First months of PhD and already thinking of quitting


Hi all,

So I just started my PhD at a Uk uni. Problem is I have been here couple of months doing random trainings and haven’t started any experiments yet. I am not really sure if this is normal or not but there doesn’t seem to be any plan for my project and I have no samples and honestly I have no idea what the hell I am supposed to be doing. I pretty much so reading and go to trainings but it is hard because ppl giving trainings want to know what and when you will be using the equipment and it’s hard to do a training without data/samples. I understand that it is a PhD ans you are meant to drive thinga yourself but I thought you’d get at least some guidance at the beginning. I feel utterly useless and have a feeling the rest of the group members think the same and don’t like me at all. I am kinda terrified of my supervisor as he might snap at me and not sure how to really bring this up and tell me to figure it out. I am constantly worries about my lack of progress and feel like if this is how things are going now two months in I might as well just quit. Has anyone had these issues?


Well, first of all, you have to know this is unfortunately normal for many students and including myself, and at some point, you have to navigate it to a point where you should move forward. First of all, and most seriously you are lacking self-confidence, please don't think that you are useless, you aren't, you have to believe in that and don't care about other colleagues whether they like you or not, just focus on your own, that is most important. My advice, you don't have to think about this absolutely, so I would recommend you to restore your power and calm down and make a list of things you know and what do you want to know and do, you make a checklist ( brainstorm) and see what is missing. You mentioned that there is no experiment and if this is really important, go and ask politely to your supervisor that you need to do some experiment and set possible dates and also ask him to have a meeting to make sure that both of you are in the same page.

Quitting isn't easy decision and of course, you still had no so much time, you still too early, but you need to love forward as soon as possible and be determinant to get a better understanding of what you are supposed to do.


Hi, hinderka,

Talk to your supervisor about the main hypothesis and objectives of your project. Then talk about your main time lines and what trainings you need to address them. Maybe even ask to be matched with a lab buddy. Do you have a second supervisor, maybe a postdoc in the group? Yes, a PhD student is supposed to be work independently but that is to be expected maybe in the third year when you have been trained for the first two.

Have you had a look around and see how other PhD students fare in this group? What is the completion rate of previous PhD students? Did they mostly complete or suddenly left? Is your group supportive and do you get to meet your supervisor once a week to discuss ideas and project progress? Or are you basically left to your own devices to swim or sink?

I believe very strongly in gut feelings. If your gut feeling is that this project/supervisor/lab is wrong for you, you may be right. The earlier you decide on this the better. That doesn't mean you should quit your phd. It just means that you should probably consider another project/supervisor/lab. If you still want to pursue a career in academia, you could start looking around for a more suitable one. If you no longer wish to pursue an academic life, hey, it's not the end of the world, just start applying for jobs.


I would like to congratulate you on your admission to PhD. Coming to your query, I think communication is the key, different universities have different approach on how you need to complete your courses. Speak with your Lab mates and colleagues, find out how they managed to get their things done. Most importantly, speak to your supervisor, explain your situation and seek his guidance on how to go about your project. I am sure your supervisor will understand your situation and guide you accordingly. Usually professors are busy with other responsibilities, hence they tend to neglect their students. I am sure, once you talk to your supervisor and seniors you will get a better picture of how you can manage your situation well. Do not lose hope even before trying. All the best.