Those kids today

are lazy and shiftless. Or so says the Academic Program Committee in the astronomy department of an unnamed university. In a letter to their graduate students, the committee says, among other things,


We have received some questions about how many hours a graduate student is expected to work.  There is no easy answer, as what matters is your productivity, particularly in the form of good scientific papers.  However, if you informally canvass the faculty (those people for whose jobs you came here to train), most will tell you that they worked 80-100 hours/week in graduate school.  No one told us to work those hours, but we enjoyed what we were doing enough to want to do so.

Other people, such as Julianne Dalcanton and Peter Coles, have said everything about this that I could say and more.

For the record, I got a Ph.D. from one of the highest-ranked physics department in the US, and I certainly didn’t work 80-100 hours a week. I’m confident that most of my fellow students (including some who are now full professors at some of the best universities in the world) didn’t either. I don’t know who wrote the above letter, but I’d take an even-money bet that they didn’t work those hours either. I’m not saying their deliberately lying — maybe this is their honest recollection — but I doubt it’s the truth.


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Ted Bunn

I am chair of the physics department at the University of Richmond. In addition to teaching a variety of undergraduate physics courses, I work on a variety of research projects in cosmology, the study of the origin, structure, and evolution of the Universe. University of Richmond undergraduates are involved in all aspects of this research. If you want to know more about my research, ask me!

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