When people ask you what your PhD is in?



I'm a first year PhD with just something I'm a little unsure about. If someone asks me what my PhD is in when I've finished, do I give them the project title or would you just keep it simple as saying Medicine or Physics etc?

I think the former may be too much information for most, and the latter too vague. Any thoughts?


Depends who is asking.


I'm a first-year PhD student as well and usually give a short and simple summary (few sentences) of the project and its goals if someone asks. If you say something like physics, people will automatically ask for details. If you give them a long and complicated title nobody knows what it's about. Usually they want to know what you are doing when you are at work (are you sitting in front of a computer, conducting interviews with people, doing literature research in a library, working in the lab, doing field work outside and so on) or why someone is interested in that topic, so just answer this in a simple way. Not that hard ;) If the person is from a related field you can be more specific.


It depends on who is asking.

Ideally, state your broader subject area, then go in detail highlight the problem you are exploring and possible or proposed solutions. It is a great idea to explain your research to others as you get quite useful feedback.


Totally dependent on context. I'm likely to go into Agricultural Consulting when I'm done and if a farmer asked I'd err more towards the plant pathology side of my work. If a physicist or someone like that asked I'd talk to them about the structural biology side of my work.

If someone on the street asked I'd probably just say 'Molecular Biology' as a generic catch all term.


I'm writing up and I still get a bit garbled when someone asks for the elevator pitch version of what I'm doing.

In general these days I avoid telling them the title because it requires an extra session of explanation than would bore the pants off anyone who didn't understand it the first time. I keep it vague. I'm looking at X because Y. That satisfies the curiosity of most people and anyone who wouldn't be bored by anymore follow up will probably ask for an extra detail or two that is normally easy enough to come up with an answer for.