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One semester into a PhD and offered a job


I think that you already now in your heart which option is better. The job sounds like a good option, since it offers good pay and benefits. A bird in hand is worth two in a bush. Why wait till after your PhD? The work experience would also add to better career prospects and increased salary over the years. In addition, you are not exactly thrilled about your PhD either.

Please read https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/ for some useful info about employment after obtaining PhD. Hopefully this will help you make up your mind.

Furthermore, you said "permanent and the bridge to this University and adviser will be burned". Yup, only for this adviser. You can do a PhD later on after gaining more work experiences. My friend finished a 4 year PhD at the age of 50. With her new degree and previous solid track record of working experiences, she could do so many things with her career. There is no time limit for a PhD.

Almost 1.5 yrs into phd and changed proj 3mth ago. Extremely stressed. Need advice.

Hi, a0042498,

I have been through your path before. Had to majorly change my PhD direction after 2 years. I only made progress in my fourth year, but I graduated. So, it can be done.

For the constant stress and fear, that is to be expected due to the many uncertainties. It will never go away until you finished. Please make full use of the uni's counselling services. Eating and sleeping well help a lot as do exercise. Moral support is exceptionally important. Do you have other friends or mentors you can turn to? Talk to them a lot to de-stress. Please manage yourself when your experiments do not work. Walk in the park. Shout it out. exercise until you are completely spent. then focus on your experiments again a different day. Take a step back and revisit the study again.

On the bigger picture of things, are you stuck with a bad supervisor or project? It is weird that your supervisor has not stepped in on project direction when you have not progressed as much as desired. Please talk to your postgraduate coordinator or PhD officer in your school. Get help ASAP in the form of a new co-supervisor or another experienced researcher as mentor. Do you have a thesis committee/reviewer who keeps check on your progress? Schedule a meeting with your supervisor and thesis committee to ask their advice to steer the project in the right direction.

However, since you are still considered early in your candidature (<2 years), you could potentially talk to your postgraduate coordinator about changing supervisor and project. A bad supervisor is unlikely to change for the better. Is there another good supervisor with projects that you like? Your postgraduate coordinator can talk to you on this. Don't worry, all is confidential.

Sometimes the stress and the fear are silent calls from inside you to take actions to change things. Do think about my suggestions and see if actions can improve your project state and your feelings about your PhD. Take care and DO NOT break.

Examiner Disagreement

Hi, faded07,

Any updates?

It is very likely that your chair will seek to find an internal independent person to have a look at your corrections. They should not move the goal post, so they should only assess how well you responded to previous comments and the corrections done. No new reading of the entire thesis should be required, and so no new comments should be added. Please download and have a look at the criteria for a PhD award in your university and demonstrate how you have ticked all the boxes.

7 months in and still confused

Hi, phd_shally,

You stated that you are "having an equal worry about how my CV will look if I stay in this too long when it isn't actually what I want to do." Just as others have stated, I think that you need to really sit down and think if this PhD at this point in time is really something that you want. There is no way that you can survive 3-4 years of PhD if you have absolutely no interest or motivation.

Importantly, there is nothing wrong with withdrawing in the first year of candidature. You can always look for a job and revisit doing a PhD at a later stage in your life. My friend started her PhD in her late 40s and finished at 50. Because she had strong work experiences behind her in combination with her PhD, she could do many things with her degree. I am not asking you to wait that long, but just trying to tell you it is possible to postpone a PhD. If you are worried about the gap in your CV, it is now not completely unusual to look for a job for up to a year due to the current job market. You don't have to worry too much about your CV gap.

Do think deeply about what you want to do with your life. If you absolutely need a PhD for your career right now, please try to make it work. If not, you could think about working first and doing it later. There is no one right way of doing things. And do take care of your health. What point is a PhD if you destroyed yourself in the process.

Honest Advice on my situation

Hi, parkerluck,

You can appeal your results. Please talk to your postgraduate coordinator/officer and the students union officer and legal advisor. Do this ASAP. Keep your trails of events properly. I think you have a good case of unfair/differential treatment of student. Good luck.

Supervisors who are being unfair

Hi, elaineckf,

I echo what Tudor_Queen has said. There appears to be a mismatch of expectations. You want someone hands on, they are very hands off. However, asking you to spend months alone is too much, even if they want to train you. Another thing to consider is, did they send you away "to find your own answer" because perhaps they did not know it themselves and wanted to look good? Are you the first student working on a new area of research in your group?

You stated: "maybe I could go to a different faculty and find another or other supervisors". I have worked with enough students with problems now to say "Please trust your gut feelings". These supervisors and this project just might not be the one for you. Importantly, you are still so early in your candidature and can change things. Please talk to your postgraduate coordinator or PHD department officer in confidence. They can give you advice on potential things that you could try to solve the situation. Generally, people (aka supervisors) never change, so you will have to change your behaviour and/or environment (project + group) to improve the situation. The decision is yours to make.

Besides that, I think your supervisors are potentially racist when they said you are "like Asian Student will only do what have been asked..." Why work with people like that? I will stop my comment at that.

Thinking of changing supervisors - is this a bad idea?

Hi, inomchips,

You said "In response I sought advice from the Doctoral Student Life department at uni, who confirmed he was out of line in making me do his research, and that I would be advised to swap supervisors". This made my alarm bells ring.

Uni advising a student to swap supervisor is a very big deal. I am wondering if this supervisor has a bad record at supervising. Are you aware of previous students and their experiences under him? I strongly recommend that you find out.

You also said that "I am reluctant to swap as he is the best in his field - however I am only studying his field because he told me to in the beginning, I do not have a particular interest in it". It is very hard to work for X number of years on a project that you have no interest in. Have you thought about your future and what field you want to be in? Do think about it deeply. What's the point of working with the best person in Geology if you like and want to work in Neuroscience.

You also stated that "I was not going to be credited for the papers, this was made clear to me." Do you seriously want to work under someone who is unethical? If he can do this to you now, imagine what he will do if you do find something new and valuable in your research? Would he again not give you credit, owning the finding himself or giving credit to another valuable collaborator?

Finally, answering your question, changing supervisor is not a bad idea. You pointed out that your supervisor has plenty of issues. You yourself also do not like the field. Perhaps you could consider deeply what field you actually like, in line with your future plans, and change to a better project and supervisor. Talk to your Doctoral Student Life department at uni, since that is their advice anyway. Changing early is best to cut your loss and salvage your PhD. The decision however, is in your hands.

Examiner Disagreement

Hi, faded07,

Good to know that you still have some fight in you. If you have PASSED with minor corrections, you cannot FAIL after your corrections.

For the potential appeal (hopefully you will never have to do it), have you sorted out the documents properly? In other words, have you printed out and documented every email, conversation and actions related to your case in a systematic manner? Have you drafted a cover letter referrencing every single evidence you have? You might want to start doing that if you have not, so that you are ready whenever you need to use them. Have you also spoken to the Student Union's Education Advisor or Lawyer (Assuming you have these at your university)? You might want to show them your documents and ask if there is anything else you might need. They can also advice you on who to appeal to, processes etc.University staff generally close ranks very quickly and may not point out the best resources for your case, unlike Students Union.

Besides this, can you check the interest of your external? Is she having conflicts of interest and that is the reason for all these delays brought on by her?

However, I really hope that you need not go through appeals. Speaking from experience, an appeal against any university staff/unethical conduct requires a lot of time and effort, even if the evidences are all in your favour. But then again, your revisions will take a very long time as well with no guarantee of a positive outcome. So, honestly, you have nothing to lose. I still hope your chair will come back with favourable news.

How important are PhD examiners' reputations?

Hi, Nesrine87,

I think it is more important to know of the person's reputation as an examiner, rather than a researcher. If the person is a first time examiner, there is a high likelihood that the person may be too harsh and critical, expecting many corrections. This is because they may be trying to proof that they are doing their work as an examiner.

On the other hand, I have also heard of people who are experienced who have had bad reputations as examiners such as extremely long time to examine thesis (~ 9 months), overly critical (demanding original figures in the entire thesis including literature review, more experiments to address a question that was already pointed out as a future direction, etc) and no communication/response (eg completely no email response despite graduate school trying to contact for many weeks).

So choose a good examiner with a good reputation as a fair person, and choose wisely because your future is in their hands. Good luck!

Examiner Disagreement

Hi, faded07,

Did you hear back from the chair? Were she and the senior officers able to help you?

Examiner Disagreement

Quote From faded07:
Hi everyone,

Thank you for your helpful replies. I may well request a third examiner but this hasn't been put forward as an option for me as yet. After submitting my thesis 3 times, I really don't want to go back to a 'first submission' stage and have to endure a viva and possibly more corrections depending on the sanity of my new examiner (if you'll pardon my scepticism).

I met with the chair of my examination panel yesterday and very clearly outlined my concerns over the current situation. Although, at first, she seemed defensive of the university (as I expected), she gradually had little to say to me as even she wasn't aware of the full extent of fuck ups that have occurred throughout my PhD journey. The university aren't even aware that some of the requests of my external are completely new...yet they are supporting this. How do I know that, after submitting for a fourth time, my external won't have some more 'new' ideas to throw at me? It's ridiculous.

I have politely told the chair that I don't intend to do the revisions as they are either new or have already been addressed. I informed her that, at this stage, I am wanting a reconsideration of the current situation given the concerns I have (I prepared lengthy documents outlining my concerns, alongside the procedural irregularities that have happened over the past 3 years!)

The chair is now in talks with 'senior officers' (whatever that means) and I should hear back within a week so will keep you all updated. If you haven't been following my story: don't assume any positive or coherent outcome to be on the horizon. My university are beyond useless and likely to be sued if this carries on for much longer.

Hi, faded07,

Continue to keep your chin up, although it is very difficult to do given your circumstances. At least your chair is now fully aware of the situation.

Examiner's Report - How much detail should there be?

Hi, faded07,

My thesis submission required minor corrections, and I received a report of 12 pages with very detailed comments/corrections.

Examples of the comments/corrections are:
i) grammar eg. were not are
ii) experimental design eg. Why did you use X concentration instead of Y concentration since you saw previous effects of ABC at X concentration?
iii) more information eg. Please insert a new table covering comprehensive novel therapeutics targeting Z to treat YY disease.

Hope this helps.

Examiner Disagreement

Hi, faded07,

I have not experienced a dispute between my external and internal examiner, but you have my sympathy.

Could you request for a third examiner to be brought on board? This is normally done when there is a dispute, which is your case. In my university, it is compulsory to list a third examiner even though the thesis would be sent out to two.

It is also very unusual that new comments/corrections be added/asked of you after your initial correction. Normally, you pass if you are able to address the comments/corrections asked by the examiners. Do you know who this external examiner is? Is it possible to remove her if she has conflicts of interest such as an opposite hypothesis to your thesis or supervising students with a similar project to yours? You can ask the third examiner to step in.

Another suggestion is to speak to your postgraduate coordinator and students union officer. You need to get the support from your postgraduate coordinator to help you out (if you have not already done that). Do meet with the students union officer to see if the university has deviated from its normal procedure or if your students rights have been abused in your case. Sometimes, university acts faster if they know you have approached the students union (or even a lawyer in other cases).

Do keep us up to date with what you do. Good luck.

Is a PhD really worth it?

Hi, ithicamae,

If you have already put in 5.5 years, you will have enough to put in your thesis. Even the failed projects could possibly be a chapter each. As long as you can write on your trials and errors, your reasoning for doing things, and your trouble shooting, these show critical thinking which should help you earn that PhD. Your PI's "body of work" possibly only looks at the things that worked, and that is not what a PhD is about.

I do not think you should walk out with a master. In your committee meeting, please outline your thesis chapters (including the failed projects) as clearly as possible. Show them that there is a flow in your story. Tell them you want to stop doing experiments and would like to submit. And convince your entire committee that you DO have enough to submit as a PhD. These days, it is possible to submit without a supervisor's approval, but we would like to avoid that if possible.

You have come so far, please do not quit. Stop doing experiments, write up and leave your toxic lab. Do keep us up to date with the outcome of your meeting, if you are comfortable sharing. Good luck.

Advisor issues-quitting PhD

Hi, Thezim.

I am glad that you found courage to make an important but difficult decision on your PhD. No one can decide what is best for you except yourself. Remember not to feel like a failure, because you are not. Your supervisor and the education system that was meant to monitor and help you through your study failed you, but you did not. You have tried everything you could on your own. Walk away knowing that you are worth more than this project.

You may come across people in future who without much understanding of your pain, say that you should have persevered on through a difficult PhD, because a PhD is meant to be hard. You could perhaps consider this as an answer. Even if you were to push through and be lucky enough to finish a PhD with poor relations with your supervisor and possible little or no publications due to the bad project, you may have no good reference and are unlikely to be competitive to fight for grants or fellowships. Especially since the grant success rate is already so low and academic positions so few. People with good project and supervisors can have multiple papers and combine that with good references and connections from the supervisor, can go very far. If you had a bad PhD with very poor outcome, you will be playing catchup for many years to come. Therefore, cutting your losses now, may be the best decision for you.Especially since things are getting worse. You can always start over with another PhD. And you will now know how to choose a good supervisor and project.

All the best to you in your future undertakings. Perhaps you might get a job researching in a company? Combine that work experiences with a PhD later on will get you very far. Or work as a technician in uni. Or have a short break. The decision is yours to make. Again, kudos for your very brave but difficult decision. Good luck.