Whether or not to leave PhD and plan on how to leave

posted
02-Nov-18, 12:12
Avatar for ArbitraryNumber
posted about 2 weeks ago
Hi everyone I'm new to this forum.

I just finished my first year and submitted my Confirmation review for an EPSRC funded PhD in engineering however it has been sent back for an amendment. I think that I could totally amend it to such a degree that I could continue on with my PhD however I have doubts as to how realistic the project is.

-I think I have decent enough degree (1st Masters in Physics) to access decent job prospects
-I definitely have decided against working in academia and can't imagine continuing in my current work environment
-I would not like to spend 2.5 yrs working on something that will massively stress me out and not bear any real fruit while I could use this time to search for graduate jobs

My main concerns are financial and CV wise.
-I have paid for housing in advance for this year and while I could pay this off it is quite a large amount. I am wondering if a few more months on the program to see if things change and to pay this off might make sense.
-Secondly how would I address this on a CV I was thinking something along the lines of I decided academia wasn't for me after one year? I can still sell it as giving me experience in labwork and computer modelling.

What do you think would be the most sensible thing to do in my situation?
posted
02-Nov-18, 14:58
edited about 23 seconds later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 weeks ago
Honestly, you need to decide if you want to continue with your PhD. Don't think about the alternatives, think are you enjoying it and will it be worth it. A PhD is a lot of work and effort that needs commitment, so you either want to do or you don't. Once you decide that everything else will be simple.

I know what it is like doing a pointless project, I worked out 6 months in that the concept was fatally flawed and that all I would be doing is confirming that. Though I enjoy the work, the research areas, the 70hour weeks, the stress, the mostly useless supervisor(s) and the low career prospects. Yet I enjoy it and can't think of a more job (though more money would be nice). So I have slowly changed my project to something that will lead to publications while not stressing me out too much. What I am trying to say is, take control and re-find that passion that lead you to a PhD in the first place.

Also amendments are common, don't be dis-spirited, you would rather get that feedback now than after 3 years of work. Also have you taken a holiday to clear you head and realise what you actually enjoy. Burnout/second year blues is a period that can be easily solved, with some time out/relaxation. Also what is causing the stress, can you reduce it? Do you think the project is unrealistic and causing your stress, if so have you talked with your supervisor?

I might be coming across harsh but I seriously think you need to stop focusing on hypotheticals. You are capable of doing a PhD, so whatever you decide, you will be okay.
posted
02-Nov-18, 15:28
Avatar for ArbitraryNumber
posted about 2 weeks ago
Well I'm leaning more towards leaving. I certainly don't enjoy the work or the work environment in our group and don't think in the long term it adds much if I complete it or not because academia wouldn't be something I am interested in anymore.

In terms of changing the subject matter of my project myself and people higher up in the group have tried to shift it but my supervisor is very stubborn. Even though a previous postdoc appears to have left over this issue. I also lack equipment necessary to make the kinds of meaningful measurements for this project.

The amendments themselves don't concern me that much I'm aware they are very common in confirmation reviews.

I actually recently had a holiday to relax and it's that time that has made me consider leaving.
posted
02-Nov-18, 19:30
edited about 28 seconds later
by monkia
Avatar for monkia
posted about 2 weeks ago
I want to comment on that because I am burning out, I would like to scream, but I cannot, I love research, but work environment, and lack of equipment was a hinder! Finally I have been forced to leave although loving my project and I have pointed to main problems, however I was not supported because of favoritism and PI underestimated from me. I am now had an opportunity of two months as test after resigning from phd position after one year, what I found today as a first day in this new country, new lab, not good, the vibes, every thing, although some of higher senior research was contemplating why I resigned although this work, however they dont have enough equipment....... To be honest, I wish my life stop here, I like research, but I cannot find a good lab, I am trying again as people here advised me, but I am exhausted, all I can do is writing here while crying, wish for kind hug and support, people here are aloof, I am really burning out, although I am hardworker, but I do feel I am in a big jail. Sorry for what you been through, I totally understand, how it is hard, but seems very common, and I would find my passion in the right place.
posted
03-Nov-18, 10:20
by Cat123
Avatar for Cat123
posted about 2 weeks ago
I'm in Engineering also and encountered many similar issues. I didn't like the culture in the group I should have been part, there was a lot of inequality in respect of funding and my project didn't fit in as well as others. I was cut out of communications at times and things got worse after the group management changed. I ended up distancing myself from that group and networking outside of it, which has been very beneficial to me. Equipment availability is also a constraint, I work with what I have access to currently. I am planning to use equipment in other departments at later stages, for which there may be a cost. These issues aren't uncommon. There were changes to my project, although some aspects couldn't be changed. My supervisor was very difficult and cold, issues there I won't detail on this post led to me seek a new supervisor, I work independently currently. I enjoy my PhD and plan to go into a career in academia, this has kept me going. The issues you state can be fixed to some extent but if you don't enjoy the work I would say at this time you have likely given it long enough to know if this is for you now.
posted
03-Nov-18, 10:42
by Cat123
Avatar for Cat123
posted about 2 weeks ago
I will just add that a senior lecturer I had during my undergrad studies told me that he hated his PhD, despite this he has a successful academic career. I guess he had focused on the end goal. Personally I like to enjoy what I am doing and not for it to be a means to an end as such. It sounds the the experience is also important to you and your end goal has changed.
You could put something like 'postgraduate researcher' on your CV to cover the past year, and mention skills of relevance to jobs you are applying for. I wouldn't worry about how employers will view leaving a PhD, its perfectly understandable if you feel the academic environment isn't for you etc.
I am not sure what to advise about accommodation as you have paid for a year in advance, particularly if you are referring to the current academic year, it is maybe not so bad if its to the end of this year. Maybe you could transfer the contract to a new tenant if the landlord will allow it.
posted
03-Nov-18, 11:43
Avatar for ArbitraryNumber
posted about 2 weeks ago
@Cat123 thank you for your reply. Talking to various people has convinced me that the lack of a PhD isn't that much of a deal against me in the job market.

I think if the academic career end goal is really what you want you can make it work. But the tenuous nature of the jobs, the few positions and the lower pay are strong factors weighed against my own low levels of passion right now it doesn't seem reasonable.

I think I will stay around for a few months; work steadily on my project, maybe switch things up a little and see if things improve (then I would continue) but I can also have a plan to leave if I need to maybe some jobs lined up etc. If that was the case the accommodation wouldn't be as much of an issue I could certainly take that hit for a short while. I would also feel much less stressed because I have options.
posted
03-Nov-18, 21:14
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 weeks ago
Honestly give the project a go and give it your best but only work 40 hours a week. Try and make it work while looking for another job. Keeping the PhD makes financial sense and is ethically okay to stay on the PhD if you are at least working on the project (in my opinion).

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