Lost passion for my research...


Hi. I started my PhD in February 2020 and now I am lost and feeling guilty... even thinking about quitting my PhD.
I finished my master's 4 years ago and since then I was trying to get a position for PhD. I tried a lot of times and finally, I got this opportunity and accepted. The position was for a project with a company in a country different from my host institution, so I resigned from my job (which was temporary) in my home country and flew away, then, COVID happened. With that, the project change due to the restricted mobility and the company is showing no interest in my project anymore.
I spent the first year trying to settle in this new country and worried about my family back home. I took some courses but mostly just to keep going, I was and still am very anxious and worried most of the time. I do things just so my supervisor does not think I am wasting his time, but I am no longer passionate about my research topic, especially after it changed from what I was initially proposed. As I said before, I am feeling very guilty because I have this position and in my country, the situation is very bad so I am sure it will very difficult to found a job. Moreover, my PhD is fully funded and I keep thinking about how much I wanted to do this, and now my performance is not good enough... there should be a lot of people more suitable for this, I don't know even if I'm able to quit after all this time or if I have to return what I was paid.
I don't know what to do, if I quit I will not have this opportunity again, and will not have anywhere to go, but I am just useless for my project here, and I think the company will also drop out of the project. What should I do?


Hi, I am sorry that you feel like that. I think a PhD should be a time of inspiration and learning.
Just a few quick thoughts:
1. If you stay in this job and feel miserable, you are not doing yourself or your supervisor or colleagues a favor. If you can: quit - or find a better PhD as soon as possible. You should *not* do it only because you feel guilty.
2. If you have to stay for monetary reasons, make your project more interesting for yourself. Find those aspects that you like and try to pivot the project into a direction you like by making constructive suggestions and help your supervisor to make this project great.
3. Finally, think about how you could qualify yourself to be the best candidate for this project AND to prepare yourself for the career you want afterwards. This may reignite your motivation because you are preparing your future career and you get more positive feedback right now.
I hope this helps,
Sven Hendrix

Avatar for rewt

Hi NewbieSE,

It sounds like you have second year blues. I think nearly every PhD student loses their motivation at some point, I certainly have and most people on this forum. So you are not alone. There is a lot of good detailed advice available on the internet to help with second year blues.

I wouldn't quit your PhD unless you have something lined up already. A stable income is more important than having a passion. You can treat your PhD as a job and only do the bare minimum. If you want to regain your passion, I recommend taking some time off in order to distract yourself from your PhD. You might find that a few weeks away helps you deal with your anxiety and gives you a new clearer perspective.