Advice for a friend


Hi all,

My friend is a PhD student close to completing his first year who is thinking about quitting his PhD. He is doing a scientific PhD ... something to do with bacteria and genetics ... ie lab orientated. He says he has struggled over the past year and even his supervisor has lost faith in him. I am not a PhD student or a post grad so find it difficult to offer advice. I know he is intelligent (though he himself does not think he is). He got a first and his supervisor had high expectations of him when he started. This has created a lot of pressure for him. I know that doing a PhD is very stressful but I have seen his confindence in himself and his abilities sink very low.

Personnally I would not like to see him loose the opportunity he worked so hard for. However as I have no undestanding what studying for a PhD is like, I cannot give him any advice about this situation. Most of his university friends have moved on and this has caused him to feel quite lonely. He is also due to go abroad for 2 years as part of his PhD which will further isolate him.

If he leaves now he says he can get a MPhil. It feels like he has given up and he says he might just go travelling which shows that he just wants to get away from all the pressure of this. I know he is a hard worker (as I have been his housemate for 3 years now) but he says he is not working hard enough (this impression has recently been given to him by his supervisor who I think is being quite tough on him as he had high expectations).

Anyway I have prattled on a lot. What it boils down to is what advice can I pass on to him. Is there anybody he can talk to that isn't his supervisor or colleagues. And also should I be trying to advise him to keep on going in a situation which is making him unhappy?

Cheers for reading.



Hey Concerned3,

You're obviously a very valuable friend. If your friend is having problems with his supervisor, there is usually the department head that he could go talk to, so I would suggest he tries that first. They have dealt with situations like these before and are there for that reason. Your friend may also be able to get a suspension for a few months, but I think there has to be a very good reason as usually it's granted due to illness or family problems.

If he's made up his mind about leaving, there's nothing you could really do except be there for him. His hard work wouldn't be wasted as he'll be awarded an MPhil.

All the best,


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Phds can be pretty heavy going. I know that my own family and friends who hadn't done PhDs were very sympathetic and tried to help with the best will in the world and more patience than I probably deserved:$, but what I found most useful was hearing it from people who had been in the same situation. Anonymous help is very useful, especially on here - I would have struggled a hell of a lot more without knowing other people have the same problems on this forum. Perhaps even lurking would help him, even if he didn't want to post anything himself? You can always edit your original post if you've put anything that might identify you/him and don't want to. He could always try a student counsellor at his uni as well, I would imagine they've heard similar stories before.

I hope he finds someone (virtual or otherwise) to help though. Good luck. :-)