Feeling nervous


I've only just recently started my PhD, and right now I'm working on a (relatively) small-scale experiment which should prove the problem I want to solve does exist.

While this is keeping me busy till Christmas, I'm getting worried about what next year will bring because when I read certain papers, I feel really daunted by the content and feel it would take a miracle to understand what's going on.

Also, whenever I hear my supervisor discuss something with one of the post-docs who's working on the same overarching project as myself, I always feel daunted by what they're talking about.

Basically, I'm wondering if this is normal for someone who has just started? And is my problem really just a case of being new? Will my supervisor etc. have been through the same as me?



Hi Mark...

I guess I'm in a similar situation to you in the sense that I've just started mate. I have an awful lot of problems that I put down to being 'new'. The thing I would ask is what is your relationship with your supervisor like? Whilst I barely know mine I would say that they are incredibly approachable (again different fields may have an impact), and willing to help if there's something that I don't understand.

I also find it helps to not compare yourself to people at different stages... I've literally just started, someone in thier final year of their PhD/post-docs are likely to have a far greater knowledge and understanding of the subject area. What I would ask myself is 'Is there anything at this stage that I could do to remove this dauntedness?'... At times it can be self-confidence and communication... On other occasions it can simply be I haven't read enough and need to work harder.

Thoughts appreciated.


Don't worry Mark, I'd say this is absolutely due to being new! If you feel reasonably comfortable with the work you're doing at this moment then I'm sure you'll be fine :-) it's natural to feel daunted when you listen in on people with greater experience. And bear in mind, people tend to be talking very much about things which fall within their own sphere of expertise, if you rattled off about your side of the topic even those lofty postdocs would get lost at times! Research is so specialized that it only takes a small step to find yourself right out of your comfort zone, it doesn't mean you're out of your depth in a wider sense.

There was a good article someone posted a while back about how science makes you feel stupid (in a positive way) http://jcs.biologists.org/cgi/content/full/121/11/1771 I found it quite a helpful perspective (and very true).