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Chemistry Graduate School and Weight Training


Anybody here in or has been in a chemistry grad program? How did you guys manage to fit training into a busy schedule like a Ph.D. program? I was talking to my research professor (a synthetic organic chemist) and she was talking about how she pulled 20 hr days her 1st year of grad school, and then on. That makes me sad. :frowning:

Anyone share similar experiences, or did you have time for the gym?


I am not a chem grad student, but I am a philosophy grad student. Unfortunately I can't help you much, because I haven't been able to keep consistent at training since my second year as an undergrad. Normally I go in cycles, I'll go a semester or so where I can consistently get into the gym 3 times a week, but then school just becomes too much and it's like once a week if that. The only way I can even do that though is by working out in the morning (6am or so).

So if I have any advice, it's get your workout in early, or you probably won't get to it at all. I understand your plight though... when I was in highschool I trained around 5 days a week and competed in local powerlifting meets, etc. Now about all I have time for is to maintain the strength level I've had since higschool (for some perspective, my best meet lifts in gear where 500/330/475, at a bw of 175ish. Now I'm around 195 and my raw lifts are around 475/300/500).

Although I'm in philosophy, given my research interests (mathematical logic) and my undergrad stuff (did physics and math) I have lots of friends who are either math/science grad students or where at one time. The story your advisor told you is the same story my friends relate to me. Math and science grad programs are crazy. I've never pulled a 20 hour day, but during the school year 12-14 hour days are the norm for me (as far as time spent reading, in class, writing, etc.) I assume some of those 20 hour days as a chem student are due to time spent in the lab, no? Also, if you have to TA that's even more time.

Just out of curiosity, why did you pick chem?


Ah, I just read your profile and answered my own question about chem. ha. I wish you the best of luck, you sound very focused and sound like you enjoy what you do.


I've always loved science, and chemistry just seemed to be where I fell into. At the same time, I LOVE all of the other sciences such as math, physics, and biology (hence why I'm getting minors in them). I wanna be able to find new cures to diseases and by doing something in biophysics/biophysical chemistry, which is all of those sciences combined into one.

As for the 20+ hrs/day, I think that's how organic synthesis is. Reactions take hours, and workup is a pain, so usually I'm in the lab for 7+ hours a day, on top of classes and the gyms. I used to work for a biophysical chemist, and I never had to spend that much time in the lab. I think I'm gonna get out of that though with the biophysics...it fits better for me. haha


Actually, I was worried a bit about that as well before starting (I am 8 months in my postgrad) but everything is working well so far.

I work out first thing in the morning (would not have the will/capacity to focus to do it after a full day reading/thinking), then go to the office. It makes me arrive a bit before 11 on lifting days which I found fair considering I am one of the last leaving in the eve.


I'm working on a PhD in molecular cell biology, and working out can sometimes be tough to fit into the schedule. I second the early morning workouts; the workout keeps you awake through the day and you won't be able to skip a workout if things go wrong in lab. On the other hand, the majority of your experiments will probably have long periods of incubation/calculation/ect. If the time is long enough, you can squeeze in a quick workout during the day. All it takes is a little effort.


Your professor was exaggerating about the 20 hour days. There may be a FEW 18 hour days in the lab throughout your graduate career, 12 hours is a realistic expectation, and be prepared for indentured servitude by the postdocs.

Like the others have said, workout in the morning. Once you get to the lab it's harder to leave. And think about changing over to the dark side and switch your focus to biology. We're way cooler than the chemists, and we keep shorter hours in the lab. But there's not nearly as many explosions and fires as that is the realm of physical chemists. Good luck.

P.S. You won't find a lot of scientists who lift, so there won't be much support for your lifestyle.


Yeah, I'm just worried between being a TA, classes, and lab, that it will be impossible for me to find time to train, but working out in the morning seems like a pretty good idea. I don't think my prof was exagerating though.

Like I said, right now I'm working in organic synthesis, and being in the lab can easily eat 7 hours of my time, and that's when I slack off and call it quits early in the day. The 20+ hrs included lab, class, TA, and study time for my prof. Idk, at least now I know of some people that were able to get training into their busy schedule.

As for switching over to biology...sorry I'm too much of a chem nerd. The chemicals call my name. But hey, I'm kind of a whore when it comes to the sciences: I get around. So I will be doing some biology! :smiley:


I have to say X2 on this. However, as PhD student in Mechanical Engineering, Husband, Father, I was able to work something out with the faculty and Dean of College. They are allowing me to pursue PT which is unheard of but I don't get the full funding as a regular student gets.

So, I get my training sessions in the morning and fortunately, in the Air Force, I am forced to workout during working hours so if I miss my morning session I have the mid-day session as a back up; hard to get out of bed sometimes at 0430. My research time is done on weekends which sucks but oh well and I have to take vacation time twice a week to attend classes 2 hours a way.


Honestly if you cannot fit 1 hr into your schedule of lifting, you need to evaluate your time management skills.

I'm a Ph.D Biomedical engineering student, and I have plenty of time due to my superior time management skills to lift, swim, run, and rock climb.

For example, I wake up at 7 a.m., go the work at 8 a.m. work till 11 a.m. I then swim or run for a hour, eat lunch, come back around 12:30 p.m. and work till 5 p.m. And then go lift at 5 p.m., come back home, prepare my meals and then read something non-scientific and then sleep. I work in the biomaterials field, and I plan my everyday schedule, such that I know how much time it will take to run my experiments, etc.

You and others believe productivity is defined by how much time you spend research. Rather I believe productivity is based on quality, meaning how much you MAKE of that time and not so much the hours. Again, Quality > Quantity, and this is a big thing in science and engineeering, where prestige of publications are based on quality of work.

Get your head out of your ass and start thinking... this is what scientists do! Stop following mainstream science world and society, and start thinking towards your goals.

If good god, you cannot even develop critical and creative thinking skills from starting a Ph.D, you don't deserve to be a chemist/scientist/engineer.


Kind of harsh...but true I guess. I just keep hearing these horror stories of people not having a life in Ph.D. program, and that their profs run them into the ground with lab work until there is no time left to manage, on top of classes, etc. That's kind of what happens with my prof right now... Plus I also think it depends on which science you are in.


Those without a life choose not to have one.

Classes, teaching assistant, lab assistant, research assistant, working on tools in the lab, writing a thesis, gym, going for a run, going for a bike ride, hitting the beach, camping, hiking, partying, getting married.

You choose what you want to do.

Electrical Engineering, semiconductors.

The real world has been 100x more demanding than grad school ever was. Real world requires results YESTERDAY, I have so many more commitments now and still have no problem devoting 5 hours a week to lifting.


Regarding what loh208 wrote, I believe wedge has hit on the real issue. While it might be true that some grad students don't have time to workout because of poor time management skills, it's certainly not true that anyone who lacks time to workout lacks it because of a lack of time managment skills. The real issue, as wedge said, is where your priorities lie. Especially given super demanding fields like physics and chem, it seems very easy to just not have the time. I will often miss morning workouts because I was up until 1 or 2 am the night before doing work. I wasn't up that late though because I was slacking off during the day... I was up that late simply because I had that much stuff to do.

And to be honest myself, if you think that any amount of time management skills will keep your average work day as a grad student to under 8 hours as loh208 has described you're dreaming... Your work as a TA alone will probably eat 3-4 hours of your day. And as for the remark about quality over quantity, of course you want to be doing quality work. Who ever said though that you can't do 12+ hours a day of quality research? If science and research are your priority in life, it's easy to see doing 12+ hours a day of quality work.


every professor says that and I have never met one that actually did...

all day every day


They say that to motivate you to work hard and take it seriously. however, you will never find one that will honestly get mad or do anything about you leaving in the afternoons to go lift. hell, mine respected me more for it because I took my health seriously and was sick less and also in a good mood (anger release) so he got more work out of me...

grad school is what you make it: work hard, play harder..

and make time for the girls... it makes the day go by much faster.....



Also, loh is being ridiculous, if you dont have to pull a few all nighters every once and a while your either the most motivated person ever who can accurately predict how much time everything will take or a liar, i'll go with the later....

At any rate, one thing you will notice about a lot of grad students is we waste 90% of the day doing useless stuff, that alone means if force yourself to be productive for just 25% of the time your at work (i am talking long not short term) you will be just fine...

and I agree that in real life you will have more demands, so get used to "making time" for what is important to you.... if you cant make time for yourself (lifting) now, you never will... all your doing is rationalizing a reason not too....


Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering here... My first year was pretty hellish because of the courses, being a TA and the qualifying exams, but after qualifiers, I was able to find plenty of time to work-out in the mornings. I also was a TA for most semesters during my 4.5 yrs there. My advisor was a noon to late night type of guy, but me and one of the senior experimentalists in the group were in by 8 AM every day. So, I'd just stop at the gym three days a week. This is before I really understood nutrition and training, so back in the days of just "working out".

Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now about training and nutrition. You can make time for it. If your program is a lot of classes first year, along with being a TA, followed by a qualifier, it can be tough. It was for me. Grad school is a great time to take advantage of having a more flexible schedule (especially when you're done with most of the class requirements) and train during the off-peak times too.