10 months in and thinking of quitting

12-Aug-19, 17:58
edited about 11 seconds later
by cozees
Avatar for cozees
posted about 11 months ago
Hi everyone,

feeling pretty low at the moment. I feel like I'm not at all good at this and really unmotivated. I've had some issues with anxiety and depression this year which haven't helped, plus my supervisor is incredibly busy and not particularly knowledgable about the field my PhD is in (a lot of lab work/bioinformatics, and it's new stuff to me too) so it's all incredibly daunting

I had my transfer presentation/essay which I passed, but not very well. I got a lot of criticism from a secondary supervisor. She said my writing was poor, which another person agreed with. this took me by surprise because we hadn't been asked to submit any formal writing yet and I've never been told that. I don't get much support and get shunted around a fair bit, but maybe I need to be more resilient. at the moment I'm thinking of quitting, but part of me thinks maybe it's my mental state that's the problem and the situation won't improve when I leave. I just feel like I'm drowning a bit and don't have the passion for the work right now.
13-Aug-19, 12:25
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for Spykeeboy
posted about 11 months ago
Since you are only 10 months in, I would say that if you did decide to quit, now is the best time - before you spend too much time doing what you do not actually enjoy. Ask yourself this: do you enjoy the topic, are you passionate about it? Think about whether the answer is "Yes" very, very carefully.

It is common to feel inadequate or unsupported in your chosen project, especially at first. The first year (at least that of an EU PhD) is designed to break you in and get you at least a little familiar with the literature and laboratory methods in your chosen field. Unfortunately, it is also the time when your supervisors can be a bit hard on you - they want you to succeed, and this sometimes equates to extensive critique of your work in an effort to drive your own improvement (as was probably the case with your writing!). A perfect supervisor would balance said critique with just the right amount of positive reinforcement and encouragement, but this is incredibly difficult to achieve. Bottom line is, you are not expected to move mountains during your first year!! Many people do not consider this, and may get a bad case of 'impostor syndrome'.

Just keep engaging with the project, do not give up. Not familiar with (e.g. statistical) methods involved in bioinformatics? Make that your focus for the next X amount of time, and you will improve. A PhD is a journey of discovery and innovation - you do not go in knowing everything right off the bat.

Another consideration is the development of a 'thick skin' when it comes to criticism. When you start publishing, get ready for the possibility of overly harsh, outright contradictory and (rarely) nonsensical comments from reviewers, not to mention the lengthy wait times. Do not let any of it get to you, retain your rationality and objective thinking. Once you have that, you will see that hey, things are not so bad! You passed the transfer process - that COUNTS. Instead of considering the "possibly dire" future, consider the positive "now".


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