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The time/effort you really put in.

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by MyNameIsOtto, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. MyNameIsOtto

    MyNameIsOtto 5+ Year Member

    Jan 7, 2007
    So after being away for awhile and now browsing some of the recent threads on MD/PhD, I have to say I'm somewhat surprised by the amount of time and effort some of you say you are having to put into your work.

    Although I've just finished MS2 last month and am taking the boards in a few days, I still think we have a somewhat less stressful life than regular med students. At my program, I believe people aren't typically spending more than 40 hours a week in their lab (with the hopes of graduating in 8 years). Most PI's, students, techs, etc. never show up until 8:30 or 9:00 am and I'd have to say most labs are vacated by 5 or 6 at the very latest.

    For this reason, you should consider MD/PhD if you want to kind of have some "fun" for a few years in between med school and rotations working on something creative/original and actually get paid for once. These people on here that whine about working 70 hours a week are a rare breed. They either come from elite programs or are workaholics or waste several of those hours at work. Some stuff that I read on here is just ridiculous.
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  3. Picklesali

    Picklesali M2 2+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2007
    Wow - I think 40 is really low for a typical grad student. At least at the University where I did my undergrad. I sort of feel like grad students are expected to put in 50 hours on average a week at the very least...

    But maybe my world view is skewed...who knows?
  4. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member 10+ Year Member

    Jul 19, 2004
    Same thing in my lab. Most people work from 9 to 6 or maximum 7, 5 days a week. :shrug:
  5. seraph524

    seraph524 M0 2+ Year Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    I thought grad students were expected to live in lab, working 168 hours a week?
  6. kami333

    kami333 10+ Year Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    9? That's too early. My PI usually comes in around 9:30.
  7. ecoli

    ecoli 2+ Year Member

    Jun 9, 2008
    My PI comes in 9:30 - 10.

    My old grad student mentor used to come in at 10:30 during the summers, get coffee for an hour at 11-11:30, get lunch at 1 (another hour) be out between 4-6. That was really just during the summers though. (and he did take ~6 years).
  8. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    I'm much more surprised that this thread has gone on as long as it has without you being flamed by bitter senior grad students. :laugh:

    Is this like how people tell you that they studied for their tests for a couple of hours, when they really studied for a couple of weeks? Either these grad students are first years who haven't caught on that they're going to have to work harder to get the job done, or they're students who are not going to graduate in a reasonable amount of time, or they are doing projects where they can work a lot from home (possible if they're theoretical projects), or they aren't getting a real PhD. Note also that "hopes" of graduating in 8 years ain't the same as "actuality" of graduating in 8 years. :)

    These are pretty strong words from a guy or gal who has just finished second year of med school and has yet to get into the lab. ;) If you still feel this way in three or four years (assuming you're an MD/PhD student), please do come back to let us know!

    All kidding aside, Otto, a 40-hour work week for four years won't cut it for most wet-lab PhDs, at least if you want to get out of school before you're of retirement age. And even then, you still need to get a lucky break or two....Plus, if you are going to be teaching on top of doing your PhD and you *still* think you'll be working 40 hours per week, oh boy, are you going to be unpleasantly surprised. As much fun as it can be, teaching is a *huge* time sink. That's not to say that grad school can't be fun, because it can be. I found out that I really like teaching and I'm even decently good at it. I made really good friends (misery loves company!), and I'm still in touch with my PI, who is a wonderful guy. But that doesn't mean it's going to be three or four years of nonstop party and fun, either. As good as the highs are, that's how low the lows are. I think a lot of people find that the first and last years of grad school are the best, while the middle years are more frustrating and uncertain. The people who can't see the end of the tunnel right now are the ones you see expressing so much angst on this forum.

    Best of luck to you. :)
  9. sluox

    sluox Physician 10+ Year Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    This might be a tad too pessimistic an assessment. I'd say that even for a wet lab, your total work time shouldn't exceed 50-60 hrs/week. If you are working day and night there's some kind of inefficiency going on. Most grad students "work" longer hours because they sit on their ass and waste time. Plus most of the time involved in molecular biology is waiting and repetitions. If you choose your project wisely (think c. elegans and drosophila, and/or cell culture), and have a concrete idea before you start your lab years, it is very possible to finish up in 3.5 yrs with 40-50 a week work schedule.

    Of course, that's just yielding something like a standard PhD performance. If you really want to get "top" of hill for anything, there's no ceiling on how much of your life you have to sacrifice.
  10. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    First, 50-60 hours per week is significantly more than 40 hours per week. I'd agree with you that 50-60 hours per week in the lab is reasonable (at least up to the point when you start writing your thesis). That means you're either working 10-12 hour days during the week, or you're working eight hour days and coming in on weekends. Second, "more than 40 hours per week" does not equate to "working day and night." I never advocated that one should work day and night, but rather contended that 40 hours per week was probably too few. We seem to be in agreement on this point. Finally, it's not always easy ahead of time to know how wisely one has chosen his/her project. Some "sure things" turn into duds, and some reaches work like magic. This is the serendipity part.

    I finished my PhD in 2.5 years, but I was working 80 hour weeks. I also came in already having an MS, didn't have to take any classes, and didn't need to learn a lot of new techniques--about the best case scenario I can think of for a grad student. Had I worked forty hour weeks, I'd be graduating this December instead of two years ago. Maybe I'd have had more "fun" in grad school if I had worked less, but at that point, I was 31 years old and still had all of medical school ahead of me. You reach a point where you just want to get the job done and get on with your life. The new entering grad students were a decade younger than I was. My first group of freshmen gen chem kids were already done with their first year of medical school. It was time for me to get out of there, and I busted my butt to make that happen.

    I knew plenty of people in grad school who worked 40 hour weeks (*real* five-day-per-week, 9 AM-to-5 PM-per-day, 40 hour weeks) where they did no work outside of lab, nothing on weekends, no evenings, etc. These people either finished their PhDs in 7+ years, or they did not finish at all. Sure, some people get lucky, like the guy that Neuro mentioned in the other thread. But most people get through on hard work, and odds are that you or the OP or I won't be one of the lucky ones who can just snap our fingers and have awesome results appear before us.
  11. JLC

    JLC 7+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2008
    Many of the top schools (Columbia for example) require 3 first author pubs before you can graduate. If you want to graduate at these kind of schools then you'll have to put in much more time than the average grad student.

    In my lab there are a few grad students, some spend maybe 60 hours while other spend 40hrs or less a week. Guess who's pumping out more papers?
  12. sluox

    sluox Physician 10+ Year Member

    Jan 4, 2002

    False information alert. Maybe you should ask someone who actually WENT to Columbia instead of posting made up degree requirements on the forum.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2009
  13. mercaptovizadeh

    mercaptovizadeh ἀλώπηξ 10+ Year Member

    Oct 15, 2004
    The most important thing is to "work smart," in my opinion. I think when one is working 80 hours a week, there's going to be diminishing returns in terms of motivation, mental strain, sloppiness and errors in the execution of experiments. I'll accept that a very well trained, responsible, in-controll person (like QofQuimica) can pull it off, but I highly doubt that you're going to be very efficient beyond 60 hours a week, max. It is far more important to build efficiency into the questions asked and the experiments planned. Finding an elegant alternative to a laborious time-intensive experiment saves loads of time.

    The most important questions can often be answered with simple, elegant experiments. The key thing is to figure out what those questions are and what experiments can be done to answer them. I'm not saying I have the answer to either of those - only that it's my philosophy on this whole issue.

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