Okay, so many of you may know that the thing that graduate students complain most about is probably a combination of two things: A. I don’t get paid enough for this shit and B. Why am I still here, I’ve been here for over 16 hours! Now as I graduate student, I have my own bias but I will try to put that aside here for one second. Let’s address point A first. I’d like to point out that the job requirements of a TA/RA are daunting. Not only do you have to teach, but you need to keep your PI satisfied by occasionally performing an experiment (and by occasionally I mean every day), take some classes on the side (and pass them), grade lab reports where you spend more time working on the students’ labs then they actually did writing the labs up, and being generally underappreciated. But wait, I said I was gonna leave personal bias behind. Well, the statement was I don’t get paid enough for this shit. In fact that’s flat out wrong. Let’s consider that you are getting not only a salary (and compared to salaries of grad students past, a comfortable salary) but an education. A Ph.D., the most prestigious degree one can have in a scientific field. Sure, it may demean you to teach what you’ve learned a million times over to freshman or sacrifice your Friday nights just to grade. I won’t take that away. But consider that your job is pretty much guaranteed. I mean at least at UConn, it’s pretty hard not to have funding. I’d say that’s true for most reputable graduate programs. Moreover, in how many other professions do you get to CHOOSE your boss. Not many, especially in the corporate environment. So, while you won’t be buying that elusive Camaro any time soon, you are far from impoverish. Now point B. Hours for a graduate student are almost self-made. Notice I said almost. You still need to do the bare minimum and fulfill your TA duties and class work. But let’s say you are a full RA, what about then? Well you may still have class work but really your hours are up to you. The time you spend in lab does not correlate directly to productivity. In fact you can spend 16 hours in lab and accomplish not a damn thing if you aren’t working smart. That’s the key, working with a purpose. And that’s why many Ph.D students end up in graduate school longer than they would want to be. They aren’t playing it smart. So what do I mean? Am I just being a stuck-up know-it-all dick? No, that’s not my way. What I like to do to feel like I’m getting stuff done and leave at a reasonable hour is the following: If I have a reaction going for 1 hour, I try and pick out things you can do while I’m waiting (like the infamous glassware or, worse, hood cleaning. Maybe I’ll set up them in such a way that when the first one is done, I begin working it up. Then when the workup for that is done, my next reaction is just finishing up and I’m ready to start my next workup. I know that may seem stressful but you become an assembly line of productivity (and your PI loves you!). Now my labmate’s (and amazing girlfriend) know I’m obsessed with organic, so I have no problem going in at 8am and leaving at 8pm. But that’s usually because I want to get shit done. I feel the urge to. I WANT to get out in 4 years. And I think that’s what every grad student should think about. How will this help me get out early? /end rant…I promise my next post will be a review, I just need to find that right piece to critique :P…Ckellz….Signing off



  1. To commiserate, a labmate and I calculated yesterday, and working 70 h weeks we make significantly less than minimum wage. That’s before taxes. Sigh. I guess it’s an investment.

  2. Yeah I’m making like 10.50 a week before taxes and thats only cause I’m working a 60 hour work week and have extra funding. Still no camaro for me though 😛 And thats not consider how much time I spend at home grading and researching topics to look into…yeah we work alot but its worth it! At least i think…

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this post. Work smart, not hard!

    I’m also of the mindset that I want to be finished in the lab in three years and written up and viva’d in 3.5 at the most. I work 9-6 normally give or take half an hour or so but we have a few guys who barely do 11-4 most days. It’s as if people don’t want to be in the lab! We’ve all chosen this lifestyle so why not make the most of it?!

  4. […] to do lab work for him.  Basically it translates to “your boss”. Now I mention in an earlier post that one of the perks of being a grad student is you get to choose your boss. And to use […]

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