I’m currently a PhD student suffering from extreme anxiety after finding some mistakes in my scientific paper 7 months back. I’ve talked to my supervisor about it and he said that those were simple errors that would not affect my conclusions… Something that triggers for my anxiety is the fact that we issued a formal statement to correct them, hence this will be forever on my record. Furthermore, I discovered a ridiculous calculation error in the estimation of one of the parameters that I’m comparing in my paper that would change the looks of three points in my graph (which has around 30 points in total) -and this wasn’t corrected in the statement because the estimation I used, even though originated from a silly mistake, can still be valid depending on how you consider the system. I suffer from constant fear of people thinking that I’m a dishonest researcher and that I fabricated data, because the data that I got from a mistake looks better than the “correct” one, even though the main parameter we show in this particular figure doesn’t change in either case… I’m really against dishonesty of any kind, so this is a huge deal for me.

I know that my supervisor assured me that everything was ok and that he is happy with my performance regardless of those mistakes, however I can’t help but think that my record is “stained” and that I’m a bad person that does not belong in academia. I was doing pretty well so far, but then my entire life fell apart after this. I feel like I lost the ability of feeling excited about my research… I think I’ve failed my life goals and my moral values.

Have someone gone through something comparable in academic life? How did you cope with the constant feeling of unworthiness?

Thanks in advance…

Edit: Differently from the question pointed out as duplicate, I would also like to know how researchers view my mistakes and how can I regain my confidence to carry on with my work..

I have been researching a specific topic in computer science for a couple of years now and a well established professor and his students have recently published a couple of publications in that topic too. In their work they do reference the well known and well cited previous work that basically everyone in that topic references, but I have noticed that they ignore (don’t reference) a couple of publications that are doing essentially what they are publishing about, i.e. extremely related work. And I am wondering even though there is a gap of a couple of years between the work they have published and the available previous literature how did they miss referencing the relevant previous work? Was it done intentionally or did they just do a hasty job at finding more recent related work?

Either way my main concern here is if there is anything that can be done to remedy the situation now, since the paper has already been published?

I am a 3rd-year computer engineering student at a mid-tier state school with a high GPA (3.97/4.0), top of my class, and 1 semester worth of research. I am also currently participating in a very prestigious REU program, so I do have a decent amount of research experience. I have also taken the GRE and done pretty well (mid 80s) percentile in verb/quant and 99th percentile in AWA. I’ve also basically narrowed down my research interests to 2 fields, so I have a general idea of what I’d like to specialize in. My goal is to become a Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and I’m starting to contemplate applying to grad schools. I really want a PhD because I know that it is absolutely necessary for my goals.

My only problem is that I am afraid of doing the PhD, because I feel that I won’t remember everything (or a good amount) of everything from undergrad. This especially scares me because despite my successes in undergrad, I’m not sure that I could pass the qualifying exams. I guess I’m just afraid of the unknown; do you think that I should just go for it?

Thanks, sorry if my question comes off as rambling; I really want to earn a PhD so I can be a professor or faculty member at some point and knowing that I could fail is very scary.

I am a 3rd year computer engineering student at a mid-tier state school with a high gpa(3.97/4.0), top of my class, and 1 semester worth of research. I am also currently participating in very prestigious REU program, so I do have a decent amount of research experience. I have also taken the GRE and done pretty well(mid 80s) percentile in verb/quant and 99th percentile in AWA. I’ve also basically narrowed down my research interests to 2 fields, so I have a general idea of what I’d like to specialize in. My goal is to become a Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and I’m starting to contemplate applying to grad schools. I really want a PhD because I know that it is absolutely necessary for my goals.

My only problem is that I am afraid of doing the PhD, because I feel that I won’t remember everything (or a good amount) of everything from undergrad. This especially scares me because despite my successes in undergrad, I’m not sure that I could pass the qualifying exams. I guess I’m just afraid of the unknown; do you think that I should just go for it?

Thanks, sorry if my question comes off as rambling; I really want to earn a PhD so I can be a professor or faculty member at some point and knowing that I could fail is very scary.

I have been researching a specific topic in computer science for couple of years now and a well established professor and his students have recently published couple of publications in that topic too. In their work they do reference the well known and well cited previous work that basically everyone in that topic references, but I have noticed that they ignore (don’t reference) couple of publications that are doing essentially what they are publishing about, i.e. extremely related work. And I am wondering even though there are couple of years gap between the work they have published and the available previous literature how did they missed referencing relevant previous work? Was it done intentionally or did they just do a hasty job at finding more recent related work?

Either way my main concern here is there anything that can be done to remedy the situation now, since the paper has already been published?

I am about to finish an undergraduate degree, with a good enough GPA that even if I got C’s in all of my current classes, my final overall cumulative GPA would remain above 3.6.

Assuming I graduate with all the whistles in my diploma it would be:

Honours Bachelors of science in computer science with distinction and a minor in pure mathematics (quite pompous).

In order to complete all of those whistles I had to do supervised research for two semesters. Being a naive undergraduate, I knocked on proffessor’s doors, asking for a supervisor, and one of them, very generously agreed. He suggested a problem I thought was interesting and so I started the research. I originally started throwing analysis at the problem, and started trying to solve some really complex differential equations (which kept me motivated). However I did not make much progress, so after my supervisor marked that I needed to get something, I fully changed my approach and started using some geometric approximations to solve the issue. This generated some results, but was too simple. I’d like to say that my results were inversely proportional to how much effort I was putting in the research.

Time passed, I had multiple potential solutions and a way to evaluate them. On the last week before the final submission I realised there was a bug in my code base that was destroying the results (they were mathematically impossible). I tried to find the error, but the best I could do was identify an area where a mistake could have happened.

Finally I got my evaluation on the course after presenting it. The feedback said the methods were a bit naive and could be improved on, and it was dissapointing that I didn’t get numerical results (I had visual results, not numerical), however since I was not a seasoned researcher they decided to be lenient and gave me an A anyway.

I applied to the grad program at my university, and asked the same proffessor to be my supervisor for the grad program. I am in desperate need of financial support until the grad program starts, and so my supervisor said I could do summer research for him and in the meanwhile we could discuss what the grad project could be. What he wants me to do is finish my previous work and get a publication.

The issue is that I legitimately feel that dinking bleach would be more motivating (I am using this metaphor to convey just how much anxiety this is giving me). This research really does not appeal to me in any way or form, and the interesting part is over, all that is missing is finding the bug, which could take more than two weeks to solve and implementing a couple of modifications to make my naive methods less naive if things go well, or complete failure to finish it in the worst case.

In addition to that I have been doing independent research simultaneously as I have been taking courses and doing everything else. Although this independent research still needs a lot of work, it’s in a good place, I have already improved many of the papers I have read and have multiple ideas to explore. In an ideal world I would win the lottery tomorrow and I could just support myself while I carry on with this research.

I am not sure how to approach my supervisor and tell him I don’t want to finish this research, nor how to suggest to do my research instead and get a publication out of that, or even if I should touch on this topic at all.

I am a PhD student mid stage, working on computational aspects of mathematics. I am working on a research problem with my supervisor. I am at a stage where I can’t take much help from the supervisor because I am in the fourth year. I can’t do something like going to supervisors office to verify my answers. I did these things in the initial years of my PhD, but now I can’t poke my supervisor that often.

I am facing a difficulty that how to come with something non-trivial on myself. The problem with me is that I go into wrong directions many times, and in the past I have spent many days, weeks, or longer on these wrong directions. I want to minimise the number of these trials and failures. Does it come with age?

Question: Is there any way to pick a right direction (which yields a paper) in research while solving a problem? I can take the help of my research supervisor once in two weeks. However, many times a day or week, I also need to discard some of the possible directions of research.

I am a postdoc who was supposed to co-supervise a PhD student along with another academic who invited me for that. However, I ended up fully supervising the student after the supervisor became too busy to attend meetings. Eventually, I also ended up defining a problem for the student, which, after 2 months of work, we discovered it is invalid. How should I deal with this situation? I feel that it’s my fault and feel bad for the student. The student is in his first year, and this is his first research problem.

Any ideas on this from experienced supervisors over here? Thank you.

I am from a mathematical background yet I feel this question is more suited to Academia SA rather than MO. Even though what follows is obviously opinion-based and taste-dependent, I believe most of the organizational problems and choices in time management are common to us all.

The one-line question is in the title:

How to manage all the different aspects of an academic life?

Let me be more precise. Once in the academic world, with one’s PhD degree and some position to continue in this path, there are many different aspects we have to deal with, for instance:

  • research (i.e. ultimately publish papers)
  • community (i.e. give talks, attend conferences, reviewing, etc.)
  • learning (extending the grasp on the related fields, changing interests, etc.)
  • administration (also including applications)
  • teaching

None of these is unrelated to the others, and most are highly time-consuming. It is then important to be able to prioritize them in some sense, without having some of these aspects fade behind the apparent urge or importance of the others (for instance, keeping going on long-term reading/studying projects of fields quite new seem to me to be a hard task when the schedule is already full of teaching and current research projects). Is there any other axis on which to classify and choose activities depending on the time available or the mood, for instance :

  • short/long tasks
  • strong/weak focus
  • technical/meta type
  • mastered/new content

Also, many research projects and ideas can accumulate, as well as social tasks (like reviewing), so it is necessary to know when to stop and when to begin again with new project. So in a more managerial aspect, questions can be:

  • what is a day/week made of?
  • how to keep track of all these aspects
  • how to keep a certain balance

Of course comments and critics are welcome on the choices of points I have listed above, and could help clarify other dimensions I have not taken into account.