I would like some advice from other researchers. I applied for a funded Ph.D. last year. Now one year in, I had my first-year viva presentation which presented my work in that year. Afterward, they start testing my background knowledge on my maths. After a couple of days, the department said that my examiners were not satisfied. They make their judgment on my background knowledge rather than accomplishments achieved. Here what bothers me, the research proposal didn't mention anywhere that I need maths background. It was solving problems what a company (partners) were facing.
They didn't have concerns about what I did (that current) but my background knowledge in maths which they tell me 12 months (in) doing the research. I feel like I'm being judged on the wrong elements. They are judging me on elements that were mentioned in the research proposal and tell me 12 months in?
What should I do? I do believe this is a major concern (want elements that were not required and tell 12 months in)? This is not very fair at all.
Tell me your thoughts?
Did they ask for corrections or any form of remediation? If it isn't too much, I would do what they say and learn from it. It is very common in academia to get bad reviewers who do not understand your research and there is nothing you can do about it. You can explain to them why they are wrong but it is usually easier to do what they say and move on with your life. If they are going to fail you it is entirely different but otherwise I would consider it a disagreement of opinion.
Where are you pursuing your Ph.D.? And did the background knowledge questions just spontaneously pop up during your presentation - or what do you mean when you say "afterward"?
I know there are some countries/universities where the rules actually require a theoretical oral exam on fundamentals of the field - in addition to the Ph.D. defense. The colleague with whom I shared an office during my Ph.D. actually had to do this because he switched fields between his Master's and Ph.D. (from physics to CS), while for myself the defense itself was sufficient (I stayed in CS).
Maybe there was some miscommunication concerning what the actual requirements are for you for completing the Ph.D.?
Feel bad for you after reading that your judges are judging you on the wrong elements. I think they should judge your present work or research you have completed now to show them. They should ignore your background and judge you on your present work.
I'm not sure I understand the original post.
It is perfectly reasonable to be tested on both your work and the background theory behind it.
The idea is to prove that you know what you are doing, why you are doing it, that it is actually you doing the work and that there is sufficient work being done.
This seems fair to me.
Hi Azhan, I am sorry to hear that. I agree with Walter_Opera. I have seen in some universities that they want you to have "what they believe" a necessary theoretical background. They should have told you earlier before accepting you. If like noted by pm133, they want you to explain the theory behind your work, then you have to be able to do it. But requiring a "general" background in math is not fair in my opinion. If you understand the math behind your work, you should be fine.
It's a bit worrying to see CS and maths viewed as completely different things. I'd think - perhaps optimistically - what they're trying to nudge you towards is a good PhD with a robust theoretical grounding, and to achieve and communicate this without a reasonable grasp of the core bits of maths would be nigh-impossible.
It is a very common problem in CS that PhDs can tend to focus on what's hard, rather than what's research (research is a subset of hard!). It's very easy in computer science to spend a lot of time programming something that's complex, but this doesn't automatically mean it's research - and the trap there is you can feel like you're doing something worthwhile because it's hard and time consuming, rather than because it's good science.
This goes double if you're working with a company, because they can sometimes tend to focus and feed-back based on what they need - a practical solution - rather than what it contributes to science - a PhD.
The good news is you're still at an early stage and can consider and react. As an internal review, there is typically little to be gained from complaining about or contesting the process if the result is a 'pass but do some extra work on this' (much easier and more productive to do the work than go through a complaint process). I would instead try to clarify why they feel it's relevant to your research, and approach that discussion very open-mindedly.
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