Signup date: 03 Nov 2017 at 1:37pm
Last login: 22 Feb 2023 at 10:08pm
Post count: 1052
I know I should talk with my PI but I am finding his management style a complete culture shock. I was my PhD supervisors first PhD student and so she was very hands on, also before that my industry bosses were micro managers. My new PI and line manager is a name brand professor who has no technical experience in my discipline but the project fits nicely into his wider field. Getting any face time with him is difficult and I am probably talking with him once a month outside fortnightly group meetings. Emails from him are short replies focusing on small points or agreeing with what I said. He understands my issues are part of research but expresses the opinion that it worked for the previous post-doc so it should work for me. I feel he wants someone that is self sufficient and at the minute I don't feel that self-sufficient.
I know what I have just written is most likely impostor syndrome and/or issues settling into a new environment. I know I only started 4 months ago and this is normal teething issues. Though knowing that doesn't really help sometimes. Yet posting this somewhere is somewhat cathartic and making me realise I need to book a few days off.
Thanks for reading
TLDR; Impostor syndrome doesn't disappear when you finish your PhD - it haunts you forever ; ^ )
I know I haven't posted much over the last year and I don't think I even have a question. I just needed to rant somewhere.
I finally submitted my thesis last January and passed with minor corrections in March. Prior to that I had suspended my PhD to do a postdoc level projects based on my PhD (timelines got messy due to COVID) and had 7 months of funding for another postdoc after submitting. Both were with my PhD supervisor and at the same uni but several grants fell through. Fortunately I managed to get a 2 year postdoc position at a small prestigious research institute in the UK that started in November last year. It is in the middle of nowhere but it is a great project that will give me fantastic experience. I had a successful PhD with several first name publications with decent postdocs and so I thought I could fill this position easily. However things are just not working.
My PhD was a multi-disciplinary mess and this postdoc is firmly focused on one of the disciplines. Though it seems like they are interested in the other half of PhD research, which I think is one of the reasons they hired me. The project itself is a very "lets try random stuff" to push the boundaries and see if anything works. It is high risk research though we should be able to resurrect data out of it regardless. My role is the first work package and is to get representative samples for other people in the group. Yet my positive control conditions are not working! I restarted the positive control for the third time this week (trials are a month long) and it still is not working. Yet a couple of the high risk conditions are actually performing well ?!? The positive control conditions are the optimised settings from a prior project with same equipment, so it should work yet I get zero response. I am unfamiliar to their equipment/set-up but it is similar to what I used before but I can not figure what I am doing wrong. The fact some of the actual conditions are working far better than expected is more puzzling.
I am voicing my concerns to other people in the group and they are mirroring them back to me as "what do you think we should do?". I have no clue but I can't say that to them, so I bumble out some ideas and they just agree with me. I have realised I am the only person on the project that knows my role and for the first time in my career I have no technical support or guidance. I could tell them complete gibberish and they would agree with me. The person who worked on the prior project to mine (and developed the positive controls) has left and so I am completely left to myself. I feel that if the controls are not working, it is a methodology issue on my part but I am struggling working it out. Experiments not working has happened before but I always had the ability to talk with someone to bounce ideas of or double check things. I am getting stuck inside my own head to the extent I am stressing myself out with the experimental paranoia.
Can you do a pratice viva? It would be a good chance to practise your defense and get feedback on how you are coming across.
Also, do you know what "guidance" the graduate school gave your chair/examiners? I know at my old uni guidance could be quite explicit and the chair was "briefed" on the situation. Though my university had been sued a few times so were careful to avoid any more PhD related court cases. It may be that the chair has been told about the issues, relevant university regulations and how to prevent the university being sued. If the guidance is simply follow the rules to the letter, memorise your PhD handbook and remind your examiner about it. Your PhD handbook may even state the expected thesis quality and you can refer to that. Ie you have made an original contribution to knoweldge which is entirely evidenced by your publications. Or that the university regulations recommends you to use Web of Science, scopus etc and this guy's papers aren't in there.
I really do wish you all the best and goodluck!
You can prepare something but don't be shocked if they don't let you present. Usually if they expect you to do a presentation they will tell you and give a topic. Otherwise, it is optional on both you and the interviewers parts. So they are not expecting you to have one and may refuse to let you present it. Though if they say yes anything is acceptable. Does that help?
I thought, a little bit is good but not essential. Saying that I have never been on a hiring committee but I have heard some looks good on a CV though not the biggest priority for research focused academic jobs. For a teachning university it would be valued higher but publications are usually valued higher. On the otherhand doing a bit of teaching at the start of your PhD gives you an indication if you enjoy teaching and whether you want to do that as part of your career. To be honest, I found I didn't like teaching and I don't want to be a professor because of it but I enjoy reserach. Finding out now might prevent a rude shock when you discover you hate it when you become a professor.
Also, the money is nice.
I can't tell you whethere to drop out or not but don't drop out until you have something else lined up. It is a funded project and it is easier to make life decsisions when you have an income. Treat the PhD like a job, do the time but look or something else. There is nothing morally wrong doing that and it will make the transition easier.
I am really sorry to hear about your health and I hope you get better soon
It is unusual but someone at my last university had a major panic attack during his first viva and failed his viva because of it, he couldn't answer any questions. After that the university allowed him to do a "written viva" which was similar to an extended journal review process. They gave him written comments/issues and he had a month or two to respond similar to a journal. It was considered very unusual at the time but you might be allowed to do something similar.
I can feel you!
I submitted in January 2022 and defended in April 2022 with the most minor of minor corrections. My examiners spent more time talking about future work than the actual work during viva that I had prepared for massively. Walking out I felt like, "Was that it?" and to be honest the answer is yes. Finishing your PhD is a bit like grief. The monkey on your back for the last few years has just died and you are suffering loss. I think everyone feels a bit this way so don't feel bad or let impostor syndrome kick in. You have passed and it is now time to move on.
I don't think there is a simple cure except look forward in your life. Have a holiday, catch up with friends or just make plans. Look for a job or set new goals. If you make little plans here and there you will soon fill that PhD hole in to time.
Plus congrats on passing!
I am sorry to hear about viva experience. It sounds horrifying to put the work in, get the publications and then be let down by a dodgy viva examiner. Your examiner seems to see your work as a threat and has a signifcant bias.
I agree with abababa but would like to add if you haven't already make usre your thesis flags what chapters have been published and where. I would even be cheeky and add metrics such as references as of submission. It should be uncommon that an examiner blocks you with three peer-reviewed publications and you need to make it clear that they are rejecting peer-reviewed work. I would even tell everyone in your department that you don't knpow what the issue is because you have published it in X and X journals.
Also, can you manufacture a conflict? If he has a conflict of interest he can't be your examiner. Can your supervisor help you create a conflict or do you think is unplublished article alone is conflict enough.
Finally, if you get to the second viva with this still hanging, attack him on his methodology. And I mean attack. Your methodology is published in a respectable journal and cited by other people in your field. While his methodology has been unpublished for several years. Point out flaws in his methodology and defend your work in the terms of reviewer feedback and citation count. Yoiu can also, tell the chair in clear terms that you are following the university procedures to use peer-reviewed articles and that you think it is unfair to be examined on un-published methods. Then say that you refuse to discuss unpublished material anymore but happy to discuss to your work. A half decent chair will draw a line under the discussion and let you move on.
Though don't worry too much. As you have said, you have done 90% of the corrections which is good and you should pass the second time. You ccould probably apply for jobs of the back of your publication record alone whicch could be a nice confidence boost.
Congragulations on passing! A pass is a pass regardless of the corrections and you can now call yourself Dr Interdis.
I always thought that examiners could ask for virtually anything and to whatever extent they want. Major restructures, massive rewrites and new data analysis are all normal. The exception is usally new data collection at which point it should be a revise and resubmit. So passing you with requests to rewrite the reserach problem for clairty is prefectly acceptable.
I might be wrong but it sounds to me that your introduction and methodology is difficult to follow for someone outside your exact sub-field. I did multi-displinary reserach and always had issues having to explain over and over again in different ways to different audiences. Unfortunately you chose someone outside your exact field as an examiner and so you have to tailor your thesis for them. If they didn't get your reserach approach, it is your resposnibility to explain it properly. So, I wouldn't fundamentally change anything but just rephrase stuff to be more accessible.
Sorry about not responding earlier.
If you feel overwhelmed and frustrated, take a holiday away from your PhD. Burnout is incredibly common among PhD students and it so easy to get sucked into the moment that you lose sight of the bigger picture. After a break you might see things differently and feel better more generally.
Do you think the new methodology is better? Do you think the second supervisor will help support you conduct the the new methodology better? Your methodology should change through the PhD as you learn more about the subject and no-one gets it perfectly right the first time. It is okay to lose a years work, I had no results in my first year because of shoddy methodologies (engineering) and if you make the right decision now you still have plenty of time to complete on schedule. I understand your second supervisor isn't explaining why you should do what they want, but what do you think is better? It is your PhD and you should be able to make the choice but ultimately it is your responsibility.
Also, I wouldn't say that they aren't being supportive but that you feel you want need more help with certain areas. Supervisors assume everything is fine unless you explicitly tell them. It isn't wrong to say that you want more help with your writing, or drafting your methodology or how to analyse the data. They will probably be more than happy to help. With regards to feedback with writing, my supervisor was similar in that her feedback was incredibly vague and superficial. Originally I asked more help, which didn't work but I found asking for them to go through a single section usually got results. Building your working relationship with your supervisors can be difficult but trying different approaches and having small targets can sometimes work.
At first reserve for a big program PhD should result in an offer. I know first reserve on a research council PhD funding is nearly guaranteed to be successful. There will always be a few students who get multiple offers or decide against a PhD after applying. Students usually get up to a month to decide but someone could drop out in 2 weeks before it starts.
I wouldn't worry about it until at least 2-3 weeks have passed. As the hiring process can be very slow sometimes due to bureaucracy.
After about a month from applying, you can email the admin team and ask for an update. Usually they are responsive and will tell you if there are delays or what is happening. I don't think there is anything you can do until then.
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