Halfwaythrough, in despair, don't know how to keep going


I am halfway through the Ph.D. from hell. It was apparently scribbled on a cocktail napkin by a supervisor who doesn't know _shit_ about the subject in questions (Christ alone knows how she is going to mark my dissertation, if I ever get that far), does not provide any suggestions except bad ones (which have already cost me a year's worth of work), and I am now eighteen months in with no lab results to show for it, only some simulation results.

I am dead serious about my supervisor's ignorance - this is someone who did not know about the key paper in this field until I discovered it.

I really do not know how the hell I am ever going to complete at this stage.
Does anyone have any advice?


Hi! I am also doing a project in which neither of my supervisors has any knowledge about the fundamentals of my project. You mention that you are doing simulations. Where was the program from? Was it borrowed from someone else? Are they still at the university? I ask because I contacted a researcher at another university and I have been liaising with him and asking questions about things to do with my project.
I don't even bother chasing my supervisor these days, unless he contacts me. Is there anybody doing anything remotely similar in your department or university, to what you are doing, that you could contact? Even just for a chat about your work. The second year is pretty cr@p anyway, so expect to feel low. If it's any consellation my project was dreamed up on a train one morning and my supervisor thought it might be interesting to get a PhD student to solve the problem. I only have six months to go now, so I'm trying to cobble together everything the best I can. Good Luck! ;-) Have a cake on me!(mince)


i was in a similar situation - i went ahead and found collaborators at two other universities. one was already a postdoc in my area and he gave me a hundred times more supervision in the end than my actual supervisor. without the collaborations, i would have been doomed. what also helped was submitting half-done work to conferences, even if you get rejected the reviews are usually helpful enough to give you an idea if your direction is total crap or not ...


Thanks guys. Part of this is my fault - I had a stack of what I thought were useful sims a mile high during my first year - then it turned out that the program had a bug in it. That is, the actual program itself had a bug in it that threw everything to the dogs. So I was overconfident in the first year, and then it took me another six months just to get my damn gene out of the genome.

Just to clarify, you guys reckon I can still get enough experiments designed and done to submit?


It's not uncommon to be low on results 18 months in, many of my friends have suffered methodology problems / crap supervisors / even laboratorys that simply weren't built when they arrived! What you need to do is be very realistic about what you can achieve over the next 12-18 months, graph it out if you possibly can. And I agree with the others, seek out researchers who are knowledgable (in your instsitute or elsewhere), not everyone will help you but you'll be surprised how many do. There's also the option of going to your head of department to formally request either a change of supervisor, or the addition of a second who knows more about this. If your current supervisor is in denial about their own limitations this may not go down well, but it could stand you in very good stead if you need an extension later on. A friend of mine has been through this and was re-assigned quite successfully, with an extension that has enabled her to get sufficient results for writing up.


hi there, was just wondering how you are doing and whether your situation has improved at all since you started this thread? (My reason for asking is of course that I feel to be in the exact same situation, which is really getting me down.)