Adam Ruben writes about the attitude in academia that a moment not spent in the lab is a moment wasted.
My outside interest during grad school—my “Batman job,” as a grad student from Case Western Reserve University called it last month—was stand-up comedy. (I quickly learned that audiences in downtown Baltimore aren’t fans of math puns. Like this one: “I was curious about the alcohol content of my mouthwash, but the label on the bottle didn’t say anything about it. I guess the proof was beyond the text of this Scope!” And that’s why I’m not famous.)
One day, my adviser called me into his office. The campus newspaper had just published a little profile of the stand-up-comedy-performing grad student, and my adviser happened to read it. Over the next 10 minutes, I learned that my hobby was an embarrassment to the department, that there was no way I could properly focus on biology, and that every negative lab result I ever produced was a direct result of telling jokes at night.
My "Batman job" is swing dancing. Many of the best things in my life are a direct result of my being involved in a dance community. I met my wife through dance, I have become a better teacher, and my communications skills have dramatically improved. I remember keeping my physics life and dance life separate at the beginning of grad school after being warned by some well-intentioned individuals that such "poppycock" hobbies would hurt my academic career. Then I realized that dance is a big part of who I am, and I did not want to work at a job where I could not be myself. If my hobbies and passions keep me from getting an academic position, then it isn't a place I want to work. Now my physics and dance lives bleed into one another, and this has led to a number of interesting opportunities for me. My "Batman job" has made me a better physicist.
I would wager there are far more scientists with "Batman jobs" than those without.