I just finished my first year at a prestigious graduate program in Biophysics. I’ve always enjoyed solving quantitatively inclined problems and have aspired for a career in academia and just after finishing one year, I feel like I don’t enjoy this field anymore. Here are a few reasons I might be feeling so:
(i) I decided to join an experimental lab, having never done experiments in the past and have failed miserably. This choice was mainly driven by interest in the project and the reputation of the advisers as excellent mentors and successful scientists.
(ii) I meet with my advisers (I’m co-advised by two mentors) only once every three weeks.
(iii) My advisers, though experts in their fields, are new to the area that my project is related to. This has several implications. I started my project looking for collaborators (offering certain samples of transgenic animals) by myself. My advisers are hardly able to offer any technical advice. The project that I was assigned has turned out to be way more difficult than both my advisers thought. It also implies that almost no one in the lab (except for one other graduate student, who has little interest to stay in academia) has any useful feedback on my project. Not to mention, lab meetings end up being of little to no value.
(iv) I’ve tried talking to people on campus, looking for people doing similar research and getting some feedback, but that hasn’t worked for me because there aren’t any.
All of this has seriously deteriorated my confidence. While I can go on with my current project and get something done by the time I graduate I’m fairly convinced that I cannot produce anything significant enough to be able to stay in academia.
Considering all this, I have three options:
(i) Joining a different lab that does research of computational/quantitative nature, something I love doing. I’ve already started talking to students of a lab that I might enjoy working in, have started reading their previous work and am considering doing an independent study/coursework with the concerned professor. However, this would involve switching to a different area of research and render the last eight months useless. While I can live with the latter, I’d like to know the repercussions of switching to a different area one year through a graduate program. I’ve just switched careers from Physics to Biophysics a year back with little experience with Biology, hoping to dwell on my quantitative skills and am almost 25 years of age.
(ii) Quit and join a Master’s program to gain some confidence and think about returning back to academia/find a place in industry. That would mean starting a PhD at 28. What does that mean as far as applications in the US are concerned?
(iii) Continue until I complete the requirements for a Master’s degree and quit – I don’t think this would be a good idea considering my diverse background. I’m not sure if I have specialized skills for jobs in industry yet.
If you’re still reading this question, I’m really grateful for showing patience. It’ll be very helpful if you could comment on the three options I’ve listed.