First of all, I need to apologize for another PhD quitting tread. I’ve been reading tons and tons of similar posts over the past few months but nevertheless my story is quite different and not just another 2nd year blues. I’d very appreciate your suggestions and opinions. It is not going to be short but you might find it interesting anyway 🙂

Unlike many other people who go very straight up with their education, my path was very curvy and unpredictable: I am from a eastern European (non-EU) country where I began studying medicine at the age of 16 (right after 10 years of school). 6 years later I graduated with an MD in Preventive Medicine and Public Health. This was followed by a year of professional specialization in Epidemiology that I did in the same medical school. My diploma project was related to some specific infectious diseaseses. After I finished and became a Doctor of Epidemiology, I was still unsure if I really want to stay in epidemiology but I knew I want to continue with infectious diseases. At the same time I felt a huge urge to get out of the country and experience something new as well as challenge myself. That actual feeling of proving myself was the engine that drove me further and further later on. So, I set to find an internship somewhere working with those infectious diseases. It happened that I found a place in the prestigious university of one of the Middle Eastern countries. This internship was a lab-based research.. It was new and exciting. I saved some money, got a small scholarship and went for this adventure. I jumped into unknown world of biomedical research and academic lifestyle. It was not easy but I needed to prove myself that I can do it. I worked hard and was very interested to study everything I could in that lab. Initially planned 5 months became more that 1.5 years of at some point paid internship. I worked on the applied projects and I liked it as it was clear to me why I am doing it and what’s the goal of it. My PI appreciated my courage and dedication and as I was involved in many projects – I became a co-author of several papers. That experience convinced me that molecular biology and science are the things I want to do as it was interesting to discover so many things medical students are never taught. So, I decided to study molecular biology and I needed a new challenge. Europe seemed like a next step. I applied for several universities and got accepted for MSc in molecular biology in a old and well known university of a rich European country. That was super hard-core and unexpected experience. The program was international and very very competitive. The work load was super high and things were extremely difficult. I was sitting on the lectures and panicking, as I could not understand what they are about. There was no language barrier. There were years of BSc in biology that I did not have… Nevertheless, I locked myself in the library and managed to stick to it despite enormous stress and anxiety. I passed all the exams with good grades and got very confident and proud of myself. I was very interested and really liked most of what I studied, so I guess it was the driving force. For my Msc thesis, I wanted to stay in the same area of infectious diseases, but there were no such labs in that university. I was searching for a lab worldwide doing this kind of research, sending lots and lots of emails and eventually I found a place in a lab in a good University of another even richer and more prestigious European country. More importantly the proposed project was in line with experiences in the Middle Eastern University so I was happy to continue doing applied research in that area. I had to arrange all the formalities and organize that external Msc thesis. Did that. Went on- spent 9 months working on the MSc thesis. Really liked that subject and technology I worked with. This work got even published and I am co-first author there. I wanted to stay in that area and do more applied projects and grow in that narrow field that would allow me to become an expert in that applied area of that disease. Asked the PI in that lab to stay as a PhD and told him that I want to continue working on the same applied topic. He agreed. However, when I started the PhD he convinced me that it’s not gonna be a good topic and talked me to accept a very vagus idea of a basic research that I was supposed to develop into something. I was not very sure, confused, very reluctant, but decided to try doing basic reasearch as I trusted my adviser and….. That was a beginning of a big mistake.

I am now 2 years into my PhD. The project got stuck and I have very little data on it. I tried hard to make some progress but faced tons of failed experiments. Than one day my PI came to me and said “ok, this stuff is not working, try that one” and gave another vague topic that I was not interested at all. It was so random, even more random that the initial idea. This together with the toxic environment in the lab led to a complete burn out. I have never felt that bad in my life. Anxiety and panic attacks and also realization that during last 7 years I was chasing a career dream I do not want to do anymore. I lost all the confidence and literally hate going to the lab and doing experiments. And because of that- I procrastinate a lot and do very little and even these things do not work. My PI is a very nice guy and he is trying to help but I am so mad at myself that I bought his argument in the beginning of my Phd and did not search for other options. I’ve lost all the motivation to continue doing this and realized that it is not he right path for me and I do not want to do research anymore at all. Moreover I see that those who finish struggle to find a job outside of academia anf those who manage – mostly go into pharma. I could’ve gone there 7 years ago, right after the medical school. In fact some of my friends did that and now have progressed in their carriers very high and they do not have a Phd. All these years I was driven by the idea to prove myself I can go up higher and higher. And I know that I can- I just don’t see the point anymore. I feel like wasting another 2 years of doing something I do not like would be even more hurtful that quitting after 2years of PhD. I do not regret the master I did but regret starting the PhD without giving it a good thought (well, as many I suppose). My adviser will retire in 2 years, so I need to come up with a thesis on the subject I am not interested in almost no time. Moreover the environment in the lab became very toxic. All the people who were there during my MSc thesis left and the new ones are busy playing politics and fighting. I’m turning 30 in 6 months. If I quit it now- I would regret, if I do not quit- I will be miserable and extremely unhappy. And then finish (if) at 32 to start a new career again… This alone makes me extremely stressed.

On a good site- I realized that I’m quite good at presenting and teaching and I enjoy solving logical problems and thinking as well as talking about science and communicating with people in general. Lab work can be very isolating and depressing. So, I am trying to see if I can apply for some position in pharma, such as medical affairs but of course unfinished PhD is a shitty stain on my quite interesting and overall successful CV. I know that dropping out would ruin it but I feel completely drained and out of energy to continue doing this as this PhD has became something I never wanted to do and now I am stuck thinking what to do with it and with my life. I did not mention all the high expectations of my family and friends and that they would be disappointed. It is also ruining my relationship and I need to change something not to go crazy again. All these years I needed to challenge myself and prove that I CAN go one step higher. Now I know that I probably can do it, it is just so pointless and unpleasant.

I am sorry for such a long text. Would very much appreciate your ideas on what the hell I am doing with my life. Thanks.

I planning to drop out of a PhD program after one semester because of my encounter with a professor with little experience.

This professor is also very intervening, non-perceptable, unapproachable, and worst of all, willing to go to any extent to sabotage my career.

The advisor altered credits of some courses to make sure that even though I got As in those courses, they will have a tiny efect on my cumulative average grade.
Obviously, when I apply for another university, the fact that I’ve quit and my average grade will raise some questions.

So, what can I say in my statement of purpose that will put my quitting in the best possible light?

I planning to drop out of a PhD program after one semester and apply to another top university for a PhD program. This is because of my encounter with a professor with little experience and who is very intervening, non-perceptable, unapproachable and worst of all willing to go to any extent to sabotage your career. The advisor meddled with credits to make sure that I cannot be in good academic standing even though I got A’s in courses. Obviously, I have to submit my transcripts from all universities, and my quitting and grade will raise some questions. So, what can I say in my statement of purpose (or anywhere, I suppose) that will put my quitting in the best possible light?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

I have recently started a PhD program but already have a good idea for a research path that could have culminated in a thesis if not for the fact that I will possibly soon be no longer registered as a PhD student. I will not be able to continue working on this direct topic, but there is a chance that I will be able to contribute to very similar research topics in an auxiliary function, so I will not entirely be “out” of the field. How possible is it, then, to use what research I’ve already done to contribute to a new attempt at a thesis at a later date?

Circumstantial information

  • The field is related to technology, so am I correct in assuming that this is likely to be riskier than in fields which are less volatile? — If my contributions are no longer “new”, I suppose they will not be able to be used towards a thesis.
  • Likewise, if I work on similar topics albeit in supporting roles, is it not possible to incorporate knowledge from these roles formally in a thesis assuming I have publications to support my contributions to said work?
  • Finally, there are administrative issues to address which I have very little experience with such as passing exams and such; Could e.g. coursework already taken be applied to the new stint as a PhD student? Is there even perhaps a “minimum time” required for working on one’s thesis, preventing them from e.g. in the most extreme case writing a thesis before even starting an academic program and then handing it in after finishing the last exam? I suppose that this is handled on a case-by-case basis, but I’d be very grateful even for anecdotal evidence.

There are a number of questions on this site about lacking (good) references from people who know your work, but none seem to address a situation where you lack references because there never were any people who know your work: Due to the nature of the department and especially the projects my supervisor is responsible for, I work entirely alone. This means that after one year I have no one whom I can say “knows” what I can do. Whom do I turn to for references in the case that I work entirely alone and I’m too new for anyone to be familiar with me?

On a given job application site, for example, I have to provide not just one but three references. In my case, even getting one is uncertain because my relationship with my supervisor has deteriorated. Even so, he is only aware of my work on a superficial level. My previous degree was finished 5 years ago, so I doubt that my supervisor from back then could provide much of a reference, either. The job I held before starting was also for only a very short period, as was the one before that…

Addendum 29/10/2017: I am leaving the PhD program, so I do not have much time to cultivate any possible sources of recommendation letters; I have to make due with the relationships I currently have, which are very few.

My field is extremely competitive for TT jobs that I:

  1. will most likely be unable to land after graduation
  2. don’t even really desire anymore.

In comparison to my classmates, my research productivity is absolutely pitiful. It is stymied by an apathy for my subfield and academia in general that has developed over my 2 year tenure in the program.

Problem is, I can’t get the industry jobs I want right now due to underdeveloped programming skills and inadequate networking. My best bet is to stick around and beef these up until I see an opportunity to leave.

If I drop out now with my master’s, I will have to start out at square one and get entry level work that uses none of the skills I have developed (we’re talking competition w/ HS grads).

However, I have already told my advisor about my doubts for a future in academia. They approved an academic leave request due to some issues in my personal life. At the end of my leave period, I have to tell my advisor that I wish to complete the program and stay in academia.

On one hand, my situation is not so different from any other PhD student forced to go alt-ac due to disinterest or poor performance, but on the other hand, I will have to mislead my advisor to return.

I only want to continue at this point for job prospects, and my advisor won’t be inclined to take me back if I tell them this.

I am willing to pick up the pace with my research and get the PhD, so it won’t be a complete waste for my advisor, but it will still be largely a waste of their resources.

A similar question by another PhD student can be found here – When is the right time to tell my advisor that I plan on leaving my PhD program?

My field has extreme competition for TT jobs that I 1) will most likely be unable to land after graduation 2) don’t even really desire anymore. In comparison to my classmates, my research productivity is absolutely pitiful. It is stymied by an apathy for my subfield and academia in general that has developed over my 2 year tenure in the program.

Problem is, I can’t get the industry jobs I want right now due to underdeveloped programming skills and inadequate networking. My best bet is to stick around and beef these up until I see an opportunity to leave. If I drop out now with my master’s, I will have to start out at square one and get entry level work that uses none of the skills I have developed (we’re talking competition w/ HS grads).

However, I have already told my advisor about my doubts for a future in academia. They approved an academic leave request due to some issues in my person life. At the end of my leave period, I have to tell my advisor that I wish to complete the program and stay in academia.

On the one hand, my situation is not so different from any other PhD student forced to go alt-ac due to disinterest or poor performance, but on the other hand, I will have to mislead my advisor to return. I only want to continue at this point for job prospects, and my advisor won’t be inclined to take me back if I tell them this.

A similar question by another PhD student can be found here – When is the right time to tell my advisor that I plan on leaving my PhD program?

I am a faculty member at an R2 institution in the US, looking ahead to a sabbatical. On paper, my university has a typical sabbatical policy: every seven years, a semester at full pay or a year at half pay. However, the administration has recently created policies, apparently for financial reasons, whose effect is to make it harder to actually take sabbaticals. I may not be allowed to take a sabbatical of the length I had planned, or I may be forced to delay it to some unknown future term. There is considerable uncertainty as to what will happen in the long run.

I am wondering whether this kind of thing is common.

Teaching loads at my institution are high, and I had been looking forward to sabbatical as a time to focus on my research, which is very important to me personally and professionally. So I am wondering whether this is a sign that I ought to consider looking for a job somewhere else, or whether I’m overreacting.

I don’t really know whether this is the sort of general annoyance that one might occasionally encounter anywhere, or whether it is truly an indication that this institution is not going to be a good fit for my professional goals. Basically, would it be reasonable to quit over something like this?

I understand that sabbaticals sometimes have to be postponed or restructured due to operational considerations, e.g. whether the department will have sufficient faculty to teach all required courses that term, and that this could happen anywhere. But the present case is more systemic.

I am at the late stage of a PhD program. For some personal reasons, I have decided to quit this program and apply for a new PhD program in a different country.

I have presented one part of my research in an international conference, and I am about to submit it to a journal. Beside this paper, I have prepared 3 other papers but I have not presented them anywhere. I am the sole author of these three un-published works.

Now my question is whether it is possible to bring these researches to the next university and publish them afterwards? I am the legal owner of these researches? copyright-wise I mean.

I would be more than glad if anyone helps me in this tough situation.

PS: I would have no problem for getting recommendation letters.

I’m extremely unsure of what route I want to take in life.

I desire to study at a top UK university, studying earth science. I’ve found a PhD course which sounds like a dream (it teaches all the skills I would wish for). No one in my family/ancestry has attended in university (I come from a long line of farmers from a developing country), never mind a top institution. While this gives me the desire to apply for graduate studies, it leaves me unsure of my capabilities or what possibilities exist within graduate school.

I’m uncertain if I’m cut out for a PhD. Originally I was only after a masters, but this PhD seems more appealing in terms of skills taught than everything else I have seen.

If I were to take an earth sci PhD at a top UK uni and decide it isn’t for me, is it possible to complete it early and leave with a masters?

Further Details

I wish to study at graduate level at a top uni.

I’ve decided to go for a 1-yr masters to play it safe, as I’m unsure of my abilities. However, masters all seem to either be one long dissertation or a dissertation alongside lectures/field trips. I would love to also learn “hard skills” related to lab work, programming, etc…

Found a earth sci PhD that teaches programming, thesis writing, maths, lectures across multiple departments, earth science overview, project planning. A well rounded course! I would love to take this course, but as mentioned, have no idea if I’m capable of composing dissertation level research/thesis/publications.

(I’ve struggled to figure out if you are able to drop out after 1/2 years and receive a masters of sorts, but here is the link to the course)