“Vacation”

By Kathryn Lindsey

A recent comic on phdcomics.com contains the following fictitious dialogue between Tajel, a grad student, and her advisor (see the comic here):

Advisor: Tajel, it is perfectly ok for you to go on vacation.I mean, you did take work with you, right?

Tajel: Excuse me?

Advisor: You spent the whole time thinking and obsessing about your research project, I assume?

Advisor: In academia, ‘vacations’ just mean you are doing your work somewhere else.

Tajel: I don’t think we’re using the same dictionary.

(phdcomics.com 7/24/09)

More than perhaps any field, math research is portable – probably all you really need is a pencil and paper.While most of the time this is a good thing, it also means that you can never truly leave your work behind.

I know some mathematicians for whom “going on vacation” means spending mornings doing math at the desk in their hotel room, and then going out in the afternoons.But mathematicians at the opposite end of the spectrum – those who are able to leave work behind entirely – seem to be few and far between.Is it possible to be a successful mathematician without defining vacation to “just mean you are doing your work somewhere else?”

Most math grad students I know who have taken a “vacation” this summer have expressed feelings of guilt for not having gotten more math done during that time (myself included), yet all have also agreed that they deserve to take a “vacation” of some duration.Is there a contradiction here?

If you have any comments or interesting/funny stories pertaining to vacations and math, please feel free to share them in the comments section!

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “Vacation”

  1. Andre Ramaciotti says:

    “Most math grad students I know who have taken a “vacation” this summer have expressed feelings of guilt for not having gotten more math done during that time (myself included), yet all have also agreed that they deserve to take a “vacation” of some duration. Is there a contradiction here?”

    I have exactly the same feeling, although I’m not a Math student, but an Electrical Engineering student. Sometimes I even feel that I’m more productive during vacations. Classes take my time and my energy that I could be using studying something else that I think it’s more important.

  2. Ädamas hinton says:

    too true
    i feel the same way but it’s when i try to do some thing else(not limited to a vacation) but it is not just math it is also physics.

  3. graduate jobs says:

    In my opinion, the work is in your head anyway. Doesn´t matter if you´re mathematician or carpenter you always spend some portion of your vacation thinking about your work.

  4. William says:

    Hello,

    Well, I feel the same way, but as I’ve progressed in my studies, my vacations have changed their format, too. I start out my vacations leaving work behind (or at least forcing myself to, sometimes with the help of my wife), but eventually return to work a few days later. The beautiful thing is, of course, that my work seems to flow much smoother after taking a break for a few days and distracting myself with something completely unrelated to math. Moral of the story: vacations are great, if they are not too long and eventful enough to keep me interested for a while.

    Will

  5. aron says:

    I always feel this way. But I can never justify doing nothing in the holidays because I get so little done during term time too. I can never take a day off because I never earned it by working hard the day before. This guilt keeps me from being productive. So the cycle continues…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.