Worried they will ask me to leave PhD

posted
30-Nov-16, 16:33
edited about 27 seconds later
by Alanine
Avatar for Alanine
posted about 3 months ago
I am in my first year of my PhD after doing a one year training programme (1+3 phd studentship)

I am organically a biomed student with no maths background and moved into a 'big data' bioinformatics type PhD. I passed my PhD year 1 review with good feedback (we are graded using concerned, average, good and excellent)

I have felt that the past year I wasn't good enough and have been tricking supervisors and academics by acting confidently and that's how I got through the year. I had a car crash of a meeting this week because my supervisors (one new who has just joined) started questioning me on statistical analysis. I have been on courses and used all of these methods but just haven't thought about it (been doing a systematic review since the Summer) and am really bad at quickly thinking about these things, I need time to sort it out on paper. I know I'll need to improve and get more confident in viva style questioning, I just wasn't expecting it as our meeting are normally an informal chat.

Today my supervisor told me she was taken aback by my lack of knowledge and I could tell she was disappointed. I have completely lost confidence in everything, and am terrified they will ask me to leave. I feel so stressed and anxious I can't stop crying and had to leave work. I don't know what to do.
posted
30-Nov-16, 17:28
edited about 7 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 3 months ago
Stop crying and learn the stuff you should already know ;) That's everything you can do at the moment. If they want you to leave they will tell you. Nothing you could do about that. I guess it depends a bit on how severe your lack of knowledge is. Are we talking about skills you can acquire in a couple of weeks or does it take a lot of time? I guess most PhD students were already in the situation that they were using a method or a machine and couldn't answer properly how it works in details. For example, if you are doing q-PCRs and your supervisors realizes that you don't understand how the method works (e.g. you are just following a protocol and never bothered how it works), they will be disappointed and tell you that this is not acceptable but it is not a huge problem. If they however think that you are lacking the whole statistics basis, then this might be a bigger problem for a big data project as you can't catch up on that in 2 or 3 weeks.

If they were fine with your work so far they will probably not fire you immediately. Just focus on closing these knowledge gaps. Much more important than the review. Good luck!
posted
30-Nov-16, 17:47
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 3 months ago
Hi Alanine,

Something a bit similar happened to me, and I'm on the 1+3 as well. When I met the 2nd supervisor (high up prof) at the start of the PhD (after doing great on my masters) I gave a TERRIBLE impression. I had no idea what they were going to want to talk about in that meeting, and gave such dumb answers - as if I had no knowledge (below undergrad level). After that I kept thinking two things 1) the 2nd supervisor must think I am extremely unintelligent and wonder how I got funding, and 2) the 1st supervisor must be embarrassed/ashamed at having recommended me.

Anyway - I ignored all my feelings of crapness. I know that despite being crap in that meeting (and a few subsequent ones to be honest - though never as bad as that first one), I am able to do a PhD, learn whatever I need/want to learn, etc. Like you, I generally need to spend a bit of time and get it down on paper, and then I have the confidence to articulate and defend my ideas. I'm now just over a year into my PhD, and things are x100 better. I've shown them more of what I'm capable of and feel more my old self. So don't be disheartened. You can do it, and you will, if you don't give up. Don't let the supervisor's attitude get you down. S/he needs to just get over it. And in the meantime, you can learn, plan, and get yourself more familiar with the method for next time you meet.

I know it feels a major knock to confidence. But if you have made it thus far, in my view it is very unlikely that you aren't going to be able to learn the method if you give yourself the time and space to do it.

Try not to let stress/anxiety control you. Write down "So what. I can do it" and focus on that (or something similar that works for you).
posted
30-Nov-16, 17:51
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 3 months ago
Ps. I don't think they would ask you to leave the PhD - certainly not on the basis of one or a couple of meetings. Once they see that you are determined to learn the method I am sure they'll be fine.
posted
01-Dec-16, 21:04
edited about 15 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Alanine:
I am in my first year of my PhD after doing a one year training programme (1+3 phd studentship)

I am organically a biomed student with no maths background and moved into a 'big data' bioinformatics type PhD. I passed my PhD year 1 review with good feedback (we are graded using concerned, average, good and excellent)

I have felt that the past year I wasn't good enough and have been tricking supervisors and academics by acting confidently and that's how I got through the year. I had a car crash of a meeting this week because my supervisors (one new who has just joined) started questioning me on statistical analysis. I have been on courses and used all of these methods but just haven't thought about it (been doing a systematic review since the Summer) and am really bad at quickly thinking about these things, I need time to sort it out on paper. I know I'll need to improve and get more confident in viva style questioning, I just wasn't expecting it as our meeting are normally an informal chat.

Today my supervisor told me she was taken aback by my lack of knowledge and I could tell she was disappointed. I have completely lost confidence in everything, and am terrified they will ask me to leave. I feel so stressed and anxious I can't stop crying and had to leave work. I don't know what to do.


I agree with Dunham. This is real life kicking you. You need to tale a short walk, sort yourself out and start. figuring out how to catch up ln your theoretical background as quickly as possible. There is absolutely no good alternative.

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