• Question: How good is the life of a scientist? and how long are your working hours in general?

    Asked by lucasjacobs to Meeks, Pete, Stephen, Steve, Tom on 15 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 14 Jun 2010:

      Hi Lucas,

      It is a very good life in many ways: it’s fascinating to be able to do experiments and a real privilege to be allowed to spend your time investigating how things work. Plus you get to joust with lots of clever scientists (and school students!).

      The hours can be long but that is usually self-inflicted. In part we work hard because the job is so interesting. But there are pressures too that can make it rather stressful from time to time.

      Since I work in a university, I have to divide my time between research and teaching. I do enjoy teaching but the preparation work and the marking are not so much fun. The other difficulty I face as someone who is a group leader is that I am responsible for making sure that we have enough money to keep working. Normally we get grants from the government or from research charities but these usually only last 3 years or so. So I spend a lot of my time writing applications for more money and this is a tough business because, on average, only about 20% of applications are successful.

      Science is a very, very competitive business. That’s not a bad thing since it keeps us on our toes but it can be very frustrating if you have a great idea for a new project and can’t get the funding to start working on it. So I do get a bit stressed out now and then. I took up jogging at the beginning of this year as a result and that has helped me to relax a bit (and lose a few pounds…!)

    • Photo: Steve Roser

      Steve Roser answered on 14 Jun 2010:

      If you want to be rich, don’t become a scientist. If you want a 9-5 life, don’t be a scientist. If you want excitement, challenges and something that will make you think, become a scientist. It can be hard, sometimes you get rejected for a grant, or someone says your work (which is usually a very personal thing) is rubbish, and that can hurt, but when it goes well, its great. I tend to work in spurts – when I’m doing experiments I’m away from home, and working all the time – almost literally. When i’m back in Bath, I don’t tend to keep long hours, but there is usually something ticking over in my brain. I woke up this morning, at 5am and had an idea for an experiment…..

    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 14 Jun 2010:

      I would say the life of a scientist is pretty good. Different scientists have very different jobs. I work in a University and spend some of my time teaching and supervising students (which I enjoy almost as much as doing experiments). At times I’ve had to work pretty hard and put in some long hours to get something finished by a deadline, but when my research is going well, I enjoy my work and I am not worried about the hours. Since my children were born, I’ve spent a little more time at home; work isn’t everything and having a happy healthy family is the most important thing of all to me. Most days I get to work at about 9am and I work till about 6.30pm – I have a lot of flexibility, which suits me, and it’s great for people who want to balance work and family life. Today I started answering these questions at about 7.30am, and I am still answering them now at 8.30, so that’s a pretty long day, but I don’t have I’m A Scientist most days. 🙂

    • Photo: Marieke Navin

      Marieke Navin answered on 14 Jun 2010:

      I think it’s a great life. The working hours can be long, but because you’re working for something that you believe in (SCIENCE!) then you don’t mind. Not like if you’re working for a debt collector for a huge multinational bank that you couldn’t care less about and they make you work until 9pm. That totally sucks.

      You choose your own hours mostly so that is great. Your supervisor doesn’t care if you’re not at your desk for 9am, so long as you get your work done. Lots of scientists work late at night when it’s quiet and they can use the lab in piece. You’ll often work on the weekend and sometimes you might just take a day off if you fancy it. It really is a good life.

    • Photo: Pete Edwards

      Pete Edwards answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      Being a scientist is great.
      You have the time to think about things that you’re interested in and if you’re lucky can work with people to try and find answers.
      You also get to travel the world, going to conferences to talk about things with other scientists. I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over Europe and even to Australia to work and talk about science.
      We don’t really work 9 to 5 every day and the days can be long but this is normally our own fault. If you have a good idea you want to run with it so you’ll work for as long as it takes to either get an answer or realise that it was a rubbish idea in the first place!
      I also do some teaching at my university, this is totally different to doing research but it’s really enjoyable to work with the scientists and teachers of the future.
      It’s doesn’t pay to badly either……..