Things aren't working out


I'm 2 years into my PhD and starting to get some bad results back. My first paper has been submitted and is awaiting review. I have the sequencing results from 2 other papers. I prepared the cDNA libraries and sent them but despite them being good quality and high concentrations the sequencing data I got back is poor. The read counts are very low and dispersion is quite high meaning any conclusions I draw are going to be unreliable at best.

I've havent enjoyed any of my research so far really. I don't like my supervisors, although we get along ok. I don't like the environment I work in. I'm beginning not to like the research itself. I put so much time into this work and its coming back so badly. How do people cope when your studies don't work out?


Hi cleancotton, I didn't want to read and run, but I just want to tell you to hang in there. You are not alone. I've been having doubts with my research since Day 1, and now that I have 6 months left to submit (maximum), I can only hope and pray that I can finish my thesis on time. I know my thesis may not be ground-breaking, but at least it's my own work. In the meantime, I hope to patch up the holes in my thesis the best that I can. Hope you can persevere. Good luck !


Dear cotton,

I don't know what to say to you.

I think this is something all PhD students go through.

But at the same time you have do some soul searching. If you continue to feel unhappy doing your PhD maybe you need to drop it while you still can? I am just saying this because I don't want you to reach a point when you haven't done enough work, for whatever reason but mainly because you are unhappy and uninterested, are forced to continue on your course of study JUST BECAUSE YOU ARR FORCED TO.

If I look back at myself and my PhD journey, I would have quit in year 2 because that's when I began to feel unhappy and uninterested and unmotivated, not to mention the realization that PhD's will not get me a better career or a better salary. Instead I continued into my PhD program and ended up submitting an incomplete thesis and now hoping that my viva give me another chance to resubmit and atleast come out with a PhD after all of this.

But again, you might be going through a phase. That's why you need to do some soul searching. The only way you can get through this is if you really and truly love your PhD.

Also my nickname is Hopeless, so you need to take advice from me with a pinch of salt.

Best wishes.


Hi Cleancotton, it sounds like you're doing well in terms of progress- a paper already submitted and getting data for another two. It happens a lot with lab work that things don't always work properly, as you are no doubt well aware. In this case, can you talk to your supervisors, or to the people who did the sequencing, about what went wrong, what your options are for analysis, or whether it might be feasible to re-do the sequencing? Also, your phd work doesn't have to be "perfect", it just has to be enough to get you the phd.

You say you are not enjoying it in general, and the environment you work in. That makes things harder to get through for sure. Usually it helps to spend time with friends, and on interests/activities outside the lab. Having a life outside of studies helps to keep things in perspective.

As I say, setbacks happen frequently, and its easy for anyone to get down about it and decide they hate it when things are going badly. If you truly still don't enjoy it even when things are going well in the lab, then that could be a sign that it might not be a career you want to continue on in the longer term. Although maybe in a nicer lab environment with people you like, you would enjoy it after all.

Anyway, I'm sure you will do fine in your phd if you keep persisting! Good luck with it, and remember to take time out for fun.