Signup date: 14 Dec 2007 at 9:59pm
Last login: 10 Apr 2011 at 9:34pm
Post count: 2276
I'm not sure what the problem is exactly. This is common policy in the UK. I am not allowed to work (except tutoring in my dept). This policy can vary from one university to another - but is generally the same for every dept in one university. So changing supervisor at the same umiversity is probably pointless.
You could check with the university admin office as to whether there are official guidleines on these issues that you can consult, to see if this is your university's normal policy.
You have to look at your own family situation carefully. The part that really jumps out at me is that you will actually be away from your family. I am over 40 with a young child - as the mother, there is no question of be being away - but my husband and I had agreed before that that we would not live apart for work/study. Have you discussed this with your wife?
My father did a PhD at 40 (in Pakistan - not sure where you are) and although he remained with the family his earnings were radically reduced. My mother was very resentful but he was much happier. He says now though, that he never really used the PhD and could have made the same career changes without it. I think that's hard to judge - the letters are even more influential in Asia than they are here in Europe.
So how much will this benefit you and how will your family cope?
Oh yes! That is really hard actually. My supervisor can give some good advice - but I have had some poor advice because of this issue too. Very hard to know how to tactfully deal with really hopeless advice.
I have been going to at least one conference a year - but I have no allowance for them so funds are limited. I have found it really helpful though - sometimes in unexpected ways.
Sometimes you feel you are reinventing the wheel - and a bad, wobbly one at that. If I had known exactly how this would turn out - I'm not 100% sure I would have gone ahead - at the very least - I would have chosen a different project.
At least it sound like you will be officially collaborating and hopefully will get feedback that way.
Well my friend is struggling to write up now and hopefully it will work out in the end. But she spent a lot of time doing work that had no benefit for her and that has been a problem. Sometimes she regrets it.
If you can really get on track next year that's good. It's not uncommon to waste your first year - but it might mean you run over a bit, maybe not. That depends on your project.
I have the other part of your problem - my supervisor is not in my area and I am really on my own. It is tough and can be hard to stay motivated and on track. In my case I really don't have another option so I just do my best.
I have a friend in a situation like this and it has not gone well. I think to make it work, you must be very firm about the amount of time you spend on unrelated work (I highly recomend none!) and be prepared to take sole responsibility for supervising yourself and/or finding good co-supervision from one of the other institutions you are involved with.
Could you move to one of the other universities involved in your 'real' project?
I think you do need to have a project that is largely yours even if the lab is working together on an overall project (strictly speaking that is expected). There is a trend in some labs to get people to work on stuff irrespective of whether it might be part of their PhD or not. Sometimes that can mean doing a lot of work that isn't helping your own thesis at all. It can become hard to dig out your own project from the collective mass.
If I were you I think I would talk to my supervisor about what your own thesis is going to be about. Yes it may change direction - but you should have some direction to start from. That's not unreasonable. Perhaps you could offer suggestions. Actually it would drive me crazy to be in your situation (but I know other people who have been). Perhaps you try to explain that a better sense of what your own contribution will be will be motivating for you - but stress that you understand that the lab works collectively overall.
I am very geogrphically constrained due to family so unfortuntely, although the warning signs were there, I knew it was this or nothing so I just put up with it.
I can't say that working has made me able to assert my rights. I did complain during my MPhil but nothing happened. Now, frankly, I don't want to scupper my chances of staying on for a postdoc by complaining - I grit my teeth a lot. Otherwise for sure, I would have shopped around.
But the kind of work I had has made me much more capable of working without supervision and taking initiative (which is so much about having some confidence). Without that - I would sink like a stone.
My advice would be not to rush it. Looking back, if I had realised how long it would take me to get to this point, I would have been a lot more patient and had longer-term plans in the first place.
It was a really major deal for me to try again. After my first attempt, someone at my old university asked if I would be interested in a PhD there. But I had totally lost my nerve and in any case - it would have been a mistake. I needed time out and to rethink my whole direction.
However, there have been a lot of problems. My supervisor is totally hands-off and I get no support. Also, both my parents died, my husband was seriously ill and and had 2 major surgeries - then I had a baby and took 2 years out. It has been tough going and the moral is that you can't be sure you will not meet a whole new set of obstacles next time - you should feel you have the motivation to keep going and the confidence to be self-directed. Apart from my MPhil, my work experience has also helped a great deal.
I still panic though and get fearful lest i crash and burn again. But despite the difficulties - it was the right move for me.
I dropped out of a PhD after one year. The field was really wrong for me but also, frankly, at that time in my life I was having problems focussing and working on anything really. It was a really horribly experience though and totally shattered my confidence.
I worked in another profession for some years and then did an MPhil in a different area. I used up my savings and my husband supported me. Then I applied for PhD funding and now I'm in my final year.
Doing the MPhil was definitley the right thing to do. I was able to build up some confidence, test my real committment to doing a PhD, and get some approriate background skills (the course was half taught, half research). Also, without a very good MPhil, I could never have got funding in my new area (compared to my old area - molecular biology).
Definitely set yourself some deadlines. And if you really want to feel a push - send your deadlines to your supervisor so he can check your progress.
I was never set any deadlines and it's VERY easy to drift and wander. My husband checks my deadlines sometimes - you could always team up with another student and check each other's progress if your supervisor is a bit unavailable (as mine was).
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