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Writing on the wall, Switch supervisors, or is there hope for my PhD?
D

Thank you all for your responses and encouragement. I met with the chair of grad studies in my department and he said that supervisors have an obligation to let their students know of exit options, but he felt that my advisor conveyed it in not the best way. He assured me that my fate has not been decided by anyone and recommended that my supervisor and I have to sit down and come up with a backup plan so I can reach my PhD. He was quite encouraging and I felt motivated to work harder after our conversation.

I took two weeks off and met with my thesis committee today. Unfortunately they agree with my supervisor that my work needs to accelerate because at the current stage they think I will not be able to defend by next year. I think what may have happened was that I was doing fine up to my upgrade viva but slowed down considerably in the three months after that. I might not have realized that on a week by week basis or I wasn't reading my advisor's facial expressions well enough but maybe the delays accrued over time

They asked me to consider applying for extensions offered to students (as a result of COVID) of one term before theconfirmation viva (oral exam before submission and final viva) as well as taking a fourth year to wrap things up. Most importantly they felt that my boss and I need to sit down and plan new experiments and a new timeline that's more reasonable than the one I had proposed. At the current state my boss only asked me if I wanted to investigate the combinatorial assembly of this new protein but my thesis committee did not feel assured this could work because they haven't seen any data--currently its all written plans so far. In their words, "starting a new project the year before you submit might not fly"

I must say I agree with their assessment, but I just wish for once my advisor can see past all this and just work with me to hammer out a plan so I can get more data asap. I feel I have reached the lowest point of my degree and I just can't help but wonder: is it possible at all to get out of this albatross?

Writing on the wall, Switch supervisors, or is there hope for my PhD?
D

Before the lockdown I had expressed a few proteins I was working on and it generated low yields, to me and my supervisor's surprise. When I returned I continued working to optimize expression, although my time was limited due to uni rules. Today my supervisor and I had a long horrendous meeting. He was upset by the speed my project was progressing in the last couple months and he's not sure if I will be able to get a PhD time or at all. He then said that while he likes me as a person and appreciates the fact that I'm tenacious and work everyday, but he would absolutely not recommend I go into research at all because I suck at it. I admit that some experiments, like cloning, could have been done faster but some experiments do take time. He urged me to think carefully about whether I should continue or not. He then tried to be friendly and asked me to consider other career choices in which he thought I had potential to do well in, just listing things off randomly. He suggested I should go exercise more to relieve stress and improve my productivity. Truthfully, how can I even relax if my status as a doctoral student is in jeopardy?

His words were hurtful. A similar conversation took place for my upgrade viva, which he thought I’d fail. My assessors were happy with the quality and quantity of work, my understanding of literature. He said the only reason I passed was with the understanding that he had to constantly monitor my work for one year, which was not documented. I was only asked me to do was to submit a three questions my thesis will answer and they were satisfied with my ideas. Do you think the writing on the wall is for me in this lab? If I’m given a choice to change advisors, should I? Does anyone have experience here changing supervisors? How does that work and how do you adapt knowing that if things go wrong here, its over?

Is my PhD ready to implode?
D

Thanks for your response. My supervisor avoided answering whether he thinks I can produce a thesis (two yrs down the line from now), but he did say that we need a plan and maybe adjustments are required--be it a change in project focus, adding a secondary supervisor or, just meeting once at the end of the month instead of twice a month. He reiterated that none of my data in my first year is publishable and asked for my opinion. I suggested that rather than giving me one protein to Gibson clone, he should give me more so that if other proteins work out I can make progress on those other experiments rather than sticking with one for 3+months. He didn't respond to my suggestion and said that I was trained by one of his best postdocs and he doesn't understand why I couldn't accomplish his objectives. The issue is that his postdoc had her own busy work and taught me PRINCIPLES of certain experiments, not troubleshooting. The latter part I had to learn on my own. He drove the conversation back to how in some careers having a PhD won't actually help. He then talked about how a postdoc from the neighboring lab went on to be a salesperson for GE and loved her job and said that if I went on the academia route I need to be prepared to live for a ten years without a large income.

I realized we were at an impasse and I told him I'll consider what he said but my opinion of staying committed to a PhD is unlikely to change.

What are your thoughts?

Is my PhD ready to implode?
D

Basically I have four figures of data and my supervisor said that after my first year I should have everything needed for my first chapter by now. Perhaps you're right; working as hard as I can is my only way out of this mess.

Is my PhD ready to implode?
D

Hi,

I started my PhD in Sept. at a UK university and at the start I was trained under a postdoc. After this postdoc left, I found myself unable to produce as good results as she was in some of my experiments. In the past 3 months I've been having some trouble with Gibson cloning a construct but the rest of my experiments were progressing smoothly. I submitted my transfer essay earlier this month and my professor remarked it was "quite thin". This week when met one on one he started asking weird questions about what I wanted to do after Oxford (this was barely 1 year in)--I didn't know the answer and soon the conversation steered towards how he felt I will not pass my transfer of status. He thought I needed to consider all options among which he suggested I just settle for a master's.

I really love the research I'm doing, even amidst its ups and downs. Before this conversation I felt he was patient and fine with my progress. I'm caught by shock because I work hard and other students who've had to start on a new project or stopped coming to lab have never received this conversation. I still have the heart for my PhD but this really felt like a vote of no confidence. I also keep hearing students from other labs passing their transfer vivas with even less experimental data than I have. What should I do next? For those of you who have encountered something similar, what did you do?