Home > Grad School, MHIRT Oxford 2013 > More Bloody Efficient

More Bloody Efficient

EfficiencyMost researchers would be absolutely thrilled with a paper in Cell, Nature, PNAS, or Molecular Micro. Here at Oxford, those journals are the standard. The competition here is fierce, and that breeds better science. A combination of fear and prestige has lead to the University of Oxford becoming one of the best research institutes in the world. The fear of losing funding is an excellent motivator, and the title of the university means that if you don’t produce, your ass is getting kicked out the door.

While not everybody’s research will yield groundbreaking results, the general productivity of a lab can be measured by its impact factor. Of course, impact is a poor measure of scientific success. Like the SAT, GRE, and GPA, impact factor is just a number. But let’s work with the assumption that higher impact means better work. The impact factor of the labs here is incredible. Of course, there are labs around the world that are definitely comparable with respect to scientific productivity, but there’s one difference I note. These people work smarter, not harder.

I am a part of a lab where the PI routinely comes to work at around 6am, and leaves at 2pm. Perhaps it’s the balance between “work” and “play” that makes him so productive. Maybe because he knows he has a strict 8 hour work day, he does more during those hours. Maybe it’s just because he’s more intelligent. But ultimately, he has achieved a higher impact factor per hour than most researchers. He’s more efficient.

If your PI has to push you to come into the lab, or you complain about staying late, maybe you need to adopt a new philosophy. You may be more productive if you stick to a schedule. I am still under the impression that more hours in the lab mean more opportunity for success, but 12 hours/day, 7 days/week in the lab is not for everyone. To paraphrase Bill Gates, give the job to the laziest person because he/she will find the easiest way to get it done.

Take it with a giant tub of salt as I’m the last person to offer advice about life balance. If you find a job you enjoy you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Sorry, that was a lie. Every job has something you will hate doing. But you get the idea. Be efficient.

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