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Supervisor Mistake Leaves me with No PhD After 4 years

Any chance to cooperate with another lab outside your university where you are free to actually discuss things? If you promise them a coauthor on the paper (s) you have a good chance that they would do the analyses at low or no costs..

PhD vs job opportunity

Personally, I would try to take a year off from the phD and go for the job. But thats just me.

You have to ask yourself a few questions:
1) Are you funded? Is it even possible to take a year off without losing the phD?
2) Why don't they allow you to go part-time (as secondwing already stated). Do you work with patients to obtain the phD?
3) If you really have to suspend your studies, is there a possibility to do some extra work in the meantime - literature review or so - so you don't have the feeling that you "wasted" the year?
4) Will the job help you in any way to get a better (or in your eyes more suitable for your qualifications) job in the end?

Hope that helps,

PhD and relationships

Hello, my name is Rina and it seems compared to the set standards here I have marrierd below my social status ;-). My husband even quit university before reaching his Bachelor (was bored with university) while I am on the best way to achieve my phD. Does he know less than me? Hell no, I lose most debates because he arguments way better than me. :-D

Now that its out I actually feel kind of relieved.. oh wait, wasn't all the years a problem, why should it be now? ;-)

Back to serious posting - if you are feeling lonely you could think about online dating platforms. There are even some purely for academics, if you really have the fear that your standards are not met. There are very weird guys out there (been there, done that), but from time to time you find one that fits the profile.

But beware, pursuing a phD and the first half year with a new love are normally two things that don't go together very well - depends on your and your partners personality and your time management skills!

Extreme journal club fear


I understand the fear of presenting something that isn't even your work in front of others - but why have you stopped attending the club? Is it the fear that you will get assigned a new date? The boring presentations?

In our lab, journal club is mandatory, so I understand why your supervisor isn't very happy with your behaviour. Can you choose the paper you have to present on your own or are you limited in choice? I would choose a paper that I am familiar with/feel safe with, analyse it and then train the heck out of the presentation until I can talk about every last bit with confidence. Because this confidence helps you through the presentation - nothing is worse than having to present with extreme anxiety - except extreme anxiety and unsure about the paper/ the data. ;-)

How is the overall climate in your journal clubs? Are the students supportive / ask questions? At least in our journal clubs nobody will kill you for a "bad" presentation where you are so nervous that you can't speak in straight sentences. In fact we had one three weeks ago - the student fought through it and has now a bit more confidence when it comes to talks in front of an audience.

More general speaking, journal clubs should on one hand bring you up to speed with new literature - on the other hand and more important they should train you in analysing papers and ask critical questions about them. This you can even learn with "boring" papers that don't have to do anything with your day to day lab life. Things like statistics, proper controls and overall experimental planing and setup are more or less comparable even between different topics.

For example I am working on 3d cell culture models and had in my last journal club listen to a presentation about the naked mole rat and its unusal methylation patterns - it was nowhere near my topic but I learned a lot about the do's and don'ts in statistics. ;-)

Advice needed on part-time study

I did a Master part-time while on Maternity leave as a more or less single mom (have a husband - but he is self employed and works nearly 24/7). It was challenging to say at least and I had more than one nervous breakdown. What I have seen from the students around me, most of them worked 40 hours in the first year and reduced quickly down to 30 or even 20 hours. If you are driven and a hard worker its possible to do the part-time masters - although you will have to live with the impact it has on your social life. For me, the evenings were reserved for learning and you will have to find a way to include work for the master thesis into your life. Thats easier in for example social sciences than molecularbioligy - where chances are high that you have to work in a lab for at least 6 months

Broken down supervision- 2 months until submission

Honestly, I would use every other source available to bring my thesis to a good end. Quitting is nonsense at this stage, you have put in tons of work and it would be a waste to throw everything away. I think its too late for switching your supervisor last minute and I doubt that you can figure out why she lost interest in you and your work. You could file an official complaint, then you have at least somewhere written down that the supervision was nonexistent. Will help you if there are troubles at the viva.

I would walk into the meeting with a clear written roadmap of what you still need to do before you have the viva and where you need supervision. Try to make the points as detailed as possible, its easier to ignore a "need supervision" than a "need suggestions on chapter 1 before this date". If the meeting doesn't help and she still ignores you I would ask your old supervisor and your second supervisor if they can help you out and comment on your writing.
Some input is better then no input at all.

Hope that helps a bit!

Can I finish this PhD by September?

I am not familar with humanities phDs, but I can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Start by dividing the work that you have to do into smaller chunks. If I would tell myself that I would have to write 24.000 words in 2 months I would be running around, screaming. If I say to myself instead "400 words per day" thats way more doable - even when the result is the same.

Next, when you have limited time, try to define whats absolutely necessary to achieve your goal. Its easy to get lost in correction after correction in the same chapter to get it "perfect" - honestly, normally 80 % of what you perceive as perfect is enough to get you through. Better you have a whole thesis that is not as perfect as you wish - instead of half a perfect thesis ;-).

I agree with kathry15, try to find a buddy/friend to whom you can outsource at least the "bring me more tea" kind of tasks. Also make sure that he helds you responsible and asks from time to time how you are getting along. Helps also to get things done.

From my perspective, its not the easiest task (especially with children - after all they can get ill, etc) - but more important - its doable. So start today by at least organising things - that will help to get you into thesis mode and you can get up to speed instead of staring at the thesis snake like some poor rabbit. But don't overorganise - thats just another form of procrastination. ;-)

Summer school/research workshop opportunities

Hi, unluckily, you missed out on the PACT summer school, which was last week. It was in the beginning planned only for phd/postgrad students but due to low interest it was extended to master students, too. It was mainly about stem cells/tissue engineering.

I am pretty sure there will be a winter school, too.

Alternatively, if you are interested in microscopy, there will be a summer school next year in austria about high end microscopy (including raman microscopy), too!

Need a kick!

@wowzers: I find it reassuring that (besides me) somebody else is stressed out by kids more than writing :-D. The other students look always puzzled when I am finished a month or two ahead of time. But I don't have the luxury of leaving everything up to the last minute with a child that could get sick (and he WILL get sick if there is a deadline).

I second the idea to use pomodoros - its a nice motivational tool. Try to create a habit by fulfilling a given set of pomodoros each day (depending on your timeframe). As soon as you have made a habit out of writing, it will get easier ;-)

Anyone else feeling a little frustrated about the current funding situation?

Yeah, the problem is really linked to not enough money to fund all interesting projects. Here, when we submit a project and don't get full points from both reviewers, we won't get funded. Makes the situation a little bit tricky - some reviewers don't give full points at all because of cultural differences - if you get one of these you are officially f..ed up.

@TreeofLife: We actually have this: We have the "funded projects", then the" projects that are excellent but too few money" , then we have "very good but too few money" and then there is average (major revisions) and declined. Its really sad to see the current state of research - a lab partner of mine is trying to achieve his Habilitation - but without his own funded project he can't get it. And a chance for a funded project is around 5-10 % even when the funding body tells us its actually at 30 % (but over all projects - we in life sciences are competing with medicine, social science and everything else over the same amount of money)

Anyone else feeling a little frustrated about the current funding situation?

We tried to secure some projects for new students and got the funniest reviews ever:

Topic one: Won't be granted because the principal investigator has no Nature paper (although we have Nature communciations from earlier this year and Nature Biotech from last year - but its not Nature alone!)

Topic two: We suggested to work on a novel protein which seems to be essential in RNA translation. We even have some good preliminary data... The project was not granted because the reviewer thinks that the protein can't be essential for humans if nobody else is working on this topic...

Topic three: There the comments were at least helpful and are really bringing the project as a whole forward - but doesn't help - got rejected.

Topic four: Mouse study - was not granted because "... nothing will be learned from a mouse model". Although, our paper for Cell was declined because the mouse model is missing.

So we have to apply for the next round, will loose approximately 3/4 of a year and have the risk that we get other reviewers in the next round which will find something else to pick on...

I am feeling as if I should hit a wall with my head.. several times ;-)


Masters dissertation extension just as im about to start a PhD - ?? confused


First of all: Don't panic. I have written my master thesis solely in my spare time between a full time job and caring for a one year old toddler - the worst part for me was the discussion, for which I reserved one week of holiday. So its doable in your timeframe.

I second the suggestion that you start by organising your work in chapters - and from there in subchapters. Its way easier to write a small chunk of text when you have limited time - and you can escape the feeling: "I need at least 3 hours of work to do this chapter so I won't start until I have those three free hours."

Furthermore, I have read that you suffer from depression and have the same perfectionistic approach that I have.

For the perfectionistic approach: Be careful that you don't spend most of your time editing the same sentences again and again. Won't help with your wordcount. I have read somewhere a really helpful advice: Create three post-its, one with "Writer", one with "Critics", one with "Polishing". When you start writing, you stick the Writer Post-It on top of your monitor (or somewhere you can see it). Now you are in writing mode, so just write and try not to edit things - only if you have another idea that you want to add. After a writing session, you switch to critics post-it/mode and let your inner critics loose. But he is only allowed to give helpful feedback - "Your sentences are trash" won't help. Normally you will find out fast whats bothering you with the sentences, so now you are allowed to change it. Polishing comes last, when you have to stick together chunks of text that you have written on different sessions.

Hope that helps a bit!

Make peace or war against supervisor?

Phew - though case. Honestly, I am pretty sure I would throw the towel and start looking for another phD elsewhere - and start to battle against the accusations of fraud in the meantime. With this sort of supervisor, its like russian roulette when it comes to your actual thesis defense. Have you enough data to carve a small paper out of it so that the work was not completly wasted? And another question: How big is the field you are in and how well respected is your supervisor there?

You will lose some time - but on the other hand your supervisor seems to be not helpful at all.

Baby and PhD - anyone survived to tell the tale?

Does a MSc count, too?

Then I can honestly say: Been there, survived that.. with loads of caffein, less sleep than could be considered healthy and very thin stretched nerves. I started my studies when my boy was 4 months - it was interesting to say at least ;-).

It won't help you know but I can assure you that it will get better with time. My boy is now 4 and despite the usual "Omg he is sick( again), how to manage to do my experiments while taking care of him at the same time?" it got a lot better. The first few months are hard, especially with you adjusting to the baby and the baby adjusting to the world.

I can only give you general tips: Ignore the housework as much as possible (it won't run away and you need the time to do some work or sleep when the baby sleeps), try to find somebody who can look at him/her once or twice a week AFTER your work so you can actually come down a bit (just for an hour - you need some sanity in your life after all or you won't make it through) and have somebody that helps you when you struggel through the hard times. After all, there will be events like toothing, stomach aches and the first nasty bugs that will not allow you to sleep "enough".

Sounds terrible, but I have to admit, I won't give him back even when offered a whole load of cash. ;)

For the focus: I have no idea how your daily schedule is planned - do you have times set aside for pure work or do you have to work "round the baby"? The second one is definetly harder - I would suggest you make a weekly plan what you want to achieve and check midweek how you are doing. That helps you estimate whats possible at the moment - and what not.


First, imposter syndrom means feeling like an imposter, not being one. Place yourself in front of a mirror and tell you that every morning at least once ;). The combination of troubles at home and at the university will eat slowly away on you, so you won't have the energy to fight a third battle if you are really worth it. You are. Point.

The next thing: How much does your husband add to the family income? If he really doesn't understand the value of your work - try to have a look at what you roughly will earn after your studies. Its just an arbitrary figure but perhaps he can grasp that concept better than "doing something for world peace" .. just exaggerating, but who knows what of your work really ends up in his head ;).

And now, take up the fight for the extention - what you do matters and is important and you want to bring it to a good end. It sounds you are not far away from the finishing line - perhaps its time to sort through what you have and check whats missing to make a good thesis out of it. This helps you with imposter syndrome too, since you will see that you have actually done some work and can't be a fraud after all!