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Deciding on PhD topic with too many interests?

Any chance of combining them? I too struggle most of my time with various interests. I am basically a "learnt" chemist who has a Bachelors degree in Biology (Virology) and did a Masters in Biomedical Analysis (Masters Thesis in Bioinformatics). And now I do my phD in the gap between the Aging and Dermatology field, have a collarboration with someone in cancer research and plan to do for my thesis some additional experiments with cutting-edge microscopy methods.:-D So yeah.. specialization? Um.. no!

I am fully aware that I will never be THE expert in one of those fields. But on the other hand I am very good in managing problems from different fields (every tried to get a chemist and a medical scientist to understand each other? ;-)). Perhaps I will never publish in Nature magazines and I doubt that I will ever have a career at the university but so far my various interests have brought me much joy in my research and a job offer from a nearby start up company.

In the end it depends on what you want to do afterwards with your degree? Comparing different fields could be a niche, too ;-).

Part-time PhD alongside a related full-time job

Hi, I am in the same boat as you. No funding opportunities - the only option was to work as a Technician/ Labmanager. I normally have to split my work ratio 50 /50. 50 percent are dedicated towards Laborganization and Management, with the other half of my job I can do experiments in the lab and work towards the two publications that I need for finishing the phd.

Normally, its far away from 50/50, more like 70/25. But I am dedicated to use my chance here ;). You have to learn to use whatever spare time you have - for example: I read papers on the way to work in the train or when I bring my son to bed in the evening. Its stressful, hard work - but if you really want it I would say go for it. And don't compare yourself to the full-time students once you are there - leads only to frustrations :D

New to this forum....advice on pregnancy and Phd

not completely in the same boat here, but I did my master studies with a 5 month old baby. Be prepared to be extremely tired (if you don't get very lucky and get a well sleeping baby) and exhausted at the beginning. You will get used to low sleep levels, but it takes time and lots of coffee/energy drinks ;-). My son is now three and I still don't get more than 4-5 hours sleep in a row. Also be prepared that a baby normally doesn't care if you have to get up early the next morning because you have an important meeting or so. I wrote some exams with 2 hours sleep after a night with an ill infant. Doable but yeah.. wasn't that nice :-)

Depending on the field, you are working in (and country), pregnancy alone can cause you problems. In my science field (cell biology) you are not allowed to do any longer labwork as soon as you are pregnant. So if you work in such a field - think about it before!

Having a child is very rewarding and I wouldn't want to miss my son. But it was definitely not the easiest way for us ;-).

Advice Please :)

Well it depends what you expect from further jobs. Do you NEED the degree to get better/more intresting jobs in the long run? Will you get paid significantly better? If you answer both with yes, I would stick with the phd. Btw, have you considered attending the interview and checking your opportunities there? In worst case you could always decline the job offer afterwards. But with the current job market I would tend to take the job, especially if its well paid and near your home.

How to improve academic writing?

I can pass the advice, someone gave me years ago: "Reading, reading, reading... and even more reading." Figure out, how others in your research area pharaphrase their sentences, how they argument, how they hide weak results.

I second the advice to look for a writing seminar or two, but in the longterm, you will only improve by constant reading the work of others. I started my writing career with "Writing scientific english" by Tim Skern. It's a small workbook, pointing out the basics for non-native english speakers and it helped me a lot. However, I think it will only help non-native speakers a lot.

Part time PHD - even possible

Hi there,
I need some advice regarding a job offer and a possible combination with a phd thesis. Currently I work as a technician in a cell biology research group at the university. My master thesis is nearly complete, there are only a few pages left to write and everything will be complete latest in October. I have nearly 10 years of working experience, so I am not a complete newbie in the lab.
Now, yesterday I got an offer from the group leader: She wants me to apply for the job as lab manager in the group. They have currently approximately 30 students working full time in cell culture and microbiology and the lab is a real mess. They clearly need some one desperately and I would be their dream candidate. The job is planned to take 50 % of my time.. do you think it is unreasonable to ask if its possible to start a phd with the other half of my time?

I am experienced enough to know that I could never complete a half time phd in only 3 years, I estimate it will more likely take 4-5 years depending on the quality of my data. I am very dedicated to science and able to nest experiments into each other to get most out of my time, so I guess it would be possible. I would plan to do literature related stuff at home in the evening (especially since I have a toddler and have fixed working hours because of parenting duties).

Any comments from phd students who have more experience here?
Thanks in advance,

Ownership of a paper - opinions.

Tricky question, depending on the "need" of your superviser to get papers published for his own career. Rules in our lab are: If you do most of the experiments in the lab and contribute massively while writing the whole thing up, you should be first author. Supervisors normally get the corresponding author, but this can be also very problematic if you have more than one supervisor which all "need" a paper for their annual output.

The lab thing is irrelevant in my eyes. Its the job of a supervisor to offer space and materials for you to work. Especially with grants, they get paid to teach and train new students, so what should a PHD student in science do without a lab? Setting one up at home? If your supervisor is too eager to get the first authorship, he or she should think about the amount of labwork, you have done. Sureley, he/she could walk into the lab and do things him/herself, but then he/she hasn't the time to write applications for new projects, supervise other students and get more papers published.

So in my eyes its fair for you to get the first position on both papers (even if it wasn't "YOUR" idead), and your supervisor should get the corresponding author for both because of supervising you and offering the ressources for your research.

The only exception I would make is when your supervisor needs one paper badly for his/her habilitation - then I would step down.

Oh and btw, the question gets even trickier, when Technicians are involved that have done a considerable amount of work for the paper :-D

How many papers are you expected to publish for a PhD programme?

Hi, here in Austria there is the possibility to submit 3 peer reviewed papers (and some explaining text, but nothing more than approximately 20 pages extra) instead of a whole written phd thesis for your viva. I know some people who managed to do that in their 3 years (some within 4 years) of phd work,

Anyone else intimidated by very high achievers?

You sound like my english teacher who told me the exact same thing only with sligthly different words. ;-). I was hoping it's a kind of illness that will vanish with getting older ;-)

Anyone else intimidated by very high achievers?

Quote From sneaks:
I had a friend who said that apaprently, some people just have the right personalities to be all round superstars. The kind of women who get up at 5am, go to the gym for an hour, come home, get the kids to school, then do a full days worth of work (where they excel), then come home, walk the dog, bake some cookies, cook a lovely home made meal, play with kids etc. etc. and don't feel knackered. If I did half of that, I'd sleep for a week!

I need to get the "don't feel knackered" part into my head. ;-) My friends call me a overachiever from time to time, I have managed to get 10 years of working experience, a Bachelors Degree in Genetics, a Masters Degree in Biomedical Science, a house (including husband, kid and cat) all while working 40 hours a week in my day job as Technician and before getting 32. Next step will be a Phd. And yes, occasionally I also bake cookies in the evening or do some social stuff as well ;-)

But nothing comes for free in live. I have to fight some severe depressions from time to time and constantly feel like I have achieved nothing so far and everyone around me is always better, smarter and faster than I am. There were times when i wasn't happy with a good result in one of my courses but thought that the subject was to easy to understand so it was inavoidable to get a good mark ;-). So yeah, dont feel intimidated by the overachievers. Try to look closer and sometimes you will be surprised.. ;-)

New forum design - what do you think? Any problems?

May be only me, but I am looking into the forum by browsing via findaphd.com.. The link there leads to the old forum ;-). Made me wonder for a week where you all are :-)

How do you know if a journal is any good?


I am not sure if it applies to your research area too, but in life sciences we have something called "impact factor" which gives you generally at least an idea of the quality of the journal. Its reflecting the average number of citations to recent articles published in the journal. It clearly varies between large fields with many journals/citations and small fields, but its useful for first assessment.