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Hate my PhD.

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 410 ✭✭ AlphabetCards


    I've come to the conclusion that my time trying to get by at my PhD may be coming to an end. It's been a rather difficult 14 months, in a centre that is inadequately resourced to run a chemistry PhD 'programme'. Among the nonsense that I've had to put up with was having to spend a few hundred pounds of my own cash on glassware, reach out to scientific institutions to ask for their help (time on instruments), and literally fight and argue to get huge, complicated, duplicated risk assessments / COSHH forms for everything that has to be done and requires about 3 or 4 weeks to get through the system. I'm losing my mind.

    Is this normal? I'm not a weak-minded individual, I've been through far worse times in my life. I just can't fathom how I'm going to get enough work done to publish a single paper, let alone the 3 or 4 I had envisaged and planned for as I prepared for day 1 of this PhD.

    Has anyone here cut their losses in a similar manner?


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Comments



  • I've come to the conclusion that my time trying to get by at my PhD may be coming to an end. It's been a rather difficult 14 months, in a centre that is inadequately resourced to run a chemistry PhD 'programme'. Among the nonsense that I've had to put up with was having to spend a few hundred pounds of my own cash on glassware, reach out to scientific institutions to ask for their help (time on instruments), and literally fight and argue to get huge, complicated, duplicated risk assessments / COSHH forms for everything that has to be done and requires about 3 or 4 weeks to get through the system. I'm losing my mind.

    Is this normal? I'm not a weak-minded individual, I've been through far worse times in my life. I just can't fathom how I'm going to get enough work done to publish a single paper, let alone the 3 or 4 I had envisaged and planned for as I prepared for day 1 of this PhD.

    Has anyone here cut their losses in a similar manner?

    A few questions come to mind which might go towards solving your problem:
    Why are you working in this centre? (What attracted you initially....reputation? location? good money?)
    Who is mentoring you? (I'm thinking research team rather than possibly absent PI) - this is the person who will show you the shortcuts
    Are you alone with these problems?

    Over-arching risk assessments speed up a lot of work but paperwork is there for a reason (so you have to box clever).

    Buying items out of pocket can speed something's up but you should be able to claim it back through petty cash or equivalent.




  • Is this normal? I'm not a weak-minded individual, I've been through far worse times in my life. I just can't fathom how I'm going to get enough work done to publish a single paper, let alone the 3 or 4 I had envisaged and planned for as I prepared for day 1 of this PhD.
    Read awhile back in The Chronicle of Higher Education that the average length of time to get a PhD in Chemistry across the pond took roughly about 7 years. Have not read any articles about what such a commitment would take in Ireland.




  • I've just come out of the end of a PhD, what you're describing are all fairly normal things, with regards the bureaucracy involved with using other groups machines
    I would try make friends with someone in their group, or bring the tool owners a doughnut or bake them a cake if they've gone out of their way to help you with something.

    Risk assessments have to be done, they are a pain but if anything goes wrong you'll appreciate having them, admin and safety officers will come down like a tonne of bricks if you cut corners with regards to safety. Plus allot of times you learn something new about what you're working with , or in analyzing your workflow you find a better way to do things.

    Procurement is another pain in the backside, just make sure you can claim things back , usually purchases are invoiced and go through accounts department and come out of specific budgets like consumables, repairs, new equipment etc. etc. Don't rush into things and spend your own money, a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint. Chances are you wont use any of the data you gather in your first year and a half in your thesis anyway.

    Don't become obsessed with publishing, it will drive you mental. You are already struggling with the admin side of the PhD, the experimental side can be 10x more frustrating.
    You started to do a PhD to create an original body of knowledge in a specific area, through this process you'll hopefully uncover something publishable, in a perfect world you could publish the 90% of things which don't work (because that would save everyone in the area allot of time) but in reality if you have 1 paper per chapter, or one prospective paper per chapter you'll have an acceptable thesis.




  • papu wrote: »
    Don't become obsessed with publishing
    Depends upon career choices. If tenure track, then "publish or perish" at flagship universities.
    papu wrote: »
    a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint.
    Grand analogy.




  • bduffy wrote: »
    A few questions come to mind which might go towards solving your problem:
    Why are you working in this centre? (What attracted you initially....reputation? location? good money?)
    Who is mentoring you? (I'm thinking research team rather than possibly absent PI) - this is the person who will show you the shortcuts
    Are you alone with these problems?

    Over-arching risk assessments speed up a lot of work but paperwork is there for a reason (so you have to box clever).

    Buying items out of pocket can speed something's up but you should be able to claim it back through petty cash or equivalent.

    Hi all.

    Apologies for not responding, but your questions and statements gave me good food for thought. Thanks for taking the time to respond.


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  • Hi all.

    Apologies for not responding, but your questions and statements gave me good food for thought. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
    You are welcome on our Researcher forum. Cheers.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    Depends upon career choices. If tenure track, then "publish or perish" at flagship universities.

    Grand analogy.

    Actually, it's a while since I did mine (physics), but I never agreed with the marathon analogy......I reckoned it was more like interval training!! Jog, sprint, jog, run, walk, run, sprint, sprint, sprint uphill, jog, fall, roll :D

    OP - where's your supervisor in all this? Also, as others have said, unless you're determined to go into academia publishing is not critical.




  • Jawgap wrote: »
    Actually, it's a while since I did mine (physics), but I never agreed with the marathon analogy......I reckoned it was more like interval training!! Jog, sprint, jog, run, walk, run, sprint, sprint, sprint uphill, jog, fall, roll :D
    Just shared your "interval training" analogy with a doc student I'm coaching, and he agrees with you Jawgap.




  • Time to revisit this thread!
    OP - where's your supervisor in all this?

    Well, since I've finally left this particular programme, I can finally answer this. I hope that this helps prospective PhD students to focus their thoughts, and ask the right questions at interview time! And hopefully some of you will get a laugh out of this. This partially documents 'The Nonsense' and only scratches the surface!

    Basically, my supervisor was behind a lot of the nonsense. He was always present but rather lazy. He would come into my office/lab every few hours and if I was talking to someone - even on academic matters - he would ask me why I'm not working. If I was in the library writing up, he would email me to insist that I did it at my desk and not elsewhere on camp. I struggled with this initially, but I'm ex-military so this kind of nonsense isn't new to me so I went along with it. A pal I started with found this rather odd, so he started wondering aloud about the upcoming three years with this supervisor. The weirdest thing happened around this time. Myself and my pal were at lunch when a rather senior figure from a foreign civil service sat with us, and told us that two of his colleagues had been masters students of our supervisor. He warned us that they had been asked for money, or else their masters theses may not 'pass'. We had no reason to doubt this man given his standing.

    One day in the tea room, I made a passing remark about my time working as a builder/labourer. This was a mistake! Over a few weeks I was regularly cornered, as he outlined how 4 different builders had run off with his money, and that his extension wasn't finished, and that the roof was leaking. I figured he was a difficult customer, and I finally witnessed it whilst sharing a car en route to a conference. I heard him speak to his builders on the phone. His wife would ring him whenever the builders took a tea break and he would in-turn ring the builders and tell them to get back to work... he spent most of these calls berating them and calling them 'dishonorable gentlemen'. I was beginning to understand why they stopped turning up. One day after this died down, he kept me in his office for a few hours, outlining what needs to be done, and I helped him cost it up. He then requested that I do this work over a number of weekends, for free, and that he might cook me dinner as payment... When this conversation started he described it as 'hiring me' but eventually it became 'you can help your supervisor'. He was so disappointed that I wouldn't do it for free, got in a huff and asked me to leave. Like a petulant teenager, he ignored me for a few weeks, which was a lovely bit of peace and quiet! At this point, I started documenting EVERYTHING.

    I'll talk about academic matters. In my case this supervisor had got funding for a PhD in a rather niche area of chemistry - an area my centre had no experience in - so we lacked a lot of the instruments and facilities for handling and characterizing anything that was prepared or synthesized. That was my fault for not thinking this through when I was initially researching the position... I was a naive but enthusiastic student! He routinely parried off my ideas and requests for purchases/paperwork, so I was frequently left unable to complete any work for weeks on end. God forbid I go to the library in this time, he continued to berate me for not being in the lab, despite having no paperwork signed off to allow me to work, or in some cases, no reagents. Eventually I got to work with the help of my co-supervisor who was in every sense of the word, an utter bloody saint.

    Work went well and eventually a head of group at my centre put me forward to present to rather select group of experts, and it went brilliantly - I made great contacts and even during the lunch breaks I was sitting down with people with three decades experience in the field and making out plans on back of napkins, such was the excitement in the room! The following weeks were great for communicating with these folk, but my supervisor got wind and insisted that all communication went through him. I could sense the impending nightmare! Being cc'd in those emails was painful as he used every excuse to stop talking about the joint paper, in order to extol his virtues and accomplishments; he insisted on trying to get funding from them in every email. Eventually they stopped replying. Same happened when an oxford-based spin off offered to help me out by taking me in for a few weeks so that I could prepare/analyse/characterise my materials and receive further training - despite the fact that they were offering all this FOR FREE he insisted on creating a debate to secure more funding from them. Eventually they stopped replying to us both. These were just two instances where my efforts were completely undermined by him. I drove on, I really wanted this PhD so I just got my head down and cracked on.

    Around this time my pal got badly hit in a lab accident, and since he was already dubious of this supervisor and his methods (that resulted in this explosion) - he left for another uni. I probably should have gone too... Spending weeks doing safety paperwork to their meticulous standards is bad, but when your supervisor comes in and shows you 'the real way' to do the work, one should smell a rat! He managed to get an international student who brought funding with him, and all of a sudden my ideas that he had parried off had become the foundation of this new students work. He had essentially written a proposal based on a document I emailed to him in month three, outlining my proposed stages, papers, outcomes et cetera. My co-supervisor approached me and told me that this happened, and that he would act as a witness if I wanted to pursue it officially. I was a broken man by this stage so I started applying for jobs.

    The good news - I applied for a lab tech job in a rather prestigious uni, and one of the professors on the panel offered me a PhD instead! Myself and my co-supervisor resigned on the same day, and we've documented The Nonsense. It'll be hard to leave the other staff behind who have been nothing but lovely for the whole time, but hopefully the remaining students there will have a better time than those of us who have gone before.




  • Time to revisit this thread!



    Well, since I've finally left this particular programme, I can finally answer this. I hope that this helps prospective PhD students to focus their thoughts, and ask the right questions at interview time! And hopefully some of you will get a laugh out of this. This partially documents 'The Nonsense' and only scratches the surface!

    Basically, my supervisor was behind a lot of the nonsense. He was always present but rather lazy. He would come into my office/lab every few hours and if I was talking to someone - even on academic matters - he would ask me why I'm not working. If I was in the library writing up, he would email me to insist that I did it at my desk and not elsewhere on camp. I struggled with this initially, but I'm ex-military so this kind of nonsense isn't new to me so I went along with it. A pal I started with found this rather odd, so he started wondering aloud about the upcoming three years with this supervisor. The weirdest thing happened around this time. Myself and my pal were at lunch when a rather senior figure from a foreign civil service sat with us, and told us that two of his colleagues had been masters students of our supervisor. He warned us that they had been asked for money, or else their masters theses may not 'pass'. We had no reason to doubt this man given his standing.

    One day in the tea room, I made a passing remark about my time working as a builder/labourer. This was a mistake! Over a few weeks I was regularly cornered, as he outlined how 4 different builders had run off with his money, and that his extension wasn't finished, and that the roof was leaking. I figured he was a difficult customer, and I finally witnessed it whilst sharing a car en route to a conference. I heard him speak to his builders on the phone. His wife would ring him whenever the builders took a tea break and he would in-turn ring the builders and tell them to get back to work... he spent most of these calls berating them and calling them 'dishonorable gentlemen'. I was beginning to understand why they stopped turning up. One day after this died down, he kept me in his office for a few hours, outlining what needs to be done, and I helped him cost it up. He then requested that I do this work over a number of weekends, for free, and that he might cook me dinner as payment... When this conversation started he described it as 'hiring me' but eventually it became 'you can help your supervisor'. He was so disappointed that I wouldn't do it for free, got in a huff and asked me to leave. Like a petulant teenager, he ignored me for a few weeks, which was a lovely bit of peace and quiet! At this point, I started documenting EVERYTHING.

    I'll talk about academic matters. In my case this supervisor had got funding for a PhD in a rather niche area of chemistry - an area my centre had no experience in - so we lacked a lot of the instruments and facilities for handling and characterizing anything that was prepared or synthesized. That was my fault for not thinking this through when I was initially researching the position... I was a naive but enthusiastic student! He routinely parried off my ideas and requests for purchases/paperwork, so I was frequently left unable to complete any work for weeks on end. God forbid I go to the library in this time, he continued to berate me for not being in the lab, despite having no paperwork signed off to allow me to work, or in some cases, no reagents. Eventually I got to work with the help of my co-supervisor who was in every sense of the word, an utter bloody saint.

    Work went well and eventually a head of group at my centre put me forward to present to rather select group of experts, and it went brilliantly - I made great contacts and even during the lunch breaks I was sitting down with people with three decades experience in the field and making out plans on back of napkins, such was the excitement in the room! The following weeks were great for communicating with these folk, but my supervisor got wind and insisted that all communication went through him. I could sense the impending nightmare! Being cc'd in those emails was painful as he used every excuse to stop talking about the joint paper, in order to extol his virtues and accomplishments; he insisted on trying to get funding from them in every email. Eventually they stopped replying. Same happened when an oxford-based spin off offered to help me out by taking me in for a few weeks so that I could prepare/analyse/characterise my materials and receive further training - despite the fact that they were offering all this FOR FREE he insisted on creating a debate to secure more funding from them. Eventually they stopped replying to us both. These were just two instances where my efforts were completely undermined by him. I drove on, I really wanted this PhD so I just got my head down and cracked on.

    Around this time my pal got badly hit in a lab accident, and since he was already dubious of this supervisor and his methods (that resulted in this explosion) - he left for another uni. I probably should have gone too... Spending weeks doing safety paperwork to their meticulous standards is bad, but when your supervisor comes in and shows you 'the real way' to do the work, one should smell a rat! He managed to get an international student who brought funding with him, and all of a sudden my ideas that he had parried off had become the foundation of this new students work. He had essentially written a proposal based on a document I emailed to him in month three, outlining my proposed stages, papers, outcomes et cetera. My co-supervisor approached me and told me that this happened, and that he would act as a witness if I wanted to pursue it officially. I was a broken man by this stage so I started applying for jobs.

    The good news - I applied for a lab tech job in a rather prestigious uni, and one of the professors on the panel offered me a PhD instead! Myself and my co-supervisor resigned on the same day, and we've documented The Nonsense. It'll be hard to leave the other staff behind who have been nothing but lovely for the whole time, but hopefully the remaining students there will have a better time than those of us who have gone before.

    The Oxford spin out sounds like OMCS, a very helpful team if anyone needs help (even if it's not them in this case!).
    In any event you're happier now and part of a team which is best that you could wish for.
    Best of luck with the new path ðŸ˜


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  • New PhD supervisors can be problematic. I'm currently helping an ABD whose PhD chair does not have any prior experiences supervising PhD students, and additionally, has very little prior experience conducting researches as PI. He is stumbling along, and a great source of delays and confusion for his student. I've had to (behind-the-scenes) help this ABD reply to RFPs during past months to fund his research, and he got a letter of grant award last week fortunately. Now I'm helping him with his IRB submission with grant data collection deadlines rapidly approaching, as he was getting no useful help from his supervisor. He would request a change of chair to me, but I am not in his discipline, and besides, he is concerned that he may upset other faculty members if he tries to replace his current supervisor. How sad.




  • Inexperienced supervisors/chairs aside, I am also working with a PhD student with a visa that allows him to stay until May 2019, as well as a scholarship from his embassy for the same time period. He too is ABD, but unfortunately he seems to lack a sense of urgency today given the fully funded year he has ahead. Methinks he likes our university and community too much, putting play ahead of degree commitment, when time flies and may surprise him how long it takes to collect data, analyze results, write chapters 4 and 5, as well as continue to revise chapters 1, 2 and 3. His lack of urgency flies in the face of what The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported for years; i.e., that approximately half of ABD's never finish in America.




  • Many hoops. Practice leaping. 4 year. Masters. PhD. Post-doc.




  • Fathom wrote: »
    Many hoops. Practice leaping. 4 year. Masters. PhD. Post-doc.
    Holds one hoop.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    Holds one hoop.
    Leaps through soon.




  • 16 June 2018




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    16 June 2018

    What happens on my birthday?




  • What happens on my birthday?
    University turns into a pumpkin, or summer quarter, whichever sounds best wolf. Oh... Happy B-Day wolf!

    Of course, Piled-higher-and-Deeper students continue 24/7.




  • Contrary to the title of this thread, I find advanced degrees useful when pursuing a tenure-track university career. The economy across the pond has been doing quite well, fueling plenty of RFPs, grants, and research, allowing opportunities to publish and not perish.




  • [x] check the box? Or?


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  • Fathom wrote: »
    [x] check the box? Or?
    In offsite meeting, and will return to reply to this when time permits.




  • Operationalizes anticipation.




  • Fathom wrote: »
    [x] check the box? Or?
    This cliche does have some merit when progressing through degree programmes, especially the PhD. Sometimes I get the impression from other faculty that it's a right of passage that all must go through, in addition to acquiring prerequisite knowledge and investigating a significant research problem.




  • Had yet another discussion with someone this past weekend. They were critical not only of Ph.D. requirements, but also of the entire higher education system, claiming that degrees were just pieces of paper and check boxes on job applications. From a cost-benefits perspective, they did not feel that 4 year degrees, masters, or doctorates were worth the money or time, and that alternatives with practical training, skills, and experiences were more valued. We agreed to disagree.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    We agreed to disagree.
    Ditto.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    From a cost-benefits perspective, they did not feel that 4 year degrees, masters, or doctorates were worth the money or time, and that alternatives with practical training, skills, and experiences were more valued.
    I'd wonder how many of said skills would exist without a fcuktonne of theory generated by people with masters and doctorates?




  • the_syco wrote: »
    I'd wonder how many of said skills would exist without a fcuktonne of theory generated by people with masters and doctorates?
    Added to this. Ph.D. degrees require new knowledge discovery.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    Read awhile back in The Chronicle of Higher Education that the average length of time to get a PhD in Chemistry across the pond took roughly about 7 years. Have not read any articles about what such a commitment would take in Ireland.

    the average length of time? I know a few which passed their vivas after 7 or 8 in Ireland - mine was not far off that either, but the average? :eek:




  • dfx- wrote: »
    the average length of time? I know a few which passed their vivas after 7 or 8 in Ireland - mine was not far off that either, but the average? :eek:

    From my own and the two dozen or so Chem PhDs I know the average would be around 4.5 years.


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  • "Chemists with PhDs earned a median annual $98,000, according to the American Chemical Society's 2010 salary survey. This compared to the median $80,000 per year paid to master's degree holders and the median $69,800 yearly made by those with bachelor's degrees."

    Additionally, across the pond the PhD increases the likelihood of being a PI of a research team, obtaining research grants, achieving university tenure, and being visited by the magic wisdom fairy while you sleep after PhD award (but for some inexplicable reason the fairy has missed me thus far).


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