Changing PhD, advice needed desperately.

posted
18-Apr-19, 13:14
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for arcturus7
posted about 1 month ago
Hi all!

I'm currently doing a PhD in particle theory in the UK. I have dreamt of doing exactly this since I was in VIth Form, however as soon as I arrived at my current institution I began to realise I had made the wrong choice. I found that I really struggled with how abstract the whole subject was. I also was not 100% sold on my supervisor's research topic, however I thought that given time I would come to enjoy the field. Then to top it all off, I failed my first qualifying exams in January because I simply didn't put enough time into solving problems, instead focussing on trying to get a good understanding by reading extensively. I spoke to my supervisor about the quals, and he was understanding - I can't complain about his supervision at all.

Since then though I have been on a downward spiral of trying to get motivated/interested in my field, whilst really not enjoying it at all and being ever so concious of the pressure of the second round of quals. I really don't think I will be able to complete the whole PhD, because I just don't have the interest I thought I would have. Then just this week I was offered a well paid graduate job near my home town. I am going to take it, and leave my PhD, because it isn't fair on everybody involved to drag things out.

With that being said, I really am not enthused by the job - it's definitely a stop gap for me. I really don't believe that I am through with academia, or that I am not capable of doing a PhD - I simply feel as though I picked the wrong field entirely. I had considered climate science/meteorology before deciding on HEP, and I think I want to try and reapply at different universities for a 2020 start in this field.

Is this possible? Am I going to be radioactive for leaving early? How should I maximize my chances?

Thanks in advance!
posted
18-Apr-19, 15:36
edited about 3 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
Hi Arcturus7

This seems fine to me. Leaving sooner rather than later is the best here, I think. And to maximize your chances for future opportunities, I would be very open and honest with your supervisor, as presumably you are going to need references for your future applications. If he will not write one (can't see why not if you explain where you are coming from) or you aren't comfortable asking him, do you have others you can ask? You won't be radio-active. People will be able to appreciate your reasons and respect them, as long as you are open about things. Open where needed that is - I wouldn't even bother telling people unless directly asked "have you started a PhD before?".

Separately, maybe you could actually get some experience in the new area rather than risking going into it and realising that it wasn't what you thought it was.

Hope this helps,

Tudor
posted
18-Apr-19, 16:03
edited about 19 seconds later
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 1 month ago
Even if you're feeling radioactive - you could always immerse yourself in some new waters, and emit yourself as Cherenkov radiation - it'd certainly add to your glow :-)
posted
18-Apr-19, 16:16
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
Jamie_Wizard! Long time! How are things???
posted
18-Apr-19, 21:29
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 1 month ago
Hi Tudor! Yes, it's been quite a while. I hope you're doing well!

Things are a mixed bag, my job is going well (although I feel I could also be doing a post-doc -- my job is providing scientific computing consulting for researchers -- I did manage to submit a paper). I have a nice new apartment with my girlfriend. Unfortunately though, my mother after improving a bit has taken a turn for the worse (depression and missing my father who passed away 3 years ago after 40 years of marriage) and is hospitalised which is hard for my sister and I :-(
posted
18-Apr-19, 21:33
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 1 month ago
arcturus7, sorry for the hijack, you sound like you have a very level head on you from your reflection on your experiences. I also have not the patience for the extremely abstract! Have you considered a more applied area? For instance, Nuclear engineering, Bioinformatics or Datascience?
posted
18-Apr-19, 23:52
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 month ago
Leaving your PhD won't make you radioactive. As TudorQueen said you don't need to mention it an interview and even then saying that you wanted a more practical project. Being in a different field and university also helps you have less chance of awkward encounters.
posted
19-Apr-19, 15:08
Avatar for arcturus7
posted about 1 month ago
Thanks for the responses all! To Tudor: I spoke to my supervisor and he is 100% okay with the situation. In fact I was taken aback at how kind and helpful he was, and I feel orders of magnitude better than I did before I spoke to him. He did say he would be able to give me a LoR and that he would highlight the positives of my time and not draw attention to my quals, so that is really kind of him. As for experience I have applied for some semi-relevant roles that I'm just waiting to hear back from. I was going to do a fair amount of reading on my own time between now and then anyways though, so there's that too. I have also spoken to my previous MSci supervisor, and he has also said that he is happy to provide a second academic reference for me, so I have two.

To Jamie: That's a nice way of thinking about it. I feel blue now - but not in a bad way :P. My MSci was quite data heavy and I really enjoyed it, so it's definitely an option. I've applied for a few (non academic) graduate roles in the data science field so one of those options may play out too. In fact I only opened my laptop to do a video interview for one of them... but here I am!

To rewt: thanks for the input - I'm glad the consensus is that I won't be unsupervisable. Since my current supervisor has said he'd offer me an LoR, I think I would be silly not to mention it in my application at some point as questions will surely be asked. I think my reasons are sound however - I just need to make 10000000% sure that next time I've made the right choice!
posted
19-Apr-19, 21:21
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
This sounds really positive! In some ways I actually think it could be viewed as an asset. After all, you are less likely to leave because you have really considered is this for you etc, and had a taste of doing a PhD before. All the best and keep us posted!
posted
16-May-19, 12:01
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 days ago
Quote From Jamie_Wizard:
Hi Tudor! Yes, it's been quite a while. I hope you're doing well!

Things are a mixed bag, my job is going well (although I feel I could also be doing a post-doc -- my job is providing scientific computing consulting for researchers -- I did manage to submit a paper). I have a nice new apartment with my girlfriend. Unfortunately though, my mother after improving a bit has taken a turn for the worse (depression and missing my father who passed away 3 years ago after 40 years of marriage) and is hospitalised which is hard for my sister and I :-(


I somehow must have managed not to see this before... congrats on your paper... and are you going to start applying for postdocs or is the current job enjoyable? Also good news about the apartment! Very sorry to hear about the challenging family issues. I really hope things improve soon on that front. Tudor
posted
17-May-19, 13:35
edited about 5 seconds later
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 5 days ago
Hi Tudor, no worries :-)

Thanks, the paper was in the field of my PhD - Distributed Computing / Bioinformatics for Computational Biology. I've recently had another paper printed in a Chemistry journal on synthesis of neuro-protective peptides for neuro-degenerative diseases, which was work I did with my master's supervisor.

As for my mother, she's starting to recover now after the hospital have stabilised her meds and withdrawn one that was prescribed inappropriately a while back, and which the GP just kept re-issuing. It's been difficult as she's such an elegant woman and to see her at such a low has been difficult.

As for the post-doc, I'm still undecided, My institute is very good, world leading and the people I work with are very pleasant. I do feel unchallenged, and as the work I do is for other research groups, I feel I'm not really progressing any career of my own. On the plus side, we have a decent supercomputer for me to play with (well it's a cluster not strictly a supercomputer).

At the moment, my life is Tennis, Tennis, Work, Work, Tennis, Eat sweets (naughty I know), Tennis, work....:-)

How's things at your end, I guess you've submitted/will be submitting soon?
posted
20-May-19, 12:25
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 days ago
Hi J_W

Yes, I submitted on Friday!! And I have a 1-year fellowship starting shortly after my viva (early July), which I’m really excited about (the fellowship that is, not the viva). I am bearing in mind that corrections are the most likely outcome of the viva though, so I know it will be a few months after that when I can fully put it behind me.

Your life at the moment as you describe it (tennis, etc) sounds pretty satisfying! I do understand though about the need for challenge and for your own progression. It sounds like you would be well placed (especially in terms of the publications) if you did decide to pursue a postdoc. Maybe you’ll sort of reach a point of saturation, where you can’t take the hum drum anymore, and that'll prompt you into looking at possible postdocs! : )

I am so sorry to hear about your mother. It sounds a tough situation. I hope things improve now that she is starting to recover.

Best
Tudor
posted
22-May-19, 11:12
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 21 hours ago
Hi Tudor,

That's great news - both the recent submission and the fellowship - I'm so happy for you! :-)

I'm sure you're viva will go well. You may not have corrections, or at least not too many.

Yes, Tennis is great were we play -- we play on artificial clay which is really a good surface to play on. Just played a retro/vintage tournament, where I was sporting a 1970s tash and used a wooden racket to win a couple of matches :-)

I love research, but there are some really well paid programming jobs in London - the issue is I don't like to waste most of my day commuting like a squashed sardine in a tin can of the London Underground (currently live just outside SW London). I'll see how things go, so far my work at my institution has been well received, and it's a really nice relaxed, yet productive environment.

Thanks for your kind wishes regarding my mum.

Wishing you all the best,
Jamie
posted
22-May-19, 15:23
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 17 hours ago
Thanks so much Jamie! And I really hope so re corrections :-)

Don’t blame you for not wanting to spend half of the day commuting! Your current set up sounds good! Continue to enjoy!

Very best wishes
Tudor

Ps. The tennis sounds amazing! This has made me want to start playing again! Vintage tournaments sound very fun (but I think I'd be laughing to much to actually play)!

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