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random_soldier1337

How stressful is your field?

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Posted (edited)

I'm in nuclear engineering and it seems fairly laid back. It feels like everyone is a bit of a party animal and faculty doesn't seem to be in a particular rush to get things done.

Edited by random_soldier1337

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I think any job in any field can be stressful. I imagine there are plenty of nuclear engineers who are stressed. 

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In my previous job I had two years of low stress followed by one year of extremely high stress. Job didn't change but outside factors did. Things could change drastically for you in short order. All it takes is a new boss, a change in the marketplace, a restructuring or a merger.

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31 minutes ago, random_soldier1337 said:

I can only comment on what I've seen. Where I am, there is very little sense of urgency. Perhaps it is different elsewhere.

If you are talking about faculty I can only assume that you are a student? Usually there is a ton going on for faculty and if there is no sense of urgency in things you are involved in, it is usually because there are more urgent matters to attend to.

From my experience and those of my colleagues, unless you are one of the lucky folks where things miraculously seem to go your way, (so that e.g. you can buy yourself time) folks to keep too many balls in the air. Most of the time your decision is not what to keep up, but what you are able to let fall to the floor. 

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8 minutes ago, CharonY said:

If you are talking about faculty I can only assume that you are a student? Usually there is a ton going on for faculty and if there is no sense of urgency in things you are involved in, it is usually because there are more urgent matters to attend to.

I'd like to give them that benefit of the doubt but I'm skeptical when the number of compulsory labs are cut in half or when the number of predetermined assignments reduce to one or two or just one final exam. And it seems like older faculty are better at handling their duties than more contemporary members. Also it comes off as hypocritical from my POV. They want to not give us enough work to learn the subject, it's okay. We can just work it out on our own. OTOH, if we are unable to make a timely submission for some reason for their assessment, we get a poor grade and have not understood the subject and don't deserve to pass. Isn't that a paradox?

22 minutes ago, CharonY said:

From my experience and those of my colleagues, unless you are one of the lucky folks where things miraculously seem to go your way, (so that e.g. you can buy yourself time) folks to keep too many balls in the air. Most of the time your decision is not what to keep up, but what you are able to let fall to the floor. 

How about juggle only as many balls as you can to begin with? As I have said, older faculty seem better at this and have some sense of duty/responsibility.

The more contemporary ones seem to be too invested in other things. They go to the gym regularly and do competitive weightlifting as well as swimming or whatever other athletic pursuit. They want to have a good drink as well as go to have a party with friends whenever they call them, otherwise they'll be a bad friend or whatever. One of my teachers literally seems skilled in everything, though at the expense of doing the bare minimum and sometimes much less for the post they hold. One of them is literally Dr. Trunchbull and hates children and infants and the idea of settling down and having a family because it will waste time but then they go and drown themself in pets that are just as bad if not worse in many ways.

Why would you sign up to do something that you won't try to do properly? I'm sorry for the rant but I just want to say that I am extremely suspicious of the claim that they don't have time. Again the elders seem better in this situation than the young folk.

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1 hour ago, random_soldier1337 said:

I'd like to give them that benefit of the doubt but I'm skeptical when the number of compulsory labs are cut in half or when the number of predetermined assignments reduce to one or two or just one final exam. And it seems like older faculty are better at handling their duties than more contemporary members.

See, that is exactly what I expect from folks that are overcomitted. Most younger faculty need to establish their research, balance their comittee duties, create new courses as well as engage in outreach. Older faculty tend to have settled in their research (and those closer to retirement may ramp down their labs) and have established their teaching duties. 

On top, there have been a lot of discussions with labs and while I am somewhat dismayed by it, the truth is that most universities are starving for money due to budget cuts by Fed and State. Labs are the most expensive parts- they require more instructors and eat more resources. While I personally like them as a teaching tool, they are also often not well-liked by students, as they can quite a chore. As such many universities have starting cutting them as a cost-saving tool.

1 hour ago, random_soldier1337 said:

They want to have a good drink as well as go to have a party with friends whenever they call them, otherwise they'll be a bad friend or whatever.

That seems to imply an intimate relationship with faculty which seems odd. Just to be sure, are you talking about college-level? There is a a certain frequency of things like dinners with colleagues, which often are a kind of networking sessions (we do talk about shop quite often, especially if partners are also researcher and/or faculty). But I have a hard time believing that folks would go out partying on a regular basis. At least I have not seen that anywhere. The only possible exception are sessionals (i.e. non-tenure track folks) who are probably drowning their sorrow on a semi-regular basis.

What you should realize is that teaching, especially at research unis is but one of the many duties faculty have to fulfill and considering the competitiveness in other areas (especially in attracting grants) it is often not considered the most important bit, especially for younger faculty. In order to get tenure many institutions require some level of success in obtaining grants, which is a highly competitive process. Unfortunately just spending a lot of time teaching won't get you there.

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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, CharonY said:

That seems to imply an intimate relationship with faculty which seems odd. Just to be sure, are you talking about college-level? There is a a certain frequency of things like dinners with colleagues, which often are a kind of networking sessions (we do talk about shop quite often, especially if partners are also researcher and/or faculty). But I have a hard time believing that folks would go out partying on a regular basis. At least I have not seen that anywhere. The only possible exception are sessionals (i.e. non-tenure track folks) who are probably drowning their sorrow on a semi-regular basis.

What you should realize is that teaching, especially at research unis is but one of the many duties faculty have to fulfill and considering the competitiveness in other areas (especially in attracting grants) it is often not considered the most important bit, especially for younger faculty. In order to get tenure many institutions require some level of success in obtaining grants, which is a highly competitive process. Unfortunately just spending a lot of time teaching won't get you there.

I'm not sure what you mean by intimate. I'm talking about graduate level. Some of them are too open especially when they have had a few drinks at a few of our overlapping events. Loose lips, sink ships, as they say. Otherwise, I can see them doing a lot of this as I go about my routine on campus, e.g. at the campus gym. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and say that their partying isn't regular as in daily. But it does seem regular as in at least once or twice a week. More if we assume they love to have their weekends for this. And all of it doesn't count the formal occasions.

I swear I know at least one tenured faculty who is as I have described. They got tenured while they were younger. Busted their butt, lost a lot of sleep. Now they still haven't reached their 40s but have a tenure. It's as if that's all they wanted and now that they have that they don't have to care. Similar to what I hear about a lot of tenured faculty.

Edited by random_soldier1337

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7 minutes ago, random_soldier1337 said:

I swear I know at least one tenured faculty who is as I have described. They got tenured while they were younger. Busted their butt, lost a lot of sleep. Now they still haven't reached their 40s but have a tenure. It's as if that's all they wanted and now that they have that they don't have to care. Similar to what I hear about a lot of tenured faculty.

So you have one example and extrapolate from there? That is often not representative. And it apparently is quite a bit different from your earlier characterization that the younger faculty (which are more likely to be on TT) are slacking off. The other thing to ask yourself is: do they have an active externally funded research program? If so, how can they maintain it by slacking off. If not, then you may have found an example of someone resting on their merits. Of course they are differences and if anything I found most of the slackers in the full Professorial area, folks that have accomplished much in their career and are also at an age where spending even more energy feels like have a lower return. Younger and hungrier folks are around and compete like crazy, one might as well cut down. I suppose (but then there are those who literally need to be carried out from their jobs).

However, the example with thy Gym is really weird. Most folks I know get scolded by their MDs to work out more. We spend way too much time sitting and it really is bad for health as well as productivity. I still get to use the bench, and when I do, do actually feel better. If I need to spend extended time sitting down for paper/grant writing or lectures I do feel myself tiring out much faster. 

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Fine. At least explain to me how things work because I have one question right now; Why are people expected to pay nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in tuition fees to get a bachelors when their professors won't even do it right? If the grant is all that important, go do that but expecting that much seems very unfair.

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5 hours ago, random_soldier1337 said:

Why are people expected to pay nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in tuition fees to get a bachelors when their professors won't even do it right?  If the grant is all that important, go do that but expecting that much seems very unfair.

So if we are talking undergraduate degree costs, there are a few things to consider. The first is that generally speaking each student is heavily subsidized. Increase in tuition fees are often connected with a reduction of school funding, of which typically state and federal funding are the highest chunk. Cost has also been associated with increase in student services. Schools with lower fees often have fewer amenities. In addition, public schools tend to have much lower fees than private ones. 

The salaries of faculty is fixed, so an increase of tuition fees as such does not e.g. result in higher salary. The latter is more often than not connected to obtaining grants, which in turn results in overhead for the university, which then also helps covering the cost for students. Thus more funds can in theory actually reduce tuition fees. In addition, research grants are a major source to pay graduate students. 

What you describe seems to me a common concern of mostly undergraduate students. While I am not saying that it would apply to you, many expect a high-school like environment and think that faculty are only there to cater to their specific learning needs. It often takes a while to realize that university is mostly self-directed learning. And the role of faculty is a bit different from that of a teacher.

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9 hours ago, random_soldier1337 said:

They want to have a good drink as well as go to have a party with friends whenever they call them, otherwise they'll be a bad friend or whatever.

Perhaps if somebody is chilling so much, he or she is stressed after work and wants to relax, therefore spending time at night on entertainment..

9 hours ago, random_soldier1337 said:

The more contemporary ones seem to be too invested in other things. They go to the gym regularly and do competitive weightlifting as well as swimming or whatever other athletic pursuit.

That's good. There is needed healthy balance between intellectual work, physical activity and entertainment..

You don't?

Intellectuals during training are still able to think about their work. Programmers do it very often.

Recently I read articles how people too much concentrating on their work and career quickly are becoming exhausted and starting having occupational burnout.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, CharonY said:

So if we are talking undergraduate degree costs, there are a few things to consider. The first is that generally speaking each student is heavily subsidized. Increase in tuition fees are often connected with a reduction of school funding, of which typically state and federal funding are the highest chunk. Cost has also been associated with increase in student services. Schools with lower fees often have fewer amenities. In addition, public schools tend to have much lower fees than private ones. 

The salaries of faculty is fixed, so an increase of tuition fees as such does not e.g. result in higher salary. The latter is more often than not connected to obtaining grants, which in turn results in overhead for the university, which then also helps covering the cost for students. Thus more funds can in theory actually reduce tuition fees. In addition, research grants are a major source to pay graduate students. 

What you describe seems to me a common concern of mostly undergraduate students. While I am not saying that it would apply to you, many expect a high-school like environment and think that faculty are only there to cater to their specific learning needs. It often takes a while to realize that university is mostly self-directed learning. And the role of faculty is a bit different from that of a teacher.

I'm somebody who has done his undergrad in the east and has come to the west for grad. I'm questioning the choices made since as far as I can tell some are hard for me to understand for what I envisioned to be better and more established educational systems. I have also gotten mixed messages on how independent one should or should not be. I can and would prefer to be more independent. However, that does not seem possible within the current framework. In fact it makes it feel like a sisyphian task. I'm expected to be more independent but restrictions are placed such that I can't be. Maybe its more an issue with where I am currently specifically rather than the kind of system within this region in general.

5 hours ago, Sensei said:

Perhaps if somebody is chilling so much, he or she is stressed after work and wants to relax, therefore spending time at night on entertainment..

That's good. There is needed healthy balance between intellectual work, physical activity and entertainment..

You don't?

Intellectuals during training are still able to think about their work. Programmers do it very often.

Recently I read articles how people too much concentrating on their work and career quickly are becoming exhausted and starting having occupational burnout.

If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. It's probably personal. A lot of students within the department have similar complaints about difficulty in things getting done. I don't think all of them have a poor balance but personally I do believe there are many.

Edited by random_soldier1337

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OP is quite vague in their concerns and waffling quite a bit between issues more connected to undergrad vs grad situations. There is a focus about getting things done, which may mean different things and priorities for undergrads vs grads vs postdocs vs PIs.

What I do read is that OP is ultimately unhappy in their position and thinks about them in structural terms (i.e. departmental issue, Western vs Eastern education system etc.). If that happens, one should ask oneself what are the precise reasons for the unhappiness. The complaints listed above appear to be very diffuse and it may be important for OP to sit down and think more specifically what the issues are. Being unhappy about how things are run is often only be symptom of other issues.

One important bit that has not really been mentioned is the relationship with the PI.

Ideally a PI is a mix between a boss and mentor, switching between these poles as need be (ideally mostly the latter as much as possible, the former as much as needed). What is needed is a sit-down to discuss expectations goals and develop plans how to reach them. What a student may think is an important next step may not be in the mind of the PI. Is it the only project? Or one of many? If work is self-directed, what are the hurdles? Often students overestimate their ability to work independently and have to be reigned in. This is a time consuming process for the supervisor, but sometimes the only way to ensure that usable results are being produced (or at least allowing the student to graduate in time). Ultimately, the PI has to ensure that the funded project progresses and pays the grads to do so. Unless they are swimming in money, there is only so much one can let a student play before it becomes a drain on the finances or otherwise endangers success of the project. There is a shared interest between PI and student- successful execution of the project helps obtaining further funds and pay for the student. However, there can be disagreements on how to best execute the project. Here, it is relevant to acknowledge that students are still in training and for most it will take a while until they obtain the knowledge to be able to properly evaluate progress and adjust accordingly.  

Again, if one is unhappy with the PI it is time for a sit down. There, it is important to discuss specifics and not make it personal. It is not your business what lifestyle your supervisor has. Rather think about what you need to achieve, what your common goal with the PI are and how you both can achieve them. But also try to have a broader view on the situation or project and don't have a tunnel view where only your perspective counts.

 

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On 3/9/2020 at 1:05 PM, zapatos said:

In my previous job I had two years of low stress followed by one year of extremely high stress. Job didn't change but outside factors did. Things could change drastically for you in short order. All it takes is a new boss, a change in the marketplace, a restructuring or a merger.

Exactly.  That reminds me of my experience doing accounting for Dick Clark's restaurants.  The controller and I were friendly and he encouraged me to apply for a job in his department, so I would be reporting to him.  I took the job.  Months later he got in trouble for sexual harassment of a woman working under him, and left the company.  We went without a controller for about 6 months.  When the new controller was hired, he didn't like me and continually made the job harder for me.  Then I started looking for another job.  I lasted there 4 years.

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On 3/10/2020 at 8:54 AM, random_soldier1337 said:

I'm somebody who has done his undergrad in the east and has come to the west for grad. I'm questioning the choices made since as far as I can tell some are hard for me to understand for what I envisioned to be better and more established educational systems. I have also gotten mixed messages on how independent one should or should not be. I can and would prefer to be more independent. However, that does not seem possible within the current framework. In fact it makes it feel like a sisyphian task. I'm expected to be more independent but restrictions are placed such that I can't be. Maybe its more an issue with where I am currently specifically rather than the kind of system within this region in general.

If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. It's probably personal. A lot of students within the department have similar complaints about difficulty in things getting done. I don't think all of them have a poor balance but personally I do believe there are many.

+1 because you are clearly stating your opinion...as opinion

If someone doesn't like it they should argue against it. Neg repping it has no positive purpose. It doesn't, cannot, even indicate why on a post of this nature.

 

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55 minutes ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

If someone doesn't like it they should argue against it. Neg repping it has no positive purpose. It doesn't, cannot, even indicate why on a post of this nature.

 

I am under no obligation to explain myself when I give someone a negative or positive rep. However...

Negative rep for his attitude that someone spending their time at night chillin' or on entertainment due to high stress levels at work is not acceptable. That it is instead probably a "personal" problem, and that if they "can't handle the heat they should stay out of the kitchen". It is my experience that trying to induce such an individual through reason to adopt some level of empathy for those who are having difficulties and are not as well balanced as him is a waste of time. Thus I'm more inclined to show my displeasure with such a person simply by clicking on that little down arrow and moving on.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, zapatos said:

I am under no obligation to explain myself when I give someone a negative or positive rep. However...

Negative rep for his attitude that someone spending their time at night chillin' or on entertainment due to high stress levels at work is not acceptable. That it is instead probably a "personal" problem, and that if they "can't handle the heat they should stay out of the kitchen". It is my experience that trying to induce such an individual through reason to adopt some level of empathy for those who are having difficulties and are not as well balanced as him is a waste of time. Thus I'm more inclined to show my displeasure with such a person simply by clicking on that little down arrow and moving on.

 

 

So your experiences are valid and mine aren't? Macswell is right. All that, the arrogance and disinclination to reason is why I haven't posted further in this thread nor will I. Just wanted to point it out since you seem so direct and abrasive right now.

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38 minutes ago, random_soldier1337 said:

So your experiences are valid and mine aren't? Macswell is right. All that, the arrogance and disinclination to reason is why I haven't posted further in this thread nor will I. Just wanted to point it out since you seem so direct and abrasive right now.

So you'd like me to show you a little more empathy?

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6 minutes ago, zapatos said:

So you'd like me to show you a little more empathy?

Breaking my rule but I feel you should know; No, I don't expect it from you. You have made no attempts to understand me or my situation only becoming more confrontational.

I said it at the start, I can only comment on what I know. Same goes for you. A few posters have made attempts to make me see their point.

You outright refused discussion and accused me of being incapable of empathy. No Sir, I believe it is you who is incapable of empathy. Thus I would be foolish to expect any from you, at least as far as I am concerned.

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5 minutes ago, random_soldier1337 said:

Breaking my rule but I feel you should know; No, I don't expect it from you. You have made no attempts to understand me or my situation only becoming more confrontational.

I said it at the start, I can only comment on what I know. Same goes for you. A few posters have made attempts to make me see their point.

You outright refused discussion and accused me of being incapable of empathy. No Sir, I believe it is you who is incapable of empathy. Thus I would be foolish to expect any from you, at least as far as I am concerned.

LOL! I was the first one to engage with you in conversation. You then proceeded to ignore my last comment regarding the OP.

You are being a bit over sensitive if you quit posting here because of "the arrogance and disinclination to reason" by those who contributed. I re-read the thread and you received nothing but thoughtful and well reasoned responses. What were you expecting? A pat on the head and a "you poor thing"?

 

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First rule of the internet: Don’t go out of your way to offend and don’t go out of your way to feel offended. 

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7 minutes ago, zapatos said:

LOL! I was the first one to engage with you in conversation. You then proceeded to ignore my last comment regarding the OP.

If you don't mind, refresh my memory. I have no idea at this point which comments you are referring to.

8 minutes ago, zapatos said:

You are being a bit over sensitive if you quit posting here because of "the arrogance and disinclination to reason" by those who contributed. I re-read the thread and you received nothing but thoughtful and well reasoned responses. What were you expecting? A pat on the head and a "you poor thing"?

Not from you.

You made one useful comment for which I upvoted you. You haven't done anything I personally have found useful since then.

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1 minute ago, random_soldier1337 said:

If you don't mind, refresh my memory. I have no idea at this point which comments you are referring to.

My posts are the ones with the Bugs Bunny avatar.

4 minutes ago, random_soldier1337 said:

Not from you.

 

Oh for God's sake grow up.

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