In a rut or incapable?


I'm in the second year of my PhD and I'm starting to have real worries about whether I have the ability to finish what I've started. In the first 6-8 months of my PhD I produced quite a few results but since then I have done nothing. I seem to hit a brick wall with everything I do. I'm begining to wonder if its me thats the problem and I have bitten off more than I can chew. My supervisor is always very positive when I speak to him, but I worry he thinks I'm doing more than I am. Its just me in the lab as my supervisor is too busy to do lab work, there aren't any other students and there isn't a PostDoc. I know a lot of people don't get results till their third year, but knowing that doesn't stop me worrying!


You're a bit isolated it seems and have typical 2nd yr blues (which becomes final yr panic). Do you have contact with neighboring labs and other students? I've been very isolated during my PhD and I think that really breeds worry and insecurity. And you're right - lab based PhDs often have all the results at the end. Sounds like you got of to a flying start though - but of course now that makes you feel you're not acheiving anything.

I think isolation and keeping your own morale and motivation going are the really big challenges - much more than the work itself.



I just wanted to empathise, I too am the only one in my lab and it does get very lonely. It's also easy to get anxious and worried because you don't have people to talk / compare progress etc. I am in my 3rd year and would say that if your supervisor is positive that's a good thing do you have a good relationship with him and trust him? Perhaps confide in him some of your worries, remember he's on your side.


JA, i know how you feel. Although you are in your second year and i in my third month, i am already beginning to feel the strain. I know that may sound impossible or it might be me just being ridiculous. My PhD is in industry and my supervisor is very hard to please. I too am stuck in the lab with no one to compare results with but they do similar work (in a way) so i can, at least have a chat when i hit pot holes.

It is natural to feel this way. I always try to remember the goal i have in sight, to keep me going. Talking to your supervisor will help, especially if they are very supportive.

All the best.


we are all very capable people to make it this far! I'm in my second year as well, and I feel the same way from time to time. I would say these are the normal ruts of PhD life. Set small goals to do each day during this time and it will get better