Overview of Uncutlateralus

Recent Posts

PhD Supervisor

I would look for a supervisor who is experienced (Had several PhD students) although you can get a great supervisor who has never had a PhD student (He'll be extra enthusiastic!). Also look for a supervisor with good collaborations as this will help your project. I would like to stress however that a institute can be more important than choice of supervisor for most PhD's (I.e. a non-humanities one), I had a good supervisor for my PhD (which I ended up failing), I honestly believe he tried his best to turn it around but my collaborators (in my opinion) were non-existent and my university had a poor research rating with poor facilities.

sick pay and extension on a NERC bursary?

Hello, while I'm not familiar with NERC funding I suspended my studies for 6 weeks in my final year as I was looking after my grandfather in the last few weeks of his life after a battle with terminal cancer. The process was relatively straight forward and the 6 weeks was added on to the end of my expected submission date, I was also paid during the time off since the result of my absence was that it took me a bit longer to write up, which I wasn't paid for anyway.

I don't really understand the concept of depression since I've never suffered from it myself so I apologise if this following comment is stupid but if your very unhappy during your PhD then why not just turn it into a MPhil or MSc if possible and do something else that actually makes you happy? I hated my PhD throughout and failed my viva in the end due to lack of data, I wish had just left. I really hope you get something sorted and wish you all the best.

Failed PhD any ideas?

======= Date Modified 01 Feb 2012 02:58:53 =======
======= Date Modified 01 Feb 2012 02:54:25 =======
Wow thanks guys for all your constructive comments! Just to give you all a update and to clarify some comments. I was given a MPhil with only very minor corrections, neither of my examiners had much issue with the document just that it wasn't enough data and because of lack of funding, major corrections (i.e. going back into the lab to obtain said data) wasn't a option. I've since picked myself back up and I'm currently applying for jobs, I actually found a research technician position available at UCL. It's low paid and probably far removed from what I was expecting compared to a Post-Doc positions but it's part of a really exciting research group in a field much closer to my own personal interests using techniques I undertook in my MSc and during my teaching responsibilities, which was actually the last time I ever enjoyed anything to do with research. I certainly tick all the boxes they asked for in terms of skills and experience so I just hope they take a chance on me and don't see me as 'damaged goods', I just want to pitch in and enjoy my work so I'm not expecting anything special, just to be part of a nice research group that actually has funding rather than being left on my own in the corner with no money to do anything would make me very happy indeed, even if some of the time it is just scrubbing glasswear :)

I have also kept my teaching role, despite failing my PhD which is a little embarrassed for me but probably more embarrassing for the University and I really need the money. All the academic's who gave me the teaching jobs have been wonderfully supportive so I wouldn't like to let them down anyway.

@Hazyjane. It's funny you mentioned public engagement positions, this was a area that was suggested to me a few times in the past and definitely something I think would get the best out of me. During my PhD I did a few 'side projects' in media work to keep myself happy thought a thoroughly miserable PhD such as proof reading indie films scripts for scientific accuracy and undertook some electives in scientific communication during my MSc.

@Ady. Thank you, it's really nice of you to have remembered my plight! I'm actually okay about the whole thing, to be perfectly honest I hated my PhD throughout and if I'm honest I only took on the PhD because I was frightened I would not be able to find a job post MSc and after a year or so I felt unable to leave as I would have no references and I would have let my supervisor down. One good thing to come out of it is that it's been a reality check for my fellow PhD students many of whom are as unhappy as I was and like me have gone past the stage where they have any chance of rescuing their projects. I popped into my former PhD student office on Monday to thank them all for their support and offer my advice in case some of them wanted to ask me what went wrong, to find at least one colleague typing up his resignation letter. While I'd of rather he was doing great, if I can spare him wasting another year of his life and money then at least that's a positive.

Indeed I totally agree. Although I do find it quite comical that the University has a individual who was able to deliver in some cases entire modules worth of information through lectures and take entire practicals to a standard that was highly rated by the external inspectors but yet they couldn't at least find some money to help me gather more data to have a fighting chance of a PhD. I should add that I also began my teaching work with practically zero training. However it's at least a income and I really enjoy it so I'm glad the University is so slack with procedures. I also expect you may be familiar with my University since it's very close to Sunderland University...next city even! ;)

Failed PhD any ideas?

======= Date Modified 30 Jan 2012 12:49:12 =======
Thanks Hazyjane for your constructive comment. In relation to appealing etc, the basic jist of why my PhD went wrong was that the initial lines of scientific enquiry led to a dead end so my supervisor had to think of other things to investigate that were cost effective (the majority of the budget went on plan A) but didn't generate very much novel data. My collaborators were only interested in 'plan A' so they more or less jumped ship after a year when we switched to plan B (Rather comically they couldn't get plan 'A' to generate anything at their institute either). I think my supervisor tried his best to turn it around for me and he was excellent during the writing stage, together we basically came up with a way of writing the thesis that hopefully hid the fact that the content was slim picking as best as possible which obviously wasn't good enough.

In regards to your question, yes it was contact time. I more or less ran a entire module in my final year for 100 undergraduates and seemed to do quite well. That included delivering all the lectures, marking all the assessments and helping the students as much as I could. I absolutely loved teaching and helping undergraduates, so this is what I'd like to do in the long term but obviously I'm stumped without a PhD. From looking at my viva report the citation for why not to award a PhD was "Not enough novel data" which was something that I couldn't do anything about. At the end of the day the proof is in the pudding as they say and 'no data' is 'no data', the only aspect that upsets me is why the University put me through a 4 hour viva and made me spend 6 months writing up while doing loads of teaching just to get told that I'd failed before I even put pen to paper!

Failed PhD any ideas?

Thanks guys for your responses and especially Delta for your kind words. Firstly I know it's going to be tough and I won't be able to just "do another PhD" straight away hence why I think my best bet is to start off just doing a lowly tech job and if they like me then maybe something will come my way, maybe I just wasn't good enough to do a PhD but the general feel amongst my supervisors etc seems to be more that while not a great student, I didn't really have much chance with the negative data. Secondly I don't really have any ambition to be a academic researcher, what I really enjoy is helping undergraduates and lecturing. The University actually seemed keen on keeping me on as a lecturer as they thought I had a natural aptitude for it and fortunately I managed to impress a few of the higher ups with my lecturing endeavour I'm also currently running a module at the moment till May so I'm not sure if I'm going to keep that job (Not sure they could find anyone to replace me mind!).

Part of me has to laugh about a University where a PhD student gave lectures and ran a undergraduate module to a high standard but had no chance of passing their actual PhD, kinda shows where the priorities lay although as I said I'm not bitter about it and the other acedemic members of staff really tried their best.

Failed PhD any ideas?

Hey guys I was just wondering if anyone had any advice or uplifting stories in relation to failing a PhD? I failed my viva on Friday, while disappointing it wasn't exactly surprising what so ever. My PhD (Life sciences) was a absolute disaster with failure in pretty much every department involved with the project (supervisor, University, Collaborators and of course myself), my project was flawed from the start, I had no budget and all my data was negative. I went into the viva already failed due to lack of data so I didn't really have any chance of passing.

So obviously I want to really put this mess behind me and move on. I have no complaints in terms of the viva (my external was absolutely right, I had no data) nor wish to put the blame on my supervisor (he did his best with poor collaborators and no money) so I don't want to go through the appeal process etc, I just want to leave and start a fresh.

I guess the question is, "Is my career in Science dead?" Just to add a few things, my University is well known for unsuccessful PhD's (former poly with no post-docs, lab techs and underfunded), I was actually quite well respected within the University so I was given extra responsibilities during my PhD (I have over 100 hours of undergraduate lecturing including running a entire undergrad module, supervised 4 successful MRes lab projects and ran undergraduate practicals) and I'll be able to get good references (I never fell out with any of my supervisors and they were very apologetic when I came out of my viva, accepting quite a lot of the blame).

I guess my plan now is to maybe apply for a lowly lab tech job in a 'proper' University and take it from there, do you guys think I'm just kidding myself and should pack in the science game and go work in a bank or that I have a good chance of starting a fresh?

New PhD student, with an absent supervisor (not his fault). Advice please?

....Although i'd rather repeat the word 'regarding' rather than 'data not shown'....no wonder my sup's given me so many correction.

Theres more red in my sup's edits than the battle of Rorkes Drift......

New PhD student, with an absent supervisor (not his fault). Advice please?

I'm glad that we could all be of a assistance and best of luck. In terms of my over use of 'regarding' I had been staring at one of my discussion chapters ALL day so my brain had clearly melted....

New PhD student, with an absent supervisor (not his fault). Advice please?

I don't want to sound harsh but just to maybe give you some perspective, you've very very lucky that you have a post-doc to guide you in your experimentation. A lot of science based PhD students are left very much to fend for theselves. It sounds like your in the early stages of your PhD, if so then the first year is primarily about get you trained up in the lab regarding your technical ability. Most student's don't have too much involvement with their supervisors regarding discussions etc in the first year or so because you'll have no data to actually discuss.

Regarding discussing the litterature, don't expect too much from your supervisor. Regarding my PhD my supervisor was a expert in one of my chapters but had only back ground knowledge of my other two. Regarding your knowledge of litterature your very much expected to do this on your own.

Hope that helps,


Penalty charge for going over 3 years, common?

Hello all, I was just wondering if its common to charge a penalty fee for not completing your PhD in the 3 years. From what I know, its fairly impossible to finish (as viva done and out the door) a PhD in 3 years (Applied science) but my university charges a £500 writing up fee at the start of the academic year that your not out the door and its regardless of when you actually started so if you started in November then thats tough.

I had to suspend my studies in my final year for a few months as I had to care for a terminal ill family member but despite this I'm still forced to pay the penalty charge even though I wasn't officially part of the uni for several months? My maximum date of completion has been ammended to reflect this.

I was wondering how common is this disgraceful practice? I actually think its fair enough to have to pay a fee if you have not submitted your actual thesis after 3 years but some people wait ages to get actually viva'ed and its not my fault I had to suspend my studies.

Cheers guys.

A question for those currently job-seeking...

This is a really good and useful thread.

I'm actually looking to the future for a change (although my general negativity won't let me believe I may actually pass my PhD). From my experiences looking and my friends in similar positions I think the overwhelming factor is location, location, location. Staying in academia also seems very difficult at the moment, especially if your thin on the ground in terms of publications (I've got a awful short communication pending and thats it).

I've settled on 3 general routes to research post PhD (if I pass) that I guess I think applys to people in my position (not the best PhD, limited publications, no real contacts from my PhD/collaborating institute).

1. Go far and away - litterally search the entire world, only really applys if you've got no ties and a sense of adventure.

2. Begin in Industry - Theres actually quite alot of jobs kicking about in industry at the moment, often at 'start up' Biotech companies. Its a risk because its not acedemia but I think if you can find a company thats very much into the R&D side of things with collaborations it may be a good bet.

3. Small cog in a very big machine - Try and get into a large research institute which will allow you to progress, the downside being is that you'll likely start off on a poor wage and have no where near the level of responsibility that you want (i.e a Research assistant post rather than a post-doc fellow).

PhD to research assistant instead of Post-Doc?

Thank you all for your kind reply and your insights. It is valued!

I think some of your comments reinforced alot of my thinking. I do not want a full post-doc even if I could get one because I do not think I am up to it, I've been used to conducting research in a poor way.

I don't think i'm a terrible student, I've still got alot of learn and do but I think/hope I can be of use to a research group out there somewhere. I also take on board what Keenbean said regarding the limits of being a research assistant as oppose to a full post-doc. I'm actually cool with not having too much control over projects i'm involved in, quite frankly I've had far too much control in my PhD which is why it ended up such a disaster, I'm happy to pay my dues and actually learn the right way to conduct research rather than think I know how everything should be done.

I would still like to hear if anyone has any experience of this route. I.e. Obtained a poor PhD and went down the research assistant route at a good research group rather than start a full post-doc straight away? Additionally I wonder how easy it is to transfer from subject areas while doing this.

I appologise in advance for those not in this area but basically I wanted to stay in the field of microbiology, specifically I'm interested in the molecular basis for virulence but also microbial communities and taxonomy. Because my PhD has gone so wrong I've ended up doing proteomics, enzymeology and alot of Biochemistry. This was not what I wanted to do and if I knew it would end up like this I wouldnt of taken on the PhD. So anyway does anyone think dropping down to a research assistant as appose to trying for a full post-doc would be beneficial for me to attain this?

Odd situation

Hello CoffeeRose,

I dont know if it varies based on nature of PhD (I can only relate to biological science PhD) but I would say you would be best to 'take the hit' on this one. I don't want to be harse by any stretch of the imagination but honest (in terms of my experience) and say that its likely more than just awkward. Its actually a fairly complicated process for a supervisor to essentially 'take on a PhD' and its likely that you caused abit of a headache for the institute you defered from.

Additionally unless you have a collaboration or working relationship with the supervisor at the institute you turned down, I would strongly advice not to contact them. It will likely annoy your current supervisor as it would be deemed as 'going behind their back' and secondly the individual at you university you turned down has absolutely no obligation to talk to you at all. Speaking honestly, why should they since they would get nothing out of it?

Being constructive, best thing is if you wish to contact Dr Xyz do it though your current supervisor who may be able to foster a beneficial and collaborative relationship. Do not try to do this yourself, remember you are still a student and your supervisor is technically your boss.

Hope that helps (up)

PhD to research assistant instead of Post-Doc?

Thanks for the input Delta,

I think you hit the 'nail on the head' as it were regarding your comment of "would feel comfortable with doing". If I do pass my viva, I do not feel I can fullfill all the requirements of being a full post-docturate researcher even if I somehow managed to get a position. My experience of working in a cohesive research group is practically zero (I've just been on my own for 3 years with whatever resources I could find).

I also feel that inorder to achieve my goals I would greatly benefit from being a part of a strong research group, because my PhD is poor I don't expect to be any more than a small part but non the less I think I will be happy with this as long as I have the oppertunity to prove myself.

I guess my quandry is whether or not a research group will be interested in someone with my back ground. A hard working individual, driven and determined with a bit of steal but has had a really poor PhD and a poor university with no publications but willing to take a lower position to prove what they can do?

As always any advice is greatly appreciated. :-)

PhD to research assistant instead of Post-Doc?

======= Date Modified 13 Apr 2011 12:18:11 =======
Hello, I was just wondering if anyone had any thoughts regarding moving to a research assistant position instead of the general step up to a 'post-doc' research position? My understanding is that the difference is essentially a drop of about 5k in terms of wages and you are a assistant to a research project rather than your own personal one.

My PhD in Biology has been a complete and utter disaster/failure, not really anyones fault and their isn't anyone specific to blame, the project was baddly planned and I was let down by funding, collaborators and a broken hypothesis.

Because of this I don't feel I have a chance whatsoever of moving onto a post-doc (My university also has a very poor research reputation) in a good research group and quite frankly I also think I have ALOT to learn regarding research in the context of a 'real' research group with 'real' quantifiable funding.

I am submitting my thesis soon and I feel what would be best for me is to try and find a research assistant position in a good group, prove myself and hopefully get on a bunch of research papers so I can move on to a full research associate position. Because my PhD has been such a failure I have tried to do other activities to try and make me more employable (I have 30 hrs + of under graduate lecturing experience and probably about 50hrs+ of additional teaching experience) but just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on my plan. Indeed good or bad?

Additional considerations is that because my PhD has been planned so poorly I have become abit of a character when it comes to the sheer number of biological techniques I can do. My materials and methods section is bigger that my introduction and results section put together. I also have no considerations in terms of finance (So long as I can survive and do research I'm happy) and have no issue with locations etc..

Any advice would be greatly appreciated :-)