Overview of Laney

Recent Posts

Carry on PhD vs Take good job

As you mention this is an open offer which he could take either now or after his PhD, it seems that this company are keep to have him. While it might seem that the offer would be open to him when he finishes how confident is he that this would be the case in what could be 2 years time.

As others have said I would be tempted to look into the option of working and studying part-time this perhaps is the best of both worlds?

Carry on PhD vs Take good job

======= Date Modified 17 Oct 2011 11:24:58 =======
I would say he should consider how he feels about his PhD, we all felt like quitting at some point, you say he's at the end of his second year, that's quite a long way in to quit if he enjoys it, on the other hand it's a long way to go if he hates it...

For me it would depend on his ideas about his future career, if he plans to go into this type of job anyway and having a PhD wouldn't benefit him there is alot to be said for going there now. If he has other ideas an a PhD would be important or valuable for his future career then he should probably continue. Another factor for me would be is the job long term or short term, you wouldn't want to quit a PhD for a job that is one year fixed term for example unless it is something you really want to do. The other thing to think about is money is this job paying a salary that he would be happy with long term.

I think you need to assess the value of the PhD in future career, and how much you might regret quitting if you do, you probably will onluy get one opportunity to do a PhD. I think it's a difficult decision and only he can really decide what to do, based on how his PhD is going.

MPhil thoughts?

As others have said there is a (common) view in academia that an MPhil is a failed PhD, I guess this comes from knowing that if you haven't done enough for a PhD you can often get an MPhil. I know a couple of people that decided that they wanted out of their PhD and submitted for an MPhil instead and a coulple of people who chose to do an MPhil as a masters course, and they haven't had any issues getting jobs in industry.

If you intend to stick with you PhD don't worry too much about not doing enough for a PhD, if you put the work in and don't fall out with your supervisor it is very rare that you would fail.

New PhD student, with an absent supervisor (not his fault). Advice please?

I think alot of what you are experiencing is what most new PhD students go through, at the start you feel you have so much to learn, and often have to spend the first couple of months (or longer) doing nothing but reading. Having a postdoc there will certainly help you they can show you the equipment and lab and help you through it, so you are not on your own. Your supervisor being ill is unfortunate but if you can read the appropriate literature (what you find yourself, or get from your supervisor or postdoc) and get some experience working in the lab, and talking to the postdoc you will be in a good position when your supervisor returns. It is common when starting a PhD to feel that you don't know what you are doing or where the work is going for a significant part of the first year.

Sup messing with my timetable

This is a difficult one, I guess it is at this point that what you need and what your supervisor wants begin to conflict. Obviously your priority is getting you PhD completed and doing it in 3 years. Your supervisor obviously wants as much research done as possible.

What you need to do is find out whether the additional work is necessary for you to have a good thesis, if it is then obviously you need to do it, if it is boarderline whether you have enough material you probably should do it, if you have more than enough for a good thesis then you need to decide whether you want to do it or not (This may depend on what your plans are for after the PhD - if you want to say working with your supervisor it may be better to do it...). If having enough material for your thesis depends on the analysis which you are yet to carry out it could be more difficult to judge.

If you have enough material you need to explain the situation to your supervisor and agree what happens next and stick to it, it may involve some negotiation such as you giving up some of your time to show a new PhD student what to do for a while or assisting in some experiments, but you should both agree a deadline after which you will focus solely on analysis and writing up.


======= Date Modified 12 Oct 2011 10:41:20 =======
======= Date Modified 12 Oct 2011 10:41:03 =======
I'm not sure what the current rules for job-seekers allowance is, I had to go on it after I finished my BSc (~7 years ago), whilst looking for a PhD and a job to tide me over until I got one. At that time they told me I had to keep records of the jobs I'd applied for and show them to them, I think you had to show them that you'd applied for about 3 suitable jobs every couple of weeks. The problem is what they deem suitable, as has been mentioned the job centres don't seem to know what to do with people with degrees, they seem to be more suited to finding people 'unskilled' jobs.

I would read up on the current rules online, and find out what they need to know, meanwhile keep applying for jobs and don't expect much help from them in finding a job that you want. Good luck.

I quit my PhD and am much happier

======= Date Modified 11 Oct 2011 13:56:05 =======
I'm glad you have found a job and are happier now, it is a horrible situation to be in as regards the PhD, fortunately I've never been in that position myself, but I know alot of people who have been in similar position and regularly think/thought about quitting.

The idea of some kind of regulation always seems like a good idea in theory but from what I've seen doesn't really work in practice. When I was a PhD student my department brought in a system of progress reports where every PhD student had to write an end of year report and attend twice yearly interviews on their progress by two members of academic staff and the head of research in the insititute.

For some this system seems fine, particularly people who work in big labs with numerous members of staff working on similar projects, but in my department more than half of the PhD students work in small labs with no other members of academic staff (their supervisor aside) even doing similar work, this meant that their assessment was carried out by someone who had no knowledge of the subject area, so meaningful feedback or evaluation was impossible.

I think that the problem with the PhD system is that your experience depends very much on your supervisor/group, if you have a good supervisor/group you will get good training and good help, if not your experience is a nightmare. Transfering of PhD students from one supervisor to another is often difficult because of internal politics and other factors, and the result as you have found is that people end up quitting. Had you had a different supervisor or been in a different group your experience could have been very different. The best way to improve the system in my opinion would be to give training to supervisors as to how to supervise/manage PhD students.

funding for conference attendance

You may have already tried these but often conferences themselves offer bursaries that aren't always advertised, that could be worth asking about. Also if you are a member of some professional body they sometimes offer bursaries to student members.

Are we good value for money?

I think that these types of thoughts are fairly common in PhD students. But I think that you need to remember that the first year you are building up a foundation for knowledge which your work will be based on, this isn't something you are born with, it takes time to aquire this knowledge. Secondly you need to remember that what your doing is research and often hasn't been done before, and it takes alot longer to do something for the first time than subsequent attempts take, because you need to create the method rather than just follow what others have done previously.

Penalty charge for going over 3 years, common?

I believe a 4th year 'admin' charge is fairly common, I think it's seen in lieu of tuition fees. £500 seems alot, in my case I think it was ~£85. Although at my University if you took a 'suspension of study' which sounds like what you did, that would 'stop the clock' on your time at University and you would only have to pay the fee when the clock had been running for over 36 months. Also I believe you didn't have to pay the fee if you were close to submitting (although you had to get a confirmation that this was the case from your department).

Paper writing question

As Rick says check the legal position regarding publications and patents. We were looking at patenting an idea a while back, and were told by the University commercialization team that a journal article on the subject would most likely prevent a patent being obtained, but you could publish once you had a patent in place. I'd definately check with the appropriate people before submitting a paper.

As for the paper itself, I have seen a few papers that use not great data to illustrate a new idea, you generally just need to write the paper in such a way that the idea itself is the theme and that the results shown are just one example of it, also suggesting the potential of the idea/method will strengthen a case, but you will need to be careful to submit to an appropriate journal.

Paper writing question

I am aware of a small number of papers that present the idea, usually as a method or a technique and as such are usually published in instrumentation type journals.

Are you wanting to both patent and publish the same idea? As I believe you would have a problem getting a (strong) patent for something that you had already published in a journal (as publishing puts the information in the public domain).

How important is home ownership to you?

I really want to own my own house, in my opinion renting is essentially a waste of money - what I pay in rent wouldn't be much different to mortgage repayments, but at the end of the mortgage deal I would own a house, and not have to pay (rent/mortgage repayments) to live somewhere. In renting I am effectively paying off my landlord's mortgage.

At the moment I am trying to save up for a deposit, working as a postdoc and living like a student, but realistically the nature of academic research (short term contracts and little job security) is potentially a huge problem. I know a number of people who have left academia for security reasons so that they can buy their own place.

Phd job prospects

It's a difficult one, my experiences of people doing a PhD is that come the end of it they either love academia or they hate it, I guess your experience depends on a number of factors (yourself, the project, supervisor, department, university etc).

1. If I remember correctly there are about 4 or 5 times as many people with PhDs as there are postdoc positions and as a result applying for postdoc positions is very competitive, how many positions are available in your area depends very much on the field you are in, and how broad your area of interest is.

2. I know alot of people who have completed a PhD and gone on into research (at Postdoc level), equally I know alot of people who have completed their PhD and never want to work in research or science again. Of those I know who are now postdocs some made the simple progression from PhD student to postdoc in the same group, others via contacts they had made in the department or at conferences and some by just applying for advertised positions, (the latter being the more difficult). If you want to stay in academia after a PhD it's good to make contacts and collaborate with people during your PhD, and you have to be flexible about where you want to live/work as generally you'll have to move to where work is available.

3. This depends on the project and the supervisor, during my PhD I had alot of freedom to choose where my project went, my PhD consisted of about 3 seperate projects, one of which my supervisor started my out on, the other two I basically picked up myself. Although this isn't necessarily typical, some PhD projects are alot more well defined.

As a postdoc my current project is essentially a continuation of my PhD, so basically my supervisor lets me do whatever I want (within reason). But my contract is coming to and end and I am looking at other projects, typically postdoc positions seem to want you to devote 70-85% of your time to that project and use the rest to persue your own research interests and personal development.

4. I guess for my PhD for the most part I worked ~40-45 hrs a week, when I was writing up it went a little crazy

5. Again flexibility of working hours depends on the project/lab rules/supervisor. It is fairly common for labs working with hazards have set or core working hours and people aren't allowed to work outside these times for safety reasons. Or if you are using shared equipment you have to with it when you have your allocated time (this may mean long hours to get work done). Alternatively you may have the freedom to work whenever you like, my officemate worked strange hours often starting at 5pm and working into the night.

Publishing undergraduate work

Is it possible for you to get involved in the designing of undergraduate projects and assist in the supervision of them for current or future students? This could perhaps be a better situation for everyone, the department/University & students could still get publications from the work, you would get the opportunity to check that the work was carried out correctly and is of an appropriate standard to be published. Also if you design/assist in desgining the project you could carry on the work after the student has finished, so have your own research, publications and experience of supervising students and designing projects...