Is it still possible? PhD dreams...

posted
04-Dec-16, 20:16
edited about 20 seconds later
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
Hello,

I would like some advice/viewpoints. (I am based in the UK) Some background:
I am 34yrs old(35 in Feb), not married, no children. I have a BSc in Biology, however I passed with a low 2.2 (grades were very bad) I have worked steadily in academic research gaining numerous skills, as a research tech, in 2 top UK universities and in clinical research. However I have always wanted to do a PhD (due to family commitments, I could not afford to do a masters) I have applied numerous times (when I was at the first university) but could not get onto a course or even a Masters (when I could finally afford it) This was due to me very low grades (and when I asked my boss at the time if he would be a reference if I went part time, he did everything he could to talk me out of it and also said I was brilliant as a research technician and was basically doing a PhD without the "extra stress". Yes, I was given my own project and it was exactly what I would want to do a PhD in, but he refused to upgrade me to that status and then gave my project to a masters student (who I found out recently they are dating and he is now doing his PhD with him). I eventually left due to lack of funding, but he did do everything he could to keep me on including getting me a temp role with another group in the department whilst he tried to get funding. However the lack of support for my future and also not being included on papers (he has this old school reasoning of 'techs are doing their jobs, so why reward with papers?'.
posted
04-Dec-16, 20:17
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
(Part 2)
So I got another job which was great, amazing boss but not in a field that interested me. I was given 2 pay rises for my work ethic and everything seemed fine. I had a breakdown 3 months ago (not being married, no kids, no PhD, no life, parent getting cancer, sick brother, working 7-6/7 everyday) I needed a break. I tried to talk to my boss, who was shocked (yes, it seemed sudden -I keep private life private from work) long story short she said I had betrayed her. I was put on sick leave, but I ended up leaving as I couldn't see how we could work together after that. I have used that time to regroup and Now I am more determined than ever to do my PhD. I have all the lab, analytical and written skills for my chosen research topic but the problem is my low low 2.2 and lack of references and Masters. I thought everything was fine with my first tech job (I didn't leave them in the lurch, I made sure to do a handover and even made copies of my personal lab notes (not the actual lab books which I left with them) which contained skills I had learned in my own time and I am still the best of friends with the lab members (all left now). I met up with someone from that lab, who mentioned off hand that my boss was still angry I had left, as new hire is not as good.
posted
04-Dec-16, 20:18
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
(Part 3)
So my question is this, after all this time of working my bum off, pay rises and job upgrades, I have no references! The second won't as she feels I betrayed her by asking for a (unpaid) break! and the first won't as he wanted me to be his technician for life! What are my options, I do not want to do a Masters (that is no longer an option) I have all the skills needed, I don't need training. But I can't get past the reference barrier. for the second job there is no one I can think of to ask, maybe HR? What do people think? (my work to date is in Neuroscience and that is what I want to do my PhD in) I know some funding bodies state experience can bring 2.2 up to a 2.1, but without references... Thanks for any help!
posted
05-Dec-16, 13:00
edited about 14 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
Hi Emma,

You have nothing to lose by applying for a PhD. I think you should contact your first boss and ask if he is prepared to give a reference if contacted - you are only hearing it second hand that he is angry with you, and maybe he is, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't give you a good reference.

Yep, put down HR as your other reference, unless it states academic. Just put down a colleague if you have to.

Yes you have a 2.2, but you have a wealth of experience which should counteract that. You don't need a masters.

Personally, I doubt it matters. References often aren't requested until you have been given the PhD after a successful interview, so start applying now and worry about references later.
posted
05-Dec-16, 17:46
edited about 7 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
Hi Emma,

You have nothing to lose by applying for a PhD. I think you should contact your first boss and ask if he is prepared to give a reference if contacted - you are only hearing it second hand that he is angry with you, and maybe he is, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't give you a good reference.

Yep, put down HR as your other reference, unless it states academic. Just put down a colleague if you have to.

Yes you have a 2.2, but you have a wealth of experience which should counteract that. You don't need a masters.

Personally, I doubt it matters. References often aren't requested until you have been given the PhD after a successful interview, so start applying now and worry about references later.


Most applications require two, sometimes even three references and I doubt that you get invited without them. At the Universities I was so far no one was invited to an interview before the references were there and ok. Otherwise you invite people for interviews, pay travel expenses and so on for nothing.

I agree that there is generally nothing to lose, but on the other hand there is also not so much to win. The chances are basically 0 that you could continue in research after the PhD given the extremely competitive field, your age (no offense) , lacking masters degree and a low bachelor grade. I know that there are people here who were in their 40s when they started and found a job but those people are usually rather the exception. I think the chances are high that you are afterwards forced to apply for the same technician jobs but this time you will have a much harder time to get them (overqualified, will look for something else as soon as possible etc.). Don't want to discourage you and I am not doubting that you can do it, but I would really do some thinking if this PhD is the best way to achieve whatever you desire in terms of a private life and career. It is not as if there would be someone in academia or industry waiting for people with a PhD in Biology...
As a student, I could never understand how technicians could work in a University Lab and see all these students around you getting a PhD. Now that I am a PhD student myself and see where the Post Docs are going after their Phds, it is not looking that bad anymore. Again, don't want to discourage you, just want to make sure that there are no wrong expectations about the job opportunities with a PhD. If it is just about the PhD experience and having the title then go for it. Apply for positions and consider a part-time PhD (maybe easier to get). Maybe you are lucky. Good luck!
posted
05-Dec-16, 19:22
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
I doubt my supervisors got my references when I applied for my PhD since I didn't ask the people if it was ok to ask them beforehand.

When I have applied for academic jobs in the UK, sometimes they have asked for references before I was offered an interview and sometimes at the same time of inviting me to interview, so it varies. In non-academic jobs, it's normal to ask for references after offering the job.

I wouldn't say her chances of an academic career are zero Dunham. If she gets a PhD, no one will care about her 2.2 or lack of masters. Her age really isn't a significant factor either. Most people guess I'm 25 and yet they can add 5+ years to that.

But, you're right, of course it's competitive out there and there will probably be no academic job afterwards. There's no reason she couldn't apply for a postdoc though, like everyone else. With her previous technician experience, she would be more able than most postdocs anyway, I would expect.
posted
05-Dec-16, 20:18
Avatar for newlease36
posted about 3 years ago
I'm not in your field, and every field is definitely different, but I don't think age will matter - why should it? you are likely more stable and have great work experience.If I were hiring I would prefer older person with experience on the job. All I can say in my field age isn't a factor and I know lots of older 30's and 40's doing Phd's and doing quite well.

In my field, however a 2.2 would pose a challenge, particularly when it comes to getting funding. Your experience, and the evidence of promotions in your job will work in your favour, and counteract that somewhat. Although if you don't have references to back that up, this is another challenge (as you are aware). But as another poster said, you don't know the first guy won't give you a good reference.

You say doing a masters isn't an option now, but personally I feel its your best option to get a Phd (one with funding and in a good lab, in an area you want (all so important factors).

You would sail through a Msc with your research experience and if you put the work in could get a 1.1. this changes he game for you so significantly- a 2.2 degree earned when you were much younger but offset by years of experience and 1.1 Msc: you would be a very attractive candidate. I fear without Msc (with good grade) you will end getting unfunded phd, or in a crappy lab, or not quite in area you want. (that's what I have seen in my field).

If finances are issue, work for a year of two and save up, it will be worth it. you could perhaps do it part time, while working.

I have heard that neuroscience is over populated with Phds, so bear that in mind. Job security is crap is seems for phds in any filed.
posted
06-Dec-16, 03:43
edited a moment later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From Dunham:
Quote From TreeofLife:
Hi Emma,

You have nothing to lose by applying for a PhD. I think you should contact your first boss and ask if he is prepared to give a reference if contacted - you are only hearing it second hand that he is angry with you, and maybe he is, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't give you a good reference.

Yep, put down HR as your other reference, unless it states academic. Just put down a colleague if you have to.

Yes you have a 2.2, but you have a wealth of experience which should counteract that. You don't need a masters.

Personally, I doubt it matters. References often aren't requested until you have been given the PhD after a successful interview, so start applying now and worry about references later.


Most applications require two, sometimes even three references and I doubt that you get invited without them. At the Universities I was so far no one was invited to an interview before the references were there and ok. Otherwise you invite people for interviews, pay travel expenses and so on for nothing.

I agree that there is generally nothing to lose, but on the other hand there is also not so much to win. The chances are basically 0 that you could continue in research after the PhD given the extremely competitive field, your age (no offense) , lacking masters degree and a low bachelor grade. I know that there are people here who were in their 40s when they started and found a job but those people are usually rather the exception. I think the chances are high that you are afterwards forced to apply for the same technician jobs but this time you will have a much harder time to get them (overqualified, will look for something else as soon as possible etc.). Don't want to discourage you and I am not doubting that you can do it, but I would really do some thinking if this PhD is the best way to achieve whatever you desire in terms of a private life and career. It is not as if there would be someone in academia or industry waiting for people with a PhD in Biology...
As a student, I could never understand how technicians could work in a University Lab and see all these students around you getting a PhD. Now that I am a PhD student myself and see where the Post Docs are going after their Phds, it is not looking that bad anymore. Again, don't want to discourage you, just want to make sure that there are no wrong expectations about the job opportunities with a PhD. If it is just about the PhD experience and having the title then go for it. Apply for positions and consider a part-time PhD (maybe easier to get). Maybe you are lucky. Good luck!


You are absolutely dead wrong about age being an issue and frankly its about time we stopped peddling that.
The poor degree is her biggest problem by some margin because her starting base is so weak that she will need a lot of remedial work to make up for it. As for the references, that will simply depend where she applies.
posted
06-Dec-16, 03:47
edited about 6 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From newlease36:
I'm not in your field, and every field is definitely different, but I don't think age will matter - why should it? you are likely more stable and have great work experience.If I were hiring I would prefer older person with experience on the job. All I can say in my field age isn't a factor and I know lots of older 30's and 40's doing Phd's and doing quite well.

In my field, however a 2.2 would pose a challenge, particularly when it comes to getting funding. Your experience, and the evidence of promotions in your job will work in your favour, and counteract that somewhat. Although if you don't have references to back that up, this is another challenge (as you are aware). But as another poster said, you don't know the first guy won't give you a good reference.

You say doing a masters isn't an option now, but personally I feel its your best option to get a Phd (one with funding and in a good lab, in an area you want (all so important factors).

You would sail through a Msc with your research experience and if you put the work in could get a 1.1. this changes he game for you so significantly- a 2.2 degree earned when you were much younger but offset by years of experience and 1.1 Msc: you would be a very attractive candidate. I fear without Msc (with good grade) you will end getting unfunded phd, or in a crappy lab, or not quite in area you want. (that's what I have seen in my field).

If finances are issue, work for a year of two and save up, it will be worth it. you could perhaps do it part time, while working.

I have heard that neuroscience is over populated with Phds, so bear that in mind. Job security is crap is seems for phds in any filed.


Quite right. Age wont be a concern. There are literally millions of jobs and we have skill shortages everywhere. Getting a GOOD job is a different matter but that is rarely age related. This age based myth really needs challenged.
posted
06-Dec-16, 08:58
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
Hi Emma,

You have nothing to lose by applying for a PhD. I think you should contact your first boss and ask if he is prepared to give a reference if contacted - you are only hearing it second hand that he is angry with you, and maybe he is, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't give you a good reference.

Yep, put down HR as your other reference, unless it states academic. Just put down a colleague if you have to.

Yes you have a 2.2, but you have a wealth of experience which should counteract that. You don't need a masters.

Personally, I doubt it matters. References often aren't requested until you have been given the PhD after a successful interview, so start applying now and worry about references later.


Thank you for your positive message, I have sent my former boss an email. I have noticed on alot of the applications, references are to be chased and obtained by me! Which I find strange.
posted
06-Dec-16, 09:12
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 3 years ago
I had to chase and obtain references up front for one PhD application I made. The good side to that was that the references were obviously sent to me, so I sent copies of them with my next, successful, PhD application. If you find you're applying for and not getting PhD places at this stage, I would definitely reconsider whether there's any way of doing a Masters. I know you feel you've already got all the relevant skills, but having a Masters suddenly opened the PhD door to me in a way that years of applying with other qualifications/experience hadn't.
posted
06-Dec-16, 09:20
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
[quote]Quote From Dunham:
[quote]

Hi Dunham,

I actually don't want to be a post doc. I want to do a PhD for my own personal interests rather than for status/career goals, I want the chance to study (and also chose the direction the research takes-within reason of course) a subject that interests me without having to working (more than is expected for a PhD student anyway) on numerous other projects that sometimes do not link at all. The chance to focus so narrowly for 3/4 years is what I want. I would not be putting it on my CV or even telling people as I want to do this for me, the title of Doctor is not what I am focused on as I intend to afterwards continue as a tech. Your idea of a part time PhD, is also what I have been looking into, in particularly, part tech/part PhD roles, I just haven't seen any recently within travelling distance (I own a house so moving isn't really an option I want to explore unless it is the only choice). With regards to references, yes I have noticed what you have written also, references seem to be required beforehand and also it seems I must arrange for them to be sent myself. I do have published papers in good journals (one first author too!) but they are in the field from the second job rather than the field I want to work in. I know what you mean about students wondering why techs don't go for a PhD! I got very sick of that question very quickly (especially from the rude students who liked to point out that apart from writing a thesis, I have basically done a PhD, including published papers and presentations) a lot of students and Post Docs assume I am a fellow PhD student or Post Doc (perks of looking young maybe?) Anyway thank you for taking the time to add your input, I am looking for advice not false hope and you and Tree and everyone else have provided that, so thank you.
posted
06-Dec-16, 09:30
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From newlease36:
I'm not in your field, and every field is definitely different, but I don't think age will matter - why should it? you are likely more stable and have great work experience.If I were hiring I would prefer older person with experience on the job. All I can say in my field age isn't a factor and I know lots of older 30's and 40's doing Phd's and doing quite well.

In my field, however a 2.2 would pose a challenge, particularly when it comes to getting funding. Your experience, and the evidence of promotions in your job will work in your favour, and counteract that somewhat. Although if you don't have references to back that up, this is another challenge (as you are aware). But as another poster said, you don't know the first guy won't give you a good reference.

You say doing a masters isn't an option now, but personally I feel its your best option to get a Phd (one with funding and in a good lab, in an area you want (all so important factors).

You would sail through a Msc with your research experience and if you put the work in could get a 1.1. this changes he game for you so significantly- a 2.2 degree earned when you were much younger but offset by years of experience and 1.1 Msc: you would be a very attractive candidate. I fear without Msc (with good grade) you will end getting unfunded phd, or in a crappy lab, or not quite in area you want. (that's what I have seen in my field).

If finances are issue, work for a year of two and save up, it will be worth it. you could perhaps do it part time, while working.

I have heard that neuroscience is over populated with Phds, so bear that in mind. Job security is crap is seems for phds in any filed.


Thanks for the input! I don't see a point in an MSc/MRes as I want to do a PhD for my own personal interests rather than for status/career goals, I want the chance to study a subject that interests me with the chance to focus for 3/4 years solely on that subject. I would not be putting it on my CV or even telling people as I want to do this for me, the title of Doctor is not what I am focused on as I intend to afterwards continue as a tech. Yes, Neuro is overpopulated. I am hoping my published papers will also speak in my favour.
posted
06-Dec-16, 09:34
edited about 29 seconds later
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From chickpea:
I had to chase and obtain references up front for one PhD application I made. The good side to that was that the references were obviously sent to me, so I sent copies of them with my next, successful, PhD application. If you find you're applying for and not getting PhD places at this stage, I would definitely reconsider whether there's any way of doing a Masters. I know you feel you've already got all the relevant skills, but having a Masters suddenly opened the PhD door to me in a way that years of applying with other qualifications/experience hadn't.


I am hoping I do not have to go this route, unless it is one where I can study exactly what I want and not do the usual lab rotations. From what I have seen of courses, this is not the case, and it seems more broad with regards to research done.
posted
06-Dec-16, 09:38
Avatar for EmmaDreams
posted about 3 years ago
[quote]Quote From pm133:
[quote]


You are right with regards to age and career prospects (in Science at least) I know of two recent Research Technicians hired in my former department aged 49 and 55 both with BSc degrees and years of experience only. Luckily, I have no interest in the unstable Post Doc job market

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