I'm not sure what's got hold of me lately. I feel my PhD has been a waste.
I'm close to the end of my fourth year. By September, it will be my fifth year in the program. When I started in the lab, I was assigned four different projects, all were outside of the lab's expertise (and of course I wouldn't have expertise either). I didn't really think much of them besides seeing them as brand new challenges, new opportunities to learn and explore. As time goes on, things were tough, and inevitably some projects came to dead ends. The surviving projects are one high-throughput screening I single-handedly optimized and ran with the help of core facility staffs, and one other interesting in-vivo project looking at novel substrates of the protein we study.
I spent so much time building the technology platform for these projects, and 2 years gone by in a blink. This process really leaves me feeling like a technician rather than a PhD student. Seriously, maybe I'm just not smart or efficient, but I really don't have the mental power to take on intellectual challenges after constant protocol optimization/troubleshooting. Testing compounds from our chemists seems to be my major role in the lab now, along with reading literatures trying to come up with a potential direction to proceed with the in-vivo project. It's a lot of thinking. A lot. My advisor doesn't seem to understand; as someone who just sits in the office and read papers, she seems to have forgotten how it was like to be at the bench. I really see no point in communicating this to her, nor she has the experience in these techniques. My name would be added to the paper whenever any of the compounds I help tested gets published; so far I have 2-3 middle author publications (do these count as anything?).
I don't want to totally discredit the training I received here. It's good to have the ability to troubleshoot or build something from scratch. During the problem solving phase, I acquired a lot of knowledge from all kinds of lab techniques I could lay my hands on, critically think about how they could help my projects, and quickly learn them. But still, sometimes I wish I joined a better established lab. Instead of devoting copious amount of time laying foundations for the lab, I wish that the time I spent would be more beneficial in moving my own projects further. It's hard being someone's only-second grad student. Want to pack up and go home.