If you started your PhD again, what would you do differently?


Hey guys!

Random question...I have a friend who's recently started a PhD on the same team as me. I've been trying to give her advice, mainly starting with what NOT to do! I reckon we all could do things a bit differently if we could go back to the beginning, but what really stands out to you guys?

For me:
1. I would quit not talking to my supervisor because I was scared of her
2. I would have started my NHS ethics form earlier
3. I would not have installed a 'chocolate box' on my desk....too late to change my ways now though!
4. I would not have gone on holiday with the creepy stalker guy in the next office

Hmmmm. Think that it's it for tonight. What can you guys think of?

Best, KB


Hey KB,

1. I would not try and work from home every day, figuring that I was saving myself 2 hours of travelling time but not gettng anything done.
2. I would not panic like crazy every time I tried to write something because I assumed it was going to be crap.
3. I would have created some kind of realistic weekly/monthly plans rather than drifting along.
4. I would not have shied away from 'networking' opportunities.
5. I would not have been late/missed any supervision meetings.

What a model PhD student I was!! Luckily I've managed to turn some of those around now...about time!

Avatar for Eska

Hiya KB, here's mine:

1. I would not have read every single book I consulted from cover to cover, but, instead, sensibly just read the bits I need (this was a mistake made on the advice of my rubbish first supervisor).
2. I would worry less (still should).
3. I would read William's book on writing style at the very beginning as part of my preparation, and taught myself to write as well as possible in the early stages.
4. I would make sure I had the best supervisor possible straight away, settling never works for me... (oh dear I hope my anonymity is still sound).
5. I would join this forum, it certainly helped me when getting out of a sticky, multi faceted mess and you can pick up all manner of brilliant info and advice.
6. I would go out and socialise as much as possible early on while I could still afford it and had the time.


I would have done the following:

1) Not have broken into a sprint with my work - it is a marathon after all (and I'm burnt out now).
2) Have chosen to do a research study smaller in scope.
3) Gotten my ethical approval sorted out quicker!
4) Have asked myself seriously - do you really want to do a PhD and be a researcher?
5) Have actually started a healthy exercise regimen.
6) Treated it like a 9 to 5 job, and not have tried to demonstrate so much promise to so many people.
7) Have recognised that there is life outside of PhD land and you should grab hold of it while you can, while you have the time.

There's probably a lot more I can actually add, if I have a good think about it.


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1. Not assumed anything
2. Saved a bit more before starting ... would be gone by now, but would have bought me a few months less hassle
3. Been way more assertive - Not wait for three years to drop a pair and actually take a more proactive, even bullish approach
4. Chilled out in other ways than getting blitzed every weekend and somehow justify it to yourself by saying it was a hard week when in truth it wasn't.
5. Not made as such personal sacrifices as ya gotta live a bit too i.e. gone on holidays more often and somehow not feel guilty
6. Not take it all too seriously - give me sanity over three letters any day :-P


Hmm, interesting.

1. I would've chosen a more mainstream research area. Now I find that I'm an expert in a specialised field, but it's not one students want to pay for to learn, which means there's not many students/subjects to teach, and hence not many jobs.

2. I wouldn't have tried to do everything at once - a full-time job, a promotion, the thesis, and writing articles/conference papers. Lead to burn out, but did help me to prioritise.

3. I wouldn't have lived in this god-forsaken town 3 hours away from campus for any longer than absoutely necessary.

4. I would've started endnoting right at the beginning!


Wow, so much, I'd do a thousand things differently, but maybe first thing..is not to start it at all?

1) Choose a different major like engineering instead of biology. Could have gotten a second Master instead of trying to go with a PhD just for visa purpose.
2) Take a year of break to really rethink what I really really want to do instead of just hopping and rolling around being uncertain about my own project and research questions
3) Be more proactive in reaching out to other prospective labs and advisors.
4) Have the bravery to say fuck you to GPA and focus more on my own research.
5) Calibrate all the machines in the lab even the most simple one...like a spectrophotometer.
6) Last but also hardest one...refuse to use any machine in the lab without prior proper training.

This is my bitter sweet lesson. I'm surprised no one is revitalizing this thread, it's hot sauce!