Doing a PHD in underdeveloped country



i live in a developing (or better, underdeveloped) country, and starting a phd study in electrical engineering. I'm oriented towards signal and image processing, but i'm fairly good in other areas too. I know a lot from many disciplines, but not an expert in any of them.
Now it is time to choose my phd thesis. This is very difficult for me, because of the following:
1.My country is not very developed - industry and others are not in demand for state-of-the-art technical solutions, and money is also an issue (nobody here is willing to invest in science and research) .
2. I'm personally interested in doing a solid phd, so I could afterward publish a few papers that will be recognized internationally (and hopefully cited). This conflicts with 1.
3. Going outside of my country is my last option (family and private things). Many young people are leaving my country. Call me a patriot or an idiot, but if everyone leaves from the country, who will develop it? Usually going back is double-trouble because i would have to work much harder just to prove myself in the new environment, and then will probably lose the motivation to come back here.
4. I don't live from research (or better, research is not well payed here). I would like to use my phd to earn for living. Choosing a worthy topic in this manner is difficult (topic covering autonomous robots for example are 100 years away from here).
5. Everything I learn comes from internet (books, technical papers etc.), which is outdated at least a year. Everything I build, test and develop are under 1000$ research, with 50000$ worth laboratory. Things that are developed in the world looks like science fiction here.

So is there hope for me? Is it possible to do a phd on a cheap university, without a solid mentor,and to fulfill all above? Is it possible to do a phd almost from home (time is not an issue, I could do it for 7-8 years), and be recognizable on international level (i'm not speaking of hundreds of technical papers, but of 3-5 papers, and at least one of them to be published for example in a IEEE journal - preferably Transactions)? Do you really have to be from stanford, MIT, caltech etc.? Suppose that I'm a little better than an average student, with solid theoretical foundations.

Do you have any suggestions, advices? I would like to hear your opinion...



Dear Loba,

I had the same questions running through my mind when I started my PhD in a developing country a few years ago. I did it for family and financial reasons. I also found the university where I enrolled of a good standard and my supervisor was the best in the country in the field. I do not regret this decision as I have been able to present papers in conferences in many countries, met many people in my field, and I am now working on publishing some papers.

Did that affect my performance as a PhD student? I do not think so as those students who star in their PhDs are often supervised by great professors found at some universities. I believe the supervisor is as equally important as the university where you enroll. How many times have I found PhD students from developing countries doing second-class PhDs in developed countries, from supervisors who do not even have a PhD!

Just bear this in mind and evaluate both the uni, the lab, the supervisor before making a decision.


My thought--to a large extent your PHd is what you make of it. pardon your research initiatives, your own self-motivation are what make the difference between a successful and not so successful phd far more than any input from supervisors, etc. as well you can reach out in the academic community to get feedback from leading academics, once you begin to read and publish and write... some if not all leading academics are amazingly humble, kind and generous with time and feedback. at some point in anyones phd you have to own your work and work independent of the judgment of your supervisor, learning to develop your own judgement and faith in your own ability. you might consider the option of a distance learning phd from a leading uni,, this might allow you to maximise your work with field leaders but not disrupt your family life

good luck

sorry for bad typing am typing with injured funger!


Thank you all for your support. I agree with most of you on "self-motivation" and "hard-work". It should be possible to do it in my country, and to balance between a phd, job, family and other.

But, what about choosing a topic? What I'm interested could be uninteresting to others in the world (or outdated), and researching on cutting-edge technology is out of my league for many reasons.

Even if I try to solve the problem of a developed country, it is almost impossible to implement this knowledge in practice here.
Phd are supposed (to my opinion) to solve some existing problem in everyday science/technology etc. How do I find a phd problem in a country where all industrial problems are solved in this way: use a phone and call Germany, France, USA, Japan etc. and buy their solution (if is cheap). If not cheap, don't solve it at all.
Many industrial problems could be solved for less money (comparing to "imported" solutions) , but they are not technical inovations and research in a phd level.

So, you realized that I have a dilemma:
1. Choose a topic, relatively theoretical, which you may use to be recognizable on international level, and earn for living in an entirely different way (sell computers:-))
2. Choose a topic which is more practical, implement it in an semi-industrial environment, earn some money from it, become a leader in the country in that topic, but end with a low scientific contribution

I know that is difficult to be a researcher and an engineer on the same time, and especially in a developing country, but I cannot help it. Either I will get dumber and stop researching, or I will be a researcher and live cheap despite my phd in electrical engineering.:-)

What do you suggest?

Thank you.



apart from self-motivation and hard-work, PhDs need money, especially cutting-edge PhD with shiny new equipment.

So, if I were you I would try to secure funding first.

Good luck!


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