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Left alone and insecure about mentorship

Hi, Nishanthi... I'd say be careful of comparing yourself to others - why is this a competition? Imposture syndrome lies that way.

Confidence comes from ability; ability comes from applying your knowledge - which comes from practising learning. How about a possible paper on best technique practice? Tips, common problems, how to confirm work is OK; what the important steps are and why etc. Spending a couple of days on that will focus on what's important - and if brought into a paper, may earn points with colleagues.

Also be aware that a common trope today is "data-lite lab work"; a lot of people do the minimum. Make sure you have enough data for your topic but not x10 more than minimum (unless you chase a special discovery, perhaps!). Analysis can also be difficult; need to slay demons in there too. Well, perhaps add that to the techniques draft.

What I am suggesting is to get into the doing stage - in all areas, not just data gathering. Focus on achieving; there will be papers etc. to say how.

The more you do and achieve, the more you have justified confidence in yourself. And even if it goes wrong - good! Now you know what to fix :)

Hope that helps!


So. Reporting in from 2020 re the 2017 Crushed situation... I passed this year; took 7 years in all. Minor corrections. External examiner "one of the most comprehensive and relevant studies I have seen" - and like to influence Government direction. But It Was A Terrible Slog - really, I'd say to people:

** Unless your future depends on a PhD, a decent MSc is all you will need - ideally backed by sector experience **

In the end the head of department had to stand in as supervision, a solid chap without whom I would have failed. I'm advised that my original supervisor is no longer allowed to supervise students (alas others ran foul of similar problems). Funnily, the Students Union was very very downbeat essentially saying I could not push the Uni, as it had been left too late. So - tip - kick up sooner rather than later.

Thus another tip - always choose a Uni with an established topic department; this one was new so no other 1st supervisor available. As I had no primary supervision, some poor (senior) guy from another department was frog-marched into doing the thesis pre-submit review. He was scathing on layout and flow of concept presentation - actually, he gave very good feedback but I heard that his arm was quite twisted to get him to do the review, which was not appreciated.

Finally they gave me a piece of paper; not very impressive really. I'm a Dr. No gowned award ceremonies tho (COVID rules). I really, really don't know what I would have said, given the podum. A line then is drawn. What now...?... ...


Still wobbly - but better. 20 months of my work discarded; that hurt

Got new supervisory team, another change of direction and starting 12 months of nominal. Which is odd, as I've got no upgrade to nominal - and the new supervisor didn't like my old transfer report (which had passed under the old regime) so threw it out.

This puts me in limbo as far as the PGR route is concerned; I'm drifting off the map, seeing peers finish and get their doctorates. Anyhow, if there is a thesis handed in I will look to only accept a few changes; I'm not spending another year on top of 5 so far to rewrite the thing.

As far as content goes, good success with a simplified section yet need a month to write an analysis engine. Each hypothesis test generates c. 100 GB of data. That's 100 k Excel spreadsheets per hypothesis. So a results analyser is needed; it'll do high level results / summaries extraction.

That progress spurt (I'd fled home so to be free of old supervision) came to a stop under new supervision, who wants papers as if from scratch. The approach suggested is much better in terms of getting pertinent info (alternative literature search - learnt a lot) but it's eating time.

I'm not insanely stressed, and the University did (in extremis) flex, given no other option.

I'd NEVER go to a big-name, top-of-the-top Uni again. Too much obsession with appearance and success over doing useful work plus deaf "look-at-me" ego people who don't give anything for the students. Politics, ego and image - very important for my 1st supervision.

My old Uni (Newcastle) is a decent second tier place (with, looking back, better facilities). I should have gone there. On hearing I was looking at doctorates they made 2 offers (I applied once, got 3 offers).

But my ego pulled me in to a big name place. Oh well.

Overall, doing better :) but likely a fail.


Hi there bewildered and tru,

that's good advice you're giving; I'll put things in place to prep a complaint and take it to the SU. But they've already told me that even if I win a complaint the University is likely to have their hands tied by RCUK rules :( so still no room for extensions.

Which confirms the glum position of the head of the doctoral college.

Thanks for your suggestions; you've motivated me!



Hi newlease36,

thank you for your suggestions!

Alas the contract the doctoral collage has with the funding body sets a timescale guillotine. I can carry myself for a year money wise; the funding is not the issue. On the 17th November 2017 there is a pass to nominal or a fail.

I've been to see the head of the doctoral collage. He says "with this one we cannot do extensions, or suspensions without significant cause. We cannot give you a benefit others on the same contract do not have; it would not be fair."

Yep, I've been keeping evidence as soon as it was clear I was not being heard; I can evidence my attempts to get supervision to assist. On spelling those out the college director said he thought that I had a case to show ("...if it went to litigation" !!) that the University has failed to provide suitable resources.

He's talking litigation over extension. Is that just to put me off? I don't want to go down that road.

Without the software there is no hope; it is too late to change horses (even if there was one to hop onto).

My game plan at present is to get as much done as possible (ignoring everything else), to blow through the deadline and finish the work at home. With a working system (and some results) to then approach another Uni with everything and say "can you put together a board to look at this?".

Fortunately I have some material likely to form an interesting 3rd paper / another thesis chapter. It's looking OK as far as the work goes.

What else to do? Take an MPhil and walk away? Perhaps both the MPhil and another Uni.

And I really do not know what to put in the thesis Acknowledgements; it has been loathsome throughout.


Hi guys...

In final year of doctoral variant and crushed by situation. This is a fixed term course - the funding includes a guillotine on duration.

Long story short - no-one has addressed my topic in the UK as no suitable software. I'm a mature student and have software development experience, so started developed my own tools.

A lot of meddling from supervision (such a dominant character) who has complete power over direction - but no development experience; knows no coding languages and does not get the need for design.

System design stage banned ("takes too long!") - seconded by the course director who let me know that I was to comply or consider the effects of a split (which I took to mean booted out).

Two years later - changes and lurches in goals. Significant wasted time, re-interpreted intents (which I made sure were clear and in writing).

Upshot - I'm 6 months away from the guillotine. Yes, I have the nominal, but I need a plausible draft thesis -
and other than waffle about what might be - I have nothing, for there are no results. Further effort will take, I think, 6 months minimum.

This is not a software doctorate. This is all for a tool to address a gap (= novelty). I'm over 60,000 lines of complex executable code, no design except my notes and more effort needed to complete it. I'm lost in the scale of this thing (yet got 2 papers out of techniques developed to make progress). But it's an aside; not what the doctorate's about.

I am burnt out from effort, stress, the changes in direction, the wasted time (this year! 6 weeks lost on a method discarded by diktat) the grind and the IGNORED calls for supervisory help (1:1, in writing, in front of others, in the upgrade/transfer report).

Second supervisor - powerless (and no coding experience). My colleagues are chemists and don't know anything of what I do so cannot comment or help.

The guillotine forces a fail; I see no way out.