Free time as a first year grad student?

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

User avatar
InquilineKea
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby InquilineKea » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:20 pm

Wow nice, Physics Stack Exchange looks so interesting.

Could anyone please give a comparison between stack exchange and physics forums? Thanks!
Last edited by InquilineKea on Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby grae313 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:04 pm

InquilineKea wrote:Thanks for the responses!

Oh wow, research groups are actually competitive to get into? I didn't know that.

And is money really needed for theory? Is it more than just the stipend?


You bet your tuchus they are. When you first get into grad school you are usually funded with a TA. The money is coming from the school's endowment or the department funds via the taxpayers. Once you join a research group it is a very different story. The professor is now paying you out of his/her grant money, and grant money is not a uniformly distributed resource. Most people and organizations that fund research do so to see practical results, which is why funding for medicine and biology is much better than funding in solid state physics which is much better than funding for theoretical physics. Theory students often have arrangements where they alternate funding each semester, so their prof pays them one semester and they teach the next. The very limited grant money professors have available for paying graduate students translates into small research groups. The high interest in doing theory results in competition to get into these groups. This is why getting a fellowship like the NSF can be such a huge deal.

It's a bit easier in experiment, but for big name professors doing research in hot areas, there are generally more people looking to join the group each year than the professor is willing to take on. There is more funding which means more students can be supported (larger research groups), but the professor still must limit the students joining each year to make sure he can properly fund them all.

Sometimes professors have more available funding than they have interested students, and then they actively look to recruit students to their group.

User avatar
InquilineKea
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby InquilineKea » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:34 pm

Oh *wow*, I see. Wow. Hm, in terms of "practical results", I wonder what they count as "practical" for astrophysics.

Wow, so apparently due to this, are theoretical physics students are more likely to be TAs than experimental physics students?

User avatar
zxcv
Posts: 402
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:08 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby zxcv » Sat Jan 22, 2011 11:12 pm

InquilineKea wrote:Wow, so apparently due to this, are theoretical physics students are more likely to be TAs than experimental physics students?

Yes, absolutely.

Grae313 is absolutely right about the situation with regards to theory funding, even at top schools. You need to work very hard to get into the research positions you want, especially if it's high energy theory. For example, I would guestimate that Berkeley admit twice as many people interested in high energy theory than they have slots. Many of those folks change their mind about their interests on their own but for some it's a very uncomfortable process.

tady
Posts: 81
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby tady » Sun Mar 27, 2011 7:45 pm

fs
Last edited by tady on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

samanta33
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:06 am

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby samanta33 » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:12 am

I'm considering going to graduate school, but I'm not sure...I've heard you have almost no free time and that really worries me. Would I really have no free time on weekends or in the week? Do they really expect you to work more than 40hrs per week? :/

Minovsky
Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:05 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby Minovsky » Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:48 pm

samanta33 wrote:I'm considering going to graduate school, but I'm not sure...I've heard you have almost no free time and that really worries me. Would I really have no free time on weekends or in the week? Do they really expect you to work more than 40hrs per week? :/

How much free time do you need? There are 168hrs/week. If you work 40hrs/week and sleep 10hrs/day, you have 58hrs of free time per week, giving you more free time than work time. A PhD is not a 9-5 kind of job. The hours you work are almost entirely determined by your research. If your research requires you to wake-up at 6:00am and stay in the lab until midnight, that's what you have to do. Unlike undergrad, you can't just go through the motions and end up with a degree. A PhD requires a little bit more effort.

See this for an example of what PhD work can be like: http://www.davidpace.com/physics/graduate-school/data-run-may-2007.htm

I saw somewhere on the internet a letter from a CalTech prof to his post-doc which essentially said: "if you're not willing to work nights and weekends, you're fired."

Yes, the amount of work that needs to go into a physics PhD is daunting, but many people have done it before and from what I hear, the work can actually be enjoyable and very rewarding. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it. Working more than 40hrs/week might not be as bad as you think.

michael
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2008 7:21 am

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby michael » Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:51 pm

I am a first year grad student, and its not that bad!

I start at 10.30 am each day, and have an average of about 2 hours of classes each week day. I have work to hand in for classes 3 times per week, and each problem set takes around 5-10 hours to do, including time to read over notes. I give two 1hour classes to undergrads each week, which take me about 3 hours each to prepare. I also have a 2 hour office hour, but often nobody turns up.

There are also group meetings (2 hours per week) and other seminars (3 hours per week).

Adding this up it is around 5*2 + 3*7.5 + 2*(1+3) +2 + 2 + 3 = 45 to 50 hours per week.

I should also be doing another 5 hours or so research per week, but that aint happening right now.

Things later on in phd years could depend a lot on who you are working with and in what field.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1203
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:46 am

I'll second the 45-50 hrs/week. I get home by 6:30 every day (start around 8), with time for lunch, and some goofing off with other students. I do some work on Sunday (3 hrs of mostly writing up homework for monday), but nothing on saturday, and hardly anything after 7 any day.

If I work really hard Mon-Thurs I can squeeze in a 3 day weekend.

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby grae313 » Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:15 pm

samanta33 wrote:I'm considering going to graduate school, but I'm not sure...I've heard you have almost no free time and that really worries me. Would I really have no free time on weekends or in the week? Do they really expect you to work more than 40hrs per week? :/


viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3808

Depends on the field and the competitiveness of your program.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1203
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Oct 18, 2011 2:16 pm

grae313 wrote:
samanta33 wrote:I'm considering going to graduate school, but I'm not sure...I've heard you have almost no free time and that really worries me. Would I really have no free time on weekends or in the week? Do they really expect you to work more than 40hrs per week? :/


viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3808

Depends on the field and the competitiveness of your program.


I'm very happy looking back at that thread that my workload is exactly what I expected. That isn't a coincidence though, part of the reason I turned down UCSD was due to excessive time commitment expectations on my first year.

Hausdorff
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 28, 2010 3:40 am

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby Hausdorff » Wed Feb 01, 2012 4:56 pm

If you can't find time to take a sh*t, that means your study is enough.
I figured that out at the morning of electrodynamics final.
That smell was like the summary of the first year.

CarlBrannen
Posts: 381
Joined: Mon May 24, 2010 11:34 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby CarlBrannen » Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:36 am

I'm taking 5 graduate physics classes, teaching and grading two freshman labs, grading half of an astronomy class of 80, studying for the preliminary exams, attending and contributing to a weekly journal club, attending two meetings with my adviser's group, and writing papers on the side. I don't know how many hours it is but it's a lot more than 40.

On the other hand, I'm having a blast.

User avatar
holycow
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2012 6:11 pm

Re: Free time as a first year grad student?

Postby holycow » Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:38 am

5 grad classes!! :shock: :shock: :shock:




Return to “Current Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest