Nothing is Working & Feeling Really Demotivated with PhD


Hi Guys

I've just gone past the 12 month stage of my PhD (biochemistry) and so far NOTHING has worked. Well, experiments have 'worked' but they didn't show any interesting results. I, along with my supervisor, have come to the conclusion that the hypothesis of my PhD is a load of poo. So now I have to come up with a whole new hypothesis and experiments, with very little help because my supervisor is so busy.

12 months ago I would have relished the challenge. The problem is I have become so demotivated after 12 months of working really hard and generating no data that I've lost all enthusiasm. I just want to leave academia all together. It doesn't help that before believing me that the hypothesis must be wrong, my supervisor took some of my experiments and did them himself. That left me feeling very demoralised.

Has anyone overcome a similar problem? I have a really good relationship with my supervisor. It would be a shame to leave but I'm so demotivated I dread coming in. And I'm not paid enough to feel that way!




I forgot to add that it doesn't help that my fellow PhD students have generated good data so far. We even had an undergrad in the lab for a bit and she generated enough data for my supervisor to base a paper on! I just feel useless, like it's just me being crap at science that's the problem.



Biochemistry is my old field and this is, alas, a very common problem. Sometimes things just don't work - over and over. If you knew exactly how it would work there wouldn't be any point in doing it - so it's always a gamble. And sometimes you lose. And sometimes you lose again.

You are doing the right thing in trying a new approach. As they say in Turkey 'no matter how far you have gone down a wrong road, turn back'. I know (oh believe me how well I know) it's demotivating when you plan something carefully and do everything and - it just doesn't work - but you still have a lot of time to do some good work - and show your skill at managing a challenging setback.


Hi Robber

I'd say i was in quite a similar position to you this time last year with my cell biology project. I had no data and my hypothesis did'nt really appear workable. I'm now approaching the end of second year and after a change of direction have generated sufficient data and am going ok, so it can definitely be achieved. Although it will be hard work.

As for the supervisor thing, they really won't trust you untill ypu generate them the one thing that they crave..... Positive results, don't take it personally that your boss had to do what he did to believe you


I should also add that it may not be worth hanging on in there. I've often thought you see the bad side of people when the chips are down. As a result i'm not sure my relationship with my supervisor has really ever recovered, especially since i was blamed for having no results when i was really quite isolated in the lab (no postdoc to help out, and inherited a load of broken equipment to work with)

I very nearly left after a row with my boss, to an extent i think i probably should of. However, having made my decision to stay with it and being a man of (at least some) integrity i feel obliged to see things through. Think carefully about whether you really won't to go through with this

All the best


Hi robber, although I'm not doing a lab-based PhD like you, I feel the same way at the moment - extremely demotivated and feeling that I'm making very little progress. It also annoys me when other students seem to be making good progress and never seem to go through the days of staring into space that I do! I would say stick with it. You say you have a good relationship with your supervisor, which is a real bonus. It's up to him to help you get some good results and make some progress. Could you sit down and have a talk with him about your concerns and the way forward? Maybe speaking to someone else in the department not directly connected to your research might help too.


Try not to feel down - I'm sure this is a fairly common problem and with perseverance, you'll get some decent results. Also don't worry about feeling useless - I feel like that all the time, as if I don't know anything and don't deserve to be doing a PhD. You wouldn't have been given a place if you weren't more than capable of the work involved! Good luck


Thank you everyone - it's good to hear from people who've come out of the other side of my situation. It makes me feel so much more positive. Well, I've just indulged in a chocolate bar and a hot chocolate to cheer myself up and I'm going to use my sugar high to get some planning done!