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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.

Advice Required! How long should you wait for your PhD result after submitting with minors?

Dear faded07,

You have my sympathy. I am wondering if the purpose of the delay/problems by the external examiner is because someone she knows, maybe her own student, is pursuing a thesis/paper with a similar idea or concept. If that is truly the case, then on the basis of conflict of interest you can remove her from your examination panel.

Yes, you should be allowed to seek a third examiner. All the best with this. I do not understand this "compulsory" changes that you need to address as all students reserve the right to rebut. Unless your main supervisor signed that you must submit revisions to the complete satisfaction of your examiners, I don't think you need to...

Talking to the Students Union is an excellent idea. Do talk to the both the education and the lawyers in Students Union. Not asking you to take legal actions, but understanding your rights as a students as backed by university laws is very helpful sometimes in getting the right attention and help from administrative people in uni.

Good luck.

Phd project supervisor problems

Hi, Spore.

I am not sure if you will pass your milestone, but I think you have some serious supervisory problems. At this stage, there is nothing you can do but wait for the outcome and decide from there.

If you do pass, I think you need to consider if you want to be working with this supervisor for the next 3 years. To not be concern about your lack of project progress and outline for the past one year highlights a major failing of a supervisor. Couple that with what you claim are bad writing skills and poor time management, and you are in a rather difficult situation to complete your PhD. I suggest that while you are waiting, do something to improve your writing skills and think about how you can be more time efficient.

Advisor issues-quitting PhD

Hi, Thezim,

All the best for your meeting. Do keep us up to date with the outcome and your decision, if you are comfortable sharing. Take care.

Advisor issues-quitting PhD

Dear Thezim,

An unsupportive supervisor is extremely damaging and should not be treated as normal. Unfortunately, academia appears to "normalise" abnormal situations including completely absent supervision, bullying and obstruction of progress.

You have taken initiative to learn the methods necessary for your PhD. Great! However, if your supervisor is horrible, he may not appreciate this as you going to another group to learn suggests that he is lacking. A supervisor should not behave in this manner, you might say... Then again, he should not take on a student for a project he knows nothing about, then go on to belittle you. His actions have been consistent all throughout your PhD. He will not change.

However, YOU can change. Please go through the thought processes which I have suggested earlier. They helped me when I myself was in an extremely bad situation with my own supervisors and project. Nearly all that you have experienced, I have too and in some cases a lot worse. So, I completely understand. I will not detail my own experiences because I refuse to relive those memories. You are not alone. Ephiny has shared some of his/her own experiences. Like Ephiny, I have submitted my thesis although the outcome is still up in the air.

In conclusion, decide on what you want to do ASAP. You either improve or end your situation. Hoping for things to become better on its own NEVER works. Do not heed the advice that a PhD is hard work, and you should persevere under unhealthy and possibly career-damaging situations. Those words are probably spoken by people who had good supervision/clearly defined project but lots of experiments to complete. They will never understand the pain of an undefined project with uncertain hypothesis and aims and unavailable methods, and without any support. Trust me, I know what you are going through. Please do not break.

Take action now. I wish you lots of strength in overcoming this challenge. Decide what is best and right for you. Ignore unhelpful comments from people who have never been burned by bad supervisors.

Advisor issues-quitting PhD

Dear Thezim,

The decision to quit is entirely yours. No other person will be in exactly your situation before and therefore no one can make that decision for you. The internship does nothing to resolve your primary problem - your PhD, so resolve that first before distracting yourself with other matters.

Before deciding, could you think about the following?
1) If you can find another co-supervisor who is helpful, would this help change your situation?
2) Can you speak to an experienced senior researcher to help you frame your project?
3) Can you speak to a postgraduate and research coordinator at your school and see what his/her suggestions are? There is one in every school. They are responsible for you besides your supervisors. I think this is your BEST option for now.
4) Can you switch to another project with another supervisor if you want?
5) Do you still want this PhD? Or are you happy to finish with an MPhil and start another PhD or get a job?

Staying in an undefined PhD project with unhelpful supervisors damages one's confidence and does nothing for your career prospects. However, do not complain. Seek advice from other people and make a decision quick to improve or end your situation. Do not prolong your suffering.

Failure to upgrade from MPhil to PhD

Hi, BKA,

Just do the amendments that your examiners ask you. And since your supervisors have promised to read your docs, you should be alright. Their reputation is at stake, so they will be careful to make sure you pass your first milestone/upgrade to PhD the second time round. So, just calm down and focus on your work at hand. You will be fine. Btw, an Mphil is not a failed PhD. I have friends who actually intentionally did an Mphil, not a PhD.

Take care... and breathe....

Am I too hesitant about applying for PhD's?

What sort of jobs are you looking for? My understanding is that most entry level jobs by the big pharma do not require PhD. For example, sales rep, scientist I, product specialist, etc... I do not know your interest. So unless you are looking for higher positions like manager, assoc director, MSL etc, you do not need a PhD. Just look at the job websites.

Look up "transitioning from academia to industry resume". Cheeky Scientist comes up a lot. Perhaps you could join them if you wish.

Ready to quit because of department politics

Hi, PenelopeFlowers,

A lot of unethical things happen in academia, unfortunately. On your thesis: please hang on. You just need another few more months on that bloody dissertation and then you are done. Don't quit and let those bastards/bitches have the last laugh. Pardon my language.

On your bully case: Do you have the courage to go up against the system? Do you have sufficient evidence, eg. emails, witnesses, voice recordings, witnesses, etc? If you have no evidence, you have no chance of winning. Better stay low until you have collected sufficient evidence. You could then submit your thesis, and lodge your case and let all hell break loose, if you so wish. Could you speak to your student union? Every university should have one. See what they advice. Understand that if you lodge your case, you are in for a roller coaster ride in terms of your emotion because those higher ups will try to "silence" you in ways that may be completely unethical (but perhaps unprovable - eg, telling you off at a corridor with no one present, threatening to ruin your reputation, spreading rumours, etc).

This is where your motive is important. If your motive to protect only yourself, you might have insufficient "stamina" to fight. If your motive to protect yourself and others who have and will be bullied by these ppl, then you may find the courage and perseverance to fight on. I find that the culture of bullying is well rooted in academia based on my own experience. Most people stay silent for fear of repurcussions. And the system seems to protect these bullies as well. However, I believe that the truth and justice will prevail, albeit after a long time. Someone just has to take the first step. Problem is, most people don't want to be that someone.

You did not mention what your supervisor said about this. What was his advice to you? Could he give support?

Am I too hesitant about applying for PhD's?

Hi, Solo,

The resume for an industry role differs significantly to an academic one. The industry wants people who are more results and profit oriented with excellent communications and networking skills. The academia, especially RA positions only emphasise on technical skills. Since you were volunteering, I could understand why the PIs love you. Who would reject free labour in addition to the cheap labour in the form of PhD students? As a PhD student myself, it was hard to admit that last bit.

Check out the websites for people transitioning to the industry. There are plenty. Customise your resume according to their suggestions. Talk to more people from the industry to understand what they want. It will take a while before you hit anything. Positions in the industry are mainly permanent, unlike the academia which is mostly contract based. So they ARE picky about who they take on and train. So you will need to try harder.

I hope these are "good kicks up the ass" to shove you to decide your life and get moving. If you still prefer to volunteer, how about paid internships in companies instead? Think about it.

Good luck!

Am I too hesitant about applying for PhD's?

Hi, Solo,

If you have no plans to run your own group or fight for grants endlessly, there really isn't any reason for you to do a PhD. If you wanted to a PhD because you like doing research, have you thought of a career as a scientist in a big pharma/small company? With a master, it is easier to find an entry level position as scientist I. You can move up the scale to be scientist II, etc later on. If you are lucky, they might even sponsor you to do a PhD after a few years of working with them.

my supervisor gave my project to another student

Hi, Moon1,

A second student being given your project and you were not allowed to pass? I am sorry to say, but it sounds like you are getting kicked out of your own project. Your project has been handed over to the other student. Oncology is a competitive field. Unfortunately, these things happen, even though they are completely unethical.

You must act quickly. First, you need to have a heart to heart talk with your supervisor. Clarify the project scope of you and the second student. Secondly, if your project has already been given away, you could either talk to the PhD project coordinator or department head to seek advice. However, I suspect that you probably would not win the case, if your supervisor is dead set on letting you go.If so, you could start looking for a new supervisor, one that would treat you better. You are only in your first year. There is nothing wrong with changing your project. Importantly, you still have time.

Also, what do you mean that you are the only student with 18000 pounds bench fees? Are you a self-funded international student? If so, think carefully if you want to pay to be treated like that?

A word of advice. I do think that you need to improve your English proficiency significantly. I think there might be some truth when they asked you to improve your writing and presentation skills. Please don't take it the wrong way, but have you thought of taking up more English classes and perhaps use grammar checking software like Grammarly? I think that your English may potentially be one of the main reason why your supervisor is deciding to hand over your project to the other student, even if you have the better technical skills. Communication is important in research, and the other student might have an upper hand at that.