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Can somebody dumb down predictable chronic mild stress for me?
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Hi chrisplaza,

Congratulations on getting accepted to your PhD! Am I correct to say you haven't started yet and if so I wouldn't worry too much. Enjoy your freedom before your PhD starts and don't stress yourself. A PhD is a long slog and you will wish you enjoyed your summer soon enough. Once you start you will have access to more resources to help you develop these necessary skills.

The paper you are looking at is in a prestigious journal and looks to be very ambitious in nature( and it is nature ...). If this is the first paper you are trying to replicate, I would not worry about not understanding everything at once as they are not written for the lay audience. When trying to dissect something like this I would read through it and make a list of every; concept, method, abbreviation and terminology you don't understand. Then investigate everything you don't know so you have a good basis. Other papers will explain different concepts in more detail and will give you the extra knowledge you need. If you desperately need to write something, I would focus on learning each step of the methodology and try to understand both what they are doing and why.

I hope that helps,

Found a Huge Methodology Flaw
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Hi Nead,

Thankyou so much for your advice. I was spiraling on Monday and over reacted. It was nice to get some positive words then. I ended up having an informal meeting with the project lead about it and he was pretty chill. We then had another meeting with the other group members and I was surprised everyone took it as a matter of fact. We now have a plan to see what we can salvage.

The samples are liquids and I froze them after analysis. I actually have the other detector and started reanalyzing them with the other detector on Monday when I saw zero reading after zero reading. We are trying to avoid redoing too many experiments and just reanalyzing everything in my freezer.

Publications featured in the general public press
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Hi apiontec,

Congratulations on having your work enter the mainstream media. I think it would be very reaffirming that your work was significant enough to get wider attention. Although I don't think you can directly mention the media coverage unless you actively did something about it. A friend's research got into a BBC article and he mentioned the coverage as part of his outreach work in his cover letter. If you did any sort of public outreach work or increasing awareness, mentioning the media is a great way to reinforce the point. Saying that, I am still a PhD student so don't know too much.

Found a Huge Methodology Flaw
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Hi everyone,

I have been working on large project with several collaborating groups for the last 7 months. My part was the second stage in a 4 part process and involved me doing a methodology I have been using for the last 2 years but with a different starting material (feedstock). The results were never great because of the feedstock was not was promised to us but everything was going fine. That was until group in the next stage tried replicating my work and they found a flaw in my methodology. Simply, the detector I used was measuring an interfering particle instead of the target compound. The other method registers absolutely zero and in this scenario should be more accurate. The method I used is in maybe 20% of literature and has better signal to noise ratios than the other method but can't measure other compounds of interest. I validated method several times before using both detectors (with different feedstocks) and it worked but for some reason at the start of this project I didn't check it. I have now realised that my last 7 months worth of work is useless as I have been measuring a completely unknown compound instead. The other group using the more sensitive (and more noisy) detector cannot find of the target compound and keeps asking me methodology questions.

So does anyone have any advice after making such a big mistake? My supervisor is trying to delay admitting to it and hope the next group fixes it for us. Though we have a big meeting coming up and I don't feel I can defend my work. I just want to come out and be honest but this means my entire my contribution to the project is nil other than it doesn't work. I am stuck here trying to work out what to do and any advice or support would be welcome.

Transferring to another university
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hi giveittomestraight,

It sounds like you have an unusually healthy working relationship with your supervisor and external supervisor. Congratulations on somehow making it work and I wish you all the best.

Though have you asked the new university about funding? I would make sure the new university has agreed to fund you before doing anything. If you don't want to betray your old department/supervisor; offer them joint affiliation and names on all publications. Even if you leave you can help your old supervisor by putting their name on your publications. Also, if they stay as a co-supervisor it counts towards their PhD completion stats. Leaving on good terms is always difficult but if you give them something for their troubles it can help.

PhD not awarded
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Hi Just_eve,

Woaw! I have never heard of anyone in your situation. It really does sound like your external orchestrated a hit job on your work. That attempt to block any publications is such an obvious attack. This is not normal circumstances as examiners are supposed to accept well founded corrections and not use corrections to re-review your work. I can completely understand you being furious.

I hate to say this but have you considered; withdrawing it, taking a revise and resubmit and starting over with a new external but same thesis? My understanding of PhDs in the UK is that your require an external examiner to approve it and your department can't approve it by themselves (unless it is honorary). It might just be easier to give up on this external if they won't approve and try again. I know it is even more frustrating but sometimes people cannot be swayed.

stolen phd project
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I am glad your supervisors are acknowledging your contribution, Giu!

"That other or third (or fourth) reviewer"
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I agree it is incredibly frustrating and I would prefer if we could go to an open review process. Expecting a paper to get 2-3 glowing reviews from academics, who have differing views themselves, before publishing limits what you can publish. Established authors are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt but it makes publishing as an ECR like walking on eggshells. I hate to say it but I have given up on getting into high impact journals. I would just prefer to publish and hope it gets citations.

"That other or third (or fourth) reviewer"
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Hi Jamie,

I know your pain and this can be super frustrating. Though it doesn't sound like it was all the reviewers fault. Journals can and do reject good papers for other reasons. With the first journal you don't know if there was a competing review or journal as whole thought they were publishing too many reviews or that they want to include other areas. It could be anything, so I wouldn't worry to much. It sounds like your paper has quality but you have just been unlucky so I would keep trying. My first paper got 3 desk rejects and a post-review reject before getting accepted with majors (granted the writing was woeful).

With the second journal, high impact journals are incredibly arbitrary and sometimes biased against early career researchers. As tempting as it is I wouldn't blame yourself and blame it on the publishing the system.

stolen phd project
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Hi Giu,

I am sorry I didn't see this earlier.
I am very sorry to here what the post-doc has done, is 100% unscrupulous but it is unfortunately part of academia. People "develop" on other people's ideas or more commonly known as steal all the time, it is why academics are very guarded about future work until, they have funding. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to stop them continuing on the project. Although they should give you credit for your data. If you collected the data by yourself without them, they are plagiarising you by presenting it themselves. You can talk with them or their supervisor about a co-authorship or acknowledgement for your contribution because they are presenting your work which is a big no-no in academia.

I wouldn't give up on the project yet. If the postdoc is as incompetent as you say, you will probably outperform them and publish first. Also, if your department/ lab group knows the postdoc will be doing the method development you can take the project one step further. Slightly change the end goal or application or combine it with something else. Instead of them copying from you, you can copy from them and go even further. If you need any help changing the scope, I can give more advice later. Two people working in a similar area is not the end of the world if you can differentiate the end application. Also, it is sometimes looked favourably upon if you are both working on the same method development.


Advice on supervisor feedback issues
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hi b41832,

If you scroll through my earliest posts, I complained about this a lot. My supervisor reviewed my first year progression report by fixing 3 typos and telling me it "looks good". I was seriously worrying if it was going to pass and that was all the feedback she could give me!!! I also don't think my supervisor understands the chemistry of my project (or any chemistry really) or know how my analysis methods work. She just gives vague advice and pretends she knows what she is talking about. Although, I found that she has been incredibly supportive in other ways, has been understanding of all my mental health issues and some areas of my PhD she does know in great depth. So I can understand your frustration but their might be other parts of your supervisor that is good, which can you try to maximise.

Personally, I think having a hands off non-technical supervisor is a bit of a sink or swim situation. You have to develop as a researcher far faster as you don't have the safety net of a guiding influence. It really does become your PhD. I feel somewhat fortunate that when I can change chunks of my PhD and my supervisor will just agree. It is more difficult but I am just saying there are some advantages.

Your supervisor sounds defensive about their own knowledge and if they simply don't know enough to give detailed feedback, they aren't going to learn overnight. I found that my supervisor gives very specific advice about the areas they do know. So maybe you can work out what areas they are comfortable with and shift your work towards that. Have you considered a second supervisor or even just talking with other members of your faculty for advice. Other academics can be extremely helpful in certain areas if you just reach out.

I hope that helps

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Is the conflict going to affect either your job or research? I understand you can't go into details but a PhD student shouldn't have any major conflicts of interest that can't be easily resolved. Unless your jobs requires you to have an active business relationship with a part of the university I doubt anyone will care. Though it is generally is it better to declare a conflict upfront; as in politics, the allegation of covering up a conflict is usually worse than the actual misdemeanour

Also, listing your employer in the affiliations shouldn't be a major issue and I have seen several journal articles were an author is affiliated to both a university and a company.

Thesis ethics board review
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I don't think you will be auto failed or kicked off your PhD but it is a serious issue. I would definitely tell your supervisor and stop the data collection/analysis for now. Ethics boards can be a pain at the best of times and you don't want to make things worse. Although you may be able to get post approval but your supervisor should be able to give you better advice.

Problems with Zoom
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I have had a few online meeting missteps. I was on organising committee meeting recently and my uni computer started auto-updating while I was mid-sentence. I then moved quickly to another uni computer, logged back into the meeting and found out that the computer didn't have a mic or recognise mine. So for the rest of the meeting I could only talk via the chat which was a bit awkward. Also, at my home during the day the internet is a bit patchy and I have had my internet crash several times mid meeting.

Although, I don't think it is a major issues if you tell them what your issue is and try to fix it. Not to be IT support but do you know the causes of your issues? Saying that you have bad internet or an old computer gets you a lot more sympathy than simply apologising.

Scholarship application and project adverts
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Hi DanielCossey,

September is the main start date for most PhD students. You can in theory start a PhD anytime of the year but most universities will push you towards 3 or 4 start dates (September, January, June mainly). So if you can wait until September 2022 you will have far more funded opportunities. If you need start to mid 2022, you might find that other PhDs have unofficial flexible start dates. A lot of PhD supervisors can start the PhD a few months earlier or later if you ask for it but it depends on the funding.

Self-written projects have a longer application process that requires the early application date. It is also more competitive. I don't have any experience writing a PhD proposal but I think its difficult unless you have a research area in mind already. Out of curiosity what field are you in?