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How to plan final year without much direction - not sure I have enough results

Ok, lets start from the beginning. Your feelings are normally not the best measurement to decide whats enough or not - at least thats what I have experienced in 9 out of 10 students. Any input from your supervisor? Normally they start to panic if their students have nearly no data at the beginning of year three.

Since you have no papers yet I assume that you won't go down the route of phD by publication (the favoured way at my university) - so its time to think about your phD like a story that you want to tell. What experiments do you need AT LEAST to tell a cohesive story? If you can identify your key experiments, your one step further because then you can start to plan them accordingly.

You said you make a lot of plans but get them never done. Whats the problem? Too ambitious? Not enough time? Get distracted by the shiny experiment next door? Too much caffee with the other students? ;-) Figure out whats hindering you there and you can start to change that habit.

From the planning point of view I would suggest - as soon as you have identified what experiments you ABSOLUTLEY need - to break them down in smaller chunks. Normally its very difficult to estimate the amount of time that would be needed for a huge experiment (for example: one of mine takes around 3 months from starting cell culture to harvesting tissue). But small tasks (thaw the cells, passage them, do a staining) are easier to handle - these you can schedule into your week and hold yourself accountable if you don't finish them in time ;-)

Edit: Ah, I see I have already given you that advice - sorry for that. :-(

Am getting very very frustrated with my supervisor

Hi, is there any postdoc around to help you with the labbased part of your experimental problems? To be honest, my supervisor (also very busy - meet him every other month if I am lucky) is completly useless if I would asked him about lab based problems. I am working at the intersection of two big, not directly related field - one he has expertise in, for problems in the other part I have to find experts myself. All of his phDs are working more or less independent under the supervision of a postdoc - basically we are reading papers, generating ideas, planning our experiments and present the data in the end to our supervisor. He is more like an academic sparring partner. You are expected to know more at the end of your phD in your special niche than your supervisor.

And I understand the wish for high IF publication. After all, the supervisors carreer depends on it. Sometimes, its wishful thinking, sometimes you would be surprised what goes through reviweing with just the right name on the paper ;)

How to get into academia without a PhD?

If you are planning for a long term career - why don't you consider the option of a part-time phd? I have to admit that I am not well informed about phds in your area of interest (I am more in the biology corner of the world) but it sureley should be possible to do a phd without spending a huge amount of cash. Or consider to apply for research assistant positions and do your phd there in your "spare" time - works for me and mine is definetly more labbased than yours ever will ;).

With a strong supervisor it will get easier to get good papers published and good papers are one of the many factors of success for a later career.

On another note: I highly doubt that a position in academics is best suited for someone with kids (as you mentioned earlier). You will have to stay flexible when you get a job offering at the "other end of the world", meetings normally don't take place between 9 and 5 and when you have to attend conferences you will also be seperated from you family. I am a soon to be phD mum and it is a constant juggling of responsibilities towards my child, my husband and my carreer.

Btw, you may be a bit romantisizing (correct word? no idea - I am not a native speaker ;)) about teaching students. Are you aware that if you are lucky one out of ten is actually interested in the stuff you are teaching? A colleague of mine was very dissapointed when her bachelor students asked her if there a fixed questions for the exams that they can learn without much thinking. Same for master students btw!

I have to grade lab notes from lab courses and you get the same, stupid mistakes every year. Sometimes a student gets creative and you actually get the same protocol as last year. I love working i the lab and I love teaching students, but grading their work has not much to do with loving your topic and working on it.

Taking the leap of faith.

Its difficult to change yourself.. and normally nothing you can achieve in a very limited amount of time - we are speaking more of years ;-). For now I would make an evaluation what you have and what is left that you would need to "sell" your phD as a success. You are in your final year so you should have at least some vague/general idea of your topic and where you want to contribute (a detailed plan would be better, but lets just assume worst case ;-)).

Start to structure your thesis - you have to write it anyway in the end. What has absolutely to go in, what does not make sense, where is improvement needed? Then have a talk with your supervisor if he sees things the same way or has other suggestions - he is your anchor that pulls you back if you start losing yourself in details. Try to figure out a roadmap together for your last year and define what you absolutely need to achieve.

What I experienced over the years is that if I have no plan, I tend to dip into the fields, read here and there, have this idea and that and get nothing done in the end (opposite of you, you dive into it too deep and get "nothing" done ;-)). With a plan, I can work structured towards a goal.

Hope that helps!

Can i use students in my pilot test?

Hm, your post is a "little" bit vague, so my answer is: "depends".

Ask them about their internet consum - sure, will pass ethics (as long as the proposal is sound)

Cut their heads open and study brain chemistry - no chance. ;) See where I am going? ;)

Help needed getting back on track

Sorry, fairly general too - for more indepth analysis of your problem I also recommend someone who can be trusted with your data if you don't see the "needle in the haystack". ;-)

For me, what always helps is thinking about what story I want to tell. Clearly, I have a long row of experiments, some of them unrelated, some related, but what do I want to tell people when they ask me what my work is about? What do you want to achieve? Is it an improvement of something that already exists? The characterisation of something completely new? Are there troubles on the way to the goal? How have I overcome them / do I need to overcome some more?

In the end, what people want to read is a good and sound "story" - you have an interesting question (at least for you) that you want to answer - what have you done to answer it and have you achieved your goal yet or did new questions appear on the way?

Btw, a "story" makes it easier to write papers, too ;-)

Final stages of PhD and on Suicide Watch

I agree with HazyJane, isolation normally makes things only worse. I know both sides of the medal, I was near suicide once in a very dark moment and as well had a friend with borderline syndrome who attempted suicide every other week for nearly half a year. It was a tough time, but we got through it and she found purpose/a reason in life again.

Nearly all people that I know of (with one exception) need other people in their life to get some kind of stability and the ability to cope with the inevitable troubles that life throws at us from time to time. So please have a look if you can't attempt to start to repair some of those friendships. They will give you support and sometimes even a reason to stick just a little longer around than you had originally planned to do.

I wish you all the best for your situation and hope that you will feel a bit better soon!

writing up writers block supervisor expectations

At least for me it sounds normal. I am nowhere the stage of completing my phD thesis but I remember the same feeling when it came to just "writing up" my master thesis. I had literally one week to write a huge chunk of the introduction and the whole discussion (my main "finding" since it was a bioinformatic thesis with endless tables of data in the result section ;-)) and near the end of the week there was this constant feeling of panic that I wouldn't finish on time. In the end, I found the missing link on the last day around lunch time and finished way beyond midnight - but in time ;-)

My advice would be: Break it down in writing chunks and plan breaks inbetween. You are of no use if you sit hours infront of a "blank" page and get nothing done because you are so exhausted or blocked. Then think about what sparks your creative bursts. For me, its music - so if nothing else works I just turn on the music and "zoom out". And plan rewards if you get big chunks done - at the moment you need to find a way to get rid of the negative feelings toward your thesis and replace them with something nicer - no matter if its an hour at the gym or a piece of chocolate ;-)

And keep hanging in there - your are at your final meters to finish that marathon - everything is aching and you just want to stop - but with a few more steps your done and will be very proud about your work (after some distance to it! ;-))

Lecturing woes :(

If possible, place a waterglass next to you and drink a tiny bit every 5 minutes or so. Helps you to relax and slow down ;-)

Or pose a controversial questions and let the students discuss for 5-10 minutes.

Example: In our last stem cells and tissue engineering session we discussed the aspects of cloning - should you be allowed to clone your pet? your "over the top teacher"? your parents? And are they the same after cloning? ;-)

Can you get a statistician to do the calculations for your study?

The group I am working in outsources things like sequencing/mass spec and bioinformatics. We, the phD students, do the data interpretation (and sample collection beforehand) and subsequent experiments.. and we have no problem arguing that our work is not our own. After all we planned and did the experiments that created the samples and we interpret the results.

Most of us have basic knowledge about bioinformatics, but we can't compete knowledge wise with somebody really skilled at it. So yeah, I agree, basic statistic knowledge would be preferable for the OP, but I would nonetheless consult a statistican. SPSS is more or less easy to handle, but study design is very tricky and as long as you have no ideas about group sizing, matching of subjects, data collection or how to handle confounders I would highly advise seeking help from somebody skilled at it.

If you are unlucky, you have some flaws in your design and will get into trouble in a later stage of the project.

Last year PhD but..

Okay, where to start?

First, clearly they have seen something in you, otherwise you wouldn't have got the offer. So skip the "I am underquailfied and not worth doing the phD attitude." It won't help you at this late stage of your project - so if possible move the thoughts back in your brain and tell them that you will attend to them at a later stage (aka when the project is finished). No time for doubt at the moment ;-). Btw, if you have time, google "imposter syndrome" - hits us all from time to time.

Do you have some friends which understand at least part of your work? You clearly need some "outside" eyes - I honestly doubt that a second year phD student knows less than the bachelors. You need somebody not biased (and preferable honest if possible) to evaluate what you know and where you need to improve. Whats the opinion of your supervisor about your work? Is he generaly happy with your work? Or has he suggestions where to improve?

Then the teaching experience - if I would have gotten one cent for every teacher which doesn't fully understand the subject he is teaching until now I would be very rich.. Most of them are not experts in the field, as long as you prepare your lectures well in advance you are more or less safe. Depends if you have to teach bachelors ( you won't get in-depth questions but bored students) or masters (more in-depth questions but less bored). Why do you absolutely need the teaching experience? Do you want to stay in academia? You know that you than have to teach on a regular basis?

Last, I would seek counsel for the "distressed in discussions" part. You will have to defend your thesis at the end of your phD and the examiners will engage you in a discussion. You can't avoid that - so you should start to work on your confidence. In a year, you can get far with the right counsel - trust me, been there, done that ;-)

To apply or not to that is the question

I am a bit more on the pragmatic side. If it doesn't cost you a week to apply, I would take my chance and state that you are lacking the skills in said method but you are eager to learn and a quick study so you expect to be able to perform said experiments as quickly as possible.

In the end, it depends a lot if your "soon-to-be" boss is convinced of you and your abilities - or not. If you don't apply you will ask yourself "What if"..

Worst thing that can happen is that they send you a rejection..

How do you deal with jealousy issue at your cohort?

Sounds exactly like my collegue.. good friends before and supportive, thrn went behinf my back ;). I've chosen i the end the same route - she stays till august, so I will survive.

Just make sure that she doesn't up her game by badmouthing you to collegues, supervisors. If you have to work with her, make sure to have emails about conversations. So, if you need it, you have written proof.

And personally, if more than one person comes complaining and she already had to move office before I would at least have an honest chat with both parties of the quarrel.

How do you deal with jealousy issue at your cohort?

I would bring up the topic with my supervisor. You tried to solve it yourself, since that didn't work and she is behaving utterly childish its time to put a stop to it. As a supervisor it would be in my best interest to have a more or less harmonic team. Otherwise people are too busy to micromanage their fights and are less efficient. Its strange that the other two students didn't complain and quietly moved to the library. After all its their office, too.

Perhaps I am a bit oversensitive about mobbing since a fellow phD student went behind my back to our boss and tried everything possible to get me out of the phd back to the position as technician that I had before. But if your fellow student is threatened by your existence when you perform better than her (in her eyes) she isn't cut out for the phD anyways. You have to learn to live with rejection of your ideas, failed experiments and colleagues that are luckier than you. If one can't cope with that I would seriously think about the decision to start a phD.

Qut PhD and apply elsewhere

Weekly meetings? Lucky you ;) I see my supervisor once a month if there is not much to do for him besides supervision.. more often its every second month. And then three phds and one postdoc fight for attention at the same meeting..

I would start figuring out where to publish your work - if you want to stay in your field you will need visibility and input from outside your lab. Try to get to conferences if possible, too.

Since you said your supervisor is happy with your ideas and your work, start to take your project into your own hands and don't rely on her time too much. You can inform her per mail about your decisions and if you have questions, send them in advace before the meeting - or if that doesn't help send out an agenda. In the end its you who is responsible for the project - the supervisor is there to help you but don't expect her to hold your hand.

I doubt that you will find better conditions in another lab..