I quit my PhD and am much happier

posted
06-Oct-11, 20:38
Avatar for Danni86002
posted about 9 years ago
Hello, I'm not sure why i'm writing this post. I guess when I was thinking of quitting, I wanted to see if a anyone had gone through it. Therefore I thought I would post my story. Also its kind of closure/venting for me. Lastly, do you believe (lab) PhD's should have a unified structure and possibly a regulatory body? (see end of post)

I came into a lab based PhD straight after my undergraduate. I almost instantly took a dislike to research. The politics, the snail pace of everything, unregulated hours, unproductiveness, ect ect.

During my PhD I had my own lab and office, no post docs or other students, I know this would be heaven for some of you but for me it was lonely and I had not one to help me. I felt really let down as students in other departments had training courses and generally more support.

Me and my supervisor were very different minded and also from different cultures which meant we had different expectations of PhD students and people in general. I things I disliked the most was one minute my supervisor was telling me I had to do more work, the next to relax. He was not consistent. He was also slow, took him 2 months to send back my first draft of my proposal.

Anyway I decided I had had enough, and started job searching. I managed to find a job. The hard part was telling my sup that I was going to leave, as I still felt he had invested time in me. He tried to change my mind, but didn't seem too mad. I had a month to "finish up", me and my sup had decided what I needed to finish, however he seemed to disappear during this time. I guess he had given up.

I have been working in the industry job for a few weeks now and feel much happier. I wish I had made a decision and quit sooner. I feel PhD's not a regulatory body to bring in standards and structure, so many people suffer through them. Anything that that causes this incidence of depression and stress seen on this board is not a good thing in my opinion.
posted
07-Oct-11, 09:03
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 07 Oct 2011 20:31:47 =======
There are the 'new route' PhDs and also the Engineering Doctorates that are supposed to give more sturcture to a PhD. Perhaps these might have been better options for you.

That said, I'm cautious about a one size fits all cap-type regulatory body as although there is a similar basic structure to PhDs, they can be radically different depending upon subject and the speed with which tangible results are expected to appear. I started churning out new data from the off, however, due to the nature of some subjects it may take up to two years with some projects for original information to be generated.

Can you elaborate your thoughts a little further (on the regulatory body)? It's a fair enough idea but as I say, I'm a little cautious.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)
posted
07-Oct-11, 10:47
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for Methodical
posted about 9 years ago
Glad to read everything worked out well for you.

Must have taken alot of guts to have that talk with your supervisor!
posted
07-Oct-11, 11:21
by Cakeman
Avatar for Cakeman
posted about 9 years ago
Good for you Danni

This sounds enormously like my early PhD time, as it was I could'nt find anything else I wanted to do, so stuck it out. I would'nt say i'm hugely happy, but I like my current job (post-doc), and I still can't think of anything else I would prefer, although the short contracts situation is not ideal.

Regarding these "new route" PhDs where you have a doctoral training centre and masters year, which is done with some taught bits and rotations around various labs, this seems to suit most students better. One thing to bear in mind, is it does mean decisions regarding who gets funded PhD projects allocated to their lab, and who does not is massively at the mercy of internal politics.

We've had a great project declined because the director of the doctoral training centre in question is married to someone with a certain expertise, we chose to collaborate with another person who has similar expertise. We think our project got rejected because we had'nt chosen to work with the director's wife instead on this. I have heard of numerous other people whose applications got rejected due to politics also, so this way is'nt completely ideal either. I suppose previously the project allocations were done by research councils, so could still be some politics there, but probably more transparency.
posted
07-Oct-11, 15:25
by Buzzy
Avatar for Buzzy
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 07 Oct 2011 15:26:19 =======
Although my PhD is social science so definitely not anywhere near a lab, I've read this thread and Danni's story with great interest. Having gone through of hell with my supervisor then had an accident which put me out of action for nearly a year (but didn't stop the deadlines) I suspended due to clinical depression and terrible anxiety, and to give my injury a chance to really mend.
Feel so much better now and much more like my old self that I've just written the letter to tell them I'm not going back. Like Danni I started my funded PhD straight from undergrad. I don't think that would have been any sort of problem if I'd had a supportive and experienced supervisor, but I didn't. It is interesting that my school has totally reshaped their policy on health issues for grad students. Just a pity they didn't think of that earlier. It has taken a few months to 'separate myself' from what has happened and also from the feeling of being completely let down by a school where I had a great time as a very successful undergrad. I'm now doing something I really love, and have the prospect of earning more then I ever would in academia. I too posted on the forum about the problems I was having and thank everyone who offered advice and support. I wish you all well, but I would also say to anyone in a position like mine or Danni's, be brave enoughto walk away.
posted
07-Oct-11, 20:37
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 9 years ago
Quote From buzzy:

======= Date Modified 07 Oct 2011 15:26:19 =======
Although my PhD is social science so definitely not anywhere near a lab, I've read this thread and Danni's story with great interest. Having gone through of hell with my supervisor then had an accident which put me out of action for nearly a year (but didn't stop the deadlines) I suspended due to clinical depression and terrible anxiety, and to give my injury a chance to really mend.
Feel so much better now and much more like my old self that I've just written the letter to tell them I'm not going back. Like Danni I started my funded PhD straight from undergrad. I don't think that would have been any sort of problem if I'd had a supportive and experienced supervisor, but I didn't. It is interesting that my school has totally reshaped their policy on health issues for grad students. Just a pity they didn't think of that earlier. It has taken a few months to 'separate myself' from what has happened and also from the feeling of being completely let down by a school where I had a great time as a very successful undergrad. I'm now doing something I really love, and have the prospect of earning more then I ever would in academia. I too posted on the forum about the problems I was having and thank everyone who offered advice and support. I wish you all well, but I would also say to anyone in a position like mine or Danni's, be brave enoughto walk away.


Girl, it sounds like you went through hell. The fact the deadlines kept coming even though you were incapacitated shows what kind of person your supervisor was.

I had a good PhD supervisor, however, my second post-doc supervisor was a nightmare. I think I may well have been on here with my own scare stories had I done my PhD at the second post-doc Uni. (and I was offered a studentship there too).

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)
posted
09-Oct-11, 09:19
by Savex
Avatar for Savex
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 11 Oct 2011 09:30:41 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============
that's a huge thing
a second thought is really need
hope you a good luck
posted
11-Oct-11, 00:54
by Poi
Avatar for Poi
posted about 9 years ago
That's great that you got another job straight away that you feel happier with. I left my PhD last week and I'm writing up as an MSc while looking for jobs and voluntary work and starting another course. It was really tough going through the leaving process and even now I get worried that one day I will regret it, but it wasn't worth the continuing depression. I'm not sure if industry is for me as there's the chance I could be back spending all my days alone in a lab, but we'll see!
posted
11-Oct-11, 13:54
by Laney
Avatar for Laney
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 11 Oct 2011 13:56:05 =======
I'm glad you have found a job and are happier now, it is a horrible situation to be in as regards the PhD, fortunately I've never been in that position myself, but I know alot of people who have been in similar position and regularly think/thought about quitting.

The idea of some kind of regulation always seems like a good idea in theory but from what I've seen doesn't really work in practice. When I was a PhD student my department brought in a system of progress reports where every PhD student had to write an end of year report and attend twice yearly interviews on their progress by two members of academic staff and the head of research in the insititute.

For some this system seems fine, particularly people who work in big labs with numerous members of staff working on similar projects, but in my department more than half of the PhD students work in small labs with no other members of academic staff (their supervisor aside) even doing similar work, this meant that their assessment was carried out by someone who had no knowledge of the subject area, so meaningful feedback or evaluation was impossible.

I think that the problem with the PhD system is that your experience depends very much on your supervisor/group, if you have a good supervisor/group you will get good training and good help, if not your experience is a nightmare. Transfering of PhD students from one supervisor to another is often difficult because of internal politics and other factors, and the result as you have found is that people end up quitting. Had you had a different supervisor or been in a different group your experience could have been very different. The best way to improve the system in my opinion would be to give training to supervisors as to how to supervise/manage PhD students.

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