First year PhD - what did you guys manage to accomplish?


I'm a first-year PhD student (neuroscience), just hoping to get a bit of feedback from you guys cos I'm slightly worried about my pace of working.

Would anyone be able to share a general time-line of what they did in the first year? Like, first 3 months, next three months, etc? Ever since my PhD started I keep getting plagued by deep anxiety (usually first thing Monday morning) about whether I'm working fast enough, or being productive enough, etc etc etc. Especially since every now and then there is a lull in my testing (due to room bookings or whatever), and I don't know what I should be doing in the meanwhile, and whether I can relax or what.


Don't worry, I felt like I was doing nothing nothing for the first 6 months or so, then gradually felt I was doing more. I'm now a year in and I feel like I've done loads if I think about what I knew at the beginning. I'm working as an RA whilst I do my PhD (it's the same thing, my RA work is my PhD work) and for the first 6 months it felt like they were basically paying me to browse the internet! I think most people feel that they're not doing much for the first few months (except a lucky few!). Eventually you'll get into the swing of things and you'll wish you had the spare time you had before.


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I am having the same problem. I am three months into my PHD and feel i am reading, browsing and doing little bits of writing. I was concerned so asked some of the other second year students, they said they were doing the same for the first 9 months and it was only after the viva that they realised "oh, i have been doing concrete work".

What i have been trying to do to keep my anxiety at bay, is by choosing specific things within the Uni and outside the Uni to keep my mind active.
My PHD is on film and script.

So i have joined creative writing group and have a weekly film club. Just to keep my mind active. I am hoping that as my work load increase i may have to take a step back in the activities and use them more as fun.

I hope this helps.


I finished my PhD a couple of years ago. The start of the PhD always seems very slow, my own experience and observations of friends is that that you basically spend the first 6-9 months of a PhD reading or getting to know your way around the lab or the systems you are working with. It often seems that this work is unproductive, useless or boring, but this is usually an important foundation that allows you to figure out where you are going with things. Also this time is useful to figure out any politics in the group and the way things work with shared equipment etc. I think it's natural to have these questions, I wouldn't worry too much about them. Keep going with the reading and discuss things with your supervisor and other people in your group who are doing similar things and this should help you figure out where your project is going.