr Alfredo Quinones Hinojosa. He is a role model for many youngsters who come to this country from very humble backgrounds to make a good life for themselves. What is his fault if hard work is a virtue that his life has taught him? When he was a young kid, his mother did not have enough money to put food on the table. If anybody else was in Dr Qs place he or she would have done exactly the same thing that he did. Any body who dares to rise up to the ladder of success from picking tomatoes to being a world renowned brain surgeon in Johns Hopkins is bound to have a brutal work ethic . “Hard work has never killed anybody but a less of it has rusted many a brains though” was said by a very famous scientist. The people who are making fun of him and abusing him should know the kind of battle this man trying to fight. It takes a lot of courage to step into the most challenging field of medicine which is neurosurgery and to have the guts to find a cure for the most devastating cancer known to mankind: glioblastoma multiformans. It takes a lot of mental strength to do that and it is required for every researcher in that field to have that mental tenacity. That is the lesson; he is trying to get across. Tomorrow if he was able to contribute to this disease than half the people who are mocking and abusing him are going to change their opinion. It is very easy to sit on your comfortable couch and make fun of this remarkable man. He is not forcing anybody to work with him but if you do, he expects that his lab members realize the urgency of the situation and how important it is to find an urgent cure for this disease. He knows that once he retires as a brain researcher, nobody else would probably be able to feel the fire in his belly for the cause as much as he does. Do you all know that in Hopkins when all doctors go home after a hectic day in clinic late in the evening, he goes to his lab. Yes, with his own hands he works sometimes so that he can give a better life to millions of Americans who are afflicted with Neurodegenarative diseases. His research on migrating stem cells will not only give us clues as to how tumors happen, but the knowledge will also help in provide clues for diseases where we need neural migration like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease and MS. The people who think he is arrogant should know that fact that he is probably the only physician scientist who wishes good night even to a house keeper who cleans the hall ways of Hopkins every night. The value of a diamond can only be understood by an expert. I do not blame the people who make fun of him because I think one has to match his scale of thinking to be really able to understand what his philosophy is why he is doing what he is doing.

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