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please... no more students... I beg...

Anyone else midway through their PhD and developing a phobia of undergrad and masters students? I was such an enthusiastic teacher in the beginning, I used to think the way they follow you around like little lost puppies was endearing. Now I catch myself doing things like intentionally taking my writing to the cafe or walking alternative routes through the building when I'm in a hurry to avoid them.

Don't get me wrong... I'm still guiding them through their projects but the way I instinctively flinch every time their names are mentioned is making me feel super guilty!

Poor communication with supervisor

Oh you poor thing... you have a micromanager.

Some people, and it sounds like your supervisor may be one of them, just don't like delegating. They micromanage, suddenly discover they have no time, then turn around and blame you for not being independent enough. I has one of these when I was an undergrad being supervised on placement by a PhD student. Unfortunately you will probably never have a healthy working relationship with someone like this but here are some tips for damage control:

1/ Never, ever lock horns with them in public. If you disagree with something they are saying bring it up later, in private and don't mention that they said the opposite thing earlier- present it as a new idea.

2/ Don't let any meeting or discussion of your work pass without flying an idea or two of your own past them. Even if it is a bad idea it is a way of taking some ownership of your work.

3/ Unless there is something you specifically want from them do not initiate unnecessary conversations.

4/ Wherever you can get away with it (like using reagents they aren't too precious about etc) do experiments first and discuss them later. If it doesn't work what they don't know can't hurt them. If it does you've dodged the risk of their refusal.


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The US system may be different- to a UK student I would strongly advise NEVER make a voluntary payment to your loan. In a few decades it will be forgiven anyway and it is unlikely that most of us will ever need to repay our debt in full.

After your PhD unless you have well off partner or parents you will run in to problems money wise. You will almost certainly need to move for your postdoc and moving is expensive, especially if you decide to reap the CV-boosting benefits of working internationally. Unless you are very lucky the start of your postdoc will not fit in nicely with the end of you getting paid stipend either. I also have some spare money from teaching that I am sitting on and am just starting to look at where I want to work next year and how much it will cost... and I still expect I'll need an overdraft! My advice- keep a nest egg. (robin)

quitting phd

Don't do it!!!

You listed the things you don't like as the town, the people in the lab and your supervisor but I noticed you didn't say the work. This is harsh but realistically if you pass up the studentship it is unlikely that you will ever get another one and it'll be a black mark on your CV forever if you choose to stay in science.

It is probably less scary to quit than to stand up to your supervisor. You must feel that the whole faculty, their friends the other PIs will be behind them and against you but ultimately if it is that bad you should at least try to arrange a transfer and salvage your studentship. Also do you come with any money for the PI that they will lose if you go? That would give you more leverage on the supervisor than most of them would care to admit so if you let them know calmly that you are reluctantly ready to leave the lab they may back down.


Yes, we all feel like that some of the time (or even most depending how self-critical you're naturally inclined to be). It hits most people around about the middle of the degree when you realise you've been there half the time but not accomplished half of what you need to! Don't worry though, I hear the feeling passes after a decade or so once you've got a faculty position and your own group. :P

Writing thesis in first year?

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Writing your thesis as you go along is not strange- it's smart. Even if you wind up changing it massively as you go along (which you probably will) it is still better to write gradually than take time off experiments to writeup later. I'm just starting my third (and final) year and I started writing my thesis a year ago. I add in new papers to my intro as they're published and update the M&M section as I go along while having the outline of all three chapters written out makes it easier to see where I need to go. It makes you more confident in your PhD, takes a lot of stress off you, your thesis will almost certainly be much better written for it, you can see your figures in a polished form which is incredibly helpful for conferences and planning papers and most importantly you can spend the entire time your being paid researching. Good choice!

Edit: Congrats of the discussion piece too. :)

Is it too early to be worried about publication record?

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So a quick update, I've come to a compromise with my supervisor. The bulk of the project we will still wait till the end before publishing but I went digging around my data to see what I've actually got. We're a structural lab and my project is looking at one protein and how it binds to some of its partners... one of those partners has no structure published at all and is easy to handle so all through my PhD I've been analysing its structure alone with a view to making the complex easier to interpret later.

I've asked my supervisor a year ago if I could make a side project out of this and publish it separately to which the reply was that I ought to focus on the main project. So after posting yesterday and reading a few of the replies I spent last night throwing all the data I already have about this binding partner that does not fit well into our main work into a paper format... this morning I dropped it on her desk and guess what? She agrees!

Feels good and kind of weird because I've not had the confidence to take the initiative in that way before, but she rekons we can submit before Christmas! :D

Thx for so many replies to this thread too!

Is it too early to be worried about publication record?

Thanks keenbean, I read your publication record on another post that's pretty impressive! :D

Basically some of it could go to print now, but my supervisor strongly favours journal impact over number of publications... so is waiting till my research period is up to see if she wants to submit the data to two or three moderate journals or pool them and submit one high impact paper. Tactically she is probably right and I am probably wrong (after all she managed her own career) but I would just feel better leaving with a first authorship in ANY journal!

Btw. Probably helps if we all specify country on this thread to avoid confusion because people on shorter courses will obviously have less than people on longer ones. I'm UK (3 year course).

Is it too early to be worried about publication record?

I think this applies more to students who plan on staying in academia, but does anyone else get very anxious about their publication record being too little too slowly? My first authorships are not on track to be published for almost a year after I leave. My supervisor is great in many ways but feels no sense of urgency over the timing of publications.

She says three middle-authorships is plenty to get a postdoc, which it is, but I am constantly stressed that if my pubs are going to be good enough to get me a faculty position long term then it needs to start now. She just laughed and said its too early for me to be worrying about it but that's easy for her to say- she got a first author Nature paper two years into her phd and had her own lab within five years of graduating.

Attire for conference (not presenting)?

I've presented in jeans and trainers... lol. Smart casual is probably better!