Is it Possible to Quit a PhD and to Start a New PhD?


Hi all :-)

Looking for advice/ if anyone has been through a similar thing.

I am on the verge of quitting my PhD for a number of reasons - won't go into too much detail but here are the main points... I changed subject between my undergrad and PhD and have found that the new PhD topic does not match my expectations. It is very repetitive with little chance to get out of the lab or develop other skills, I feel like I am in completely the wrong department. On top of this, my supervisor is very difficult to talk to - condescending and always micromanaging everything I do - so I am feeling under a lot of pressure. I am only 5 months in and do not see myself still living here in another 3 years, away from my family and partner. I dread coming into work every day and it is starting to affect my overall happiness.

I still strongly wish to do a PhD since I have enjoyed all my undergrad project work and other projects. I have applied for various other PhD positions within the last few months but still have not heard anything back from any of them. Does anyone know what my options are for EPSRC UK funding, if I quit now will I be very unlikely to get another funded project? Is my current PhD likely to be the only chance I get to do a PhD? Or would it be easier to attempt to transfer funding between universities (although I understand this is very difficult to do, since an agreement must be made between the 2 departments)?



I think there's no chance of transferring funding. If you did quit you would be in the same position as everybody else, you would just need to apply. Might look a bit bad if they see that you quit however.


I think it is possible - to get a PhD somewhere else, but there could be problems, and it may look bad on your CV - what will you show on your CV, what did you do these months? how you will explain why you left? There are probably Professors, who do not care and will take you, but there many of them who will be distracted. It seems you do not know exactly what PhD/ topic you want to do. At a new place there could be different problems.


From what you've said, if the situation is unlikely to get better, then it might be best to call it quits.

There are two things I would say you should do first though:
1. Check that the various issues you're having really aren't fixable, by raising them with appropriate people. It may be that if one of the objectionable elements were to improve, you would feel more comfortable about the other bits as well.
2. Have something lined up for when you quit if that's what you're going to do. Do not just leave without getting something else in place, even if it's not a perfect role, even if it's not an academic job. It's always easier to look for a new position when you are already doing something, and it might not be possible to walk straight into another PhD based on timings if nothing else. In fact, I think while it'd be ok to apply for jobs while doing a PhD, applying for another PhD while in the middle of an existing one would look very odd to prospective supervisors. A bit of time away from that process to reflect and recover would be ideal, if only to make sure that you don't encounter the same problems again.

My own experience is that I left a PhD nearly 2 years in, went straight into an RA job in a different field I was interested in where I had a contact, did an MSc in that field, and then got accepted to do a PhD, which I have now finished. So it can be done, but you will need to be clear on your reasons for leaving and feel comfortable with having a bit of a detour on your CV. Personally I don't think 5 months is a big deal, and you can still include some reference to it and the skills and experience you gained during that time.


Thank you all for your comments and advice :-)

To be honest, I think a big part of this is the location (in addition to everything else I mentioned) - I am finding it very difficult not being able to see my family and partner whenever I want to. I just wish I had chosen a different university in the first place, and now I am left with a choice of continuing with a PhD which is making me completely miserable, or to drop out of what could be my only chance of getting a PhD and with nothing else PhD/job related to go into despite the many applications I have sent off.