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Hope.for.the.best

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Hope.for.the.best last won the day on July 4 2019

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  1. First of all, you can never be in a project that is 100% aligned to your interest. What you do right now does not dictate what you do in future. Something you learn in nanoengineering will be applicable to bioengineering. Even if you go to that professor who is in bioengineering, there would be bits of his project that you don't like. That said, if your PI is so tight on money that she may not be able to support your PhD, then you should indeed consider switching lab. Resources are important for timely completion. I agree with you that you should not reveal your thoughts to your PI. It's fine to network with others, including that bioengineering professor. You never know. Since he is friendly with your PI, they may collaborate at some points. Then you will have some bioengineering work!
  2. I am nearly 2 years into my postdoc and hope I may be of help. I would say 6 months is a very short time in research. I am also in life sciences and I haven't produced any great results until very recently. It would be ideal to get some publications before you quit. Your CV would look much better. It's still helpful to have publications when you apply for jobs in industry. They would most likely want to hear about both your PhD and postdoc. It would also be easier to navigate the reference letter issue with your PI. PIs can be very upset if you leave without producing anything, as they invested funding on you and funding is tight. Other than personality, your PI may think that you are capable of driving your own research as a postdoc, so he would not lay out a game plan in details. Why not do one yourself and go through with him? Then you can fill the gaps with his advice. Your current plan of action is great. You don't usually end up in your dream job right away. Try to make the most of your current position and move on to the next. You could apply to jobs in your preferred city while working on your current project. You could request for a phone or skype interview if it's difficult for you to travel there. All the best!
  3. I think "personal reasons" would suffice on an application form. You would only get them concerned whether you can finish the program if you mention anything about mental health. If they bring the withdrawal up in an interview, you could say you didn't do enough research on the school, programs etc. and found that it was not a right fit. Then, you could add that you learnt the lesson and did thorough research before applying to PhD programs. You could then elaborate on why you choose the programs you are applying. So long as you demonstrate to them that you have thought carefully before applying, you would be fine.
  4. I am not sure how advisors from your school allocate preference to students. My school tends to be first come, first served, as advisors prefer to work with students they already know a fair bit. That said, it doesn't mean their most preferred student will work well with them. It all depends on whether both are willing to get along with each other. I am quoting my own example. If you read my previous posts, you would know I struggled immensely with 2 toxic advisors, *Andy and *Cecilia. I was their first choice student. (Well, they actually wanted to accept another student who did well at internship, but she decided to enter medical school instead.) Anyway, we had a major conflict over whether to finish my PhD thesis first or submit that high impact paper. I obviously wanted to finish as my scholarship was running out. They wanted me to do a big and technically-impossible experiment to finish that paper instead. I managed to submit my thesis in the end, but we broke up after that. Not only did they not congratulate on me when I got my current post-doctoral position, but also not attending my graduation ceremony! I am actually glad that they did not come, but still it's a shame we ended up like that. Back to what you are wondering, your advisor might have thoughts of working with their "dream" student, but so what? They have accepted you and you are their first priority right now. There is no point for them to hang up on that student anymore. Rough weeks and tough conversations with advisors must happen at some points. There is no exemption even if you were their first choice. I would suggest that you interact with your advisor without having the assumption that they value you less because you were on the waitlist. Try to be objective as you would do with other academics. It's not a bad idea to reach out to a campus counsellor. They can offer tools for you to cope with the situation. Wish you all the best!
  5. This must be a very stressful time for you, but you are getting there! I have been through the PhD defense stage and can totally relate. First of all, given you have done well in conferences, and your committee and supervisor also think you do well, please believe that you will do well! Prepare your oral defense as you did for your conference presentations. Go through your talk with your supervisor. Schedule for some practice, preferably in front of your supervisor and colleagues. Think of potential questions that you may get asked and prepare for them. Then you are ready to go! Now, I am sure you will ask, "What if my expert external examiner asks me difficult questions?" Well, it is possible for surprising questions to come up, but you know your project the best! Your expert examiner happens to know a great deal of your field, but he does not know your project as well as you. Don't freak out even if his questions seem to catch you. It's more likely a sign that he is interested in your work (which is good) than trying to find flaws to fail you. No, he will not dislike your study design if you can justify the rationale behind it. Being scientifically sound is what makes a study likeable. You must have got that to excel in conferences and internal reviews. And don't worry about any flaws you identified. It is okay to be not perfect. In fact, we can never be perfect. What is more important is to be aware of the flaws (i.e. limitations), and how you will address them for future work. This is a major part you will get assessed on. Finally, publishing a paper is very different from defending your PhD. Even if you present good work, they may still reject you or get you to do a lot more work. It is very common. It doesn't mean your work is bad. (Yes, reviewer comments can be very harsh.) For the time being, put the publication aside and focus on your defense. Don't forget to give yourself time to relax. You need it. I am sure you will succeed. Good luck!
  6. The fact that your supervisor has no funding and is affected by personal issues is a big red flag. You could end up in a helpless situation if you proceed to do a PhD with them. If at all possible, I would apply elsewhere to someone who is in your field of your interest and has the resources and capacity to support you. I second AP's advice on approaching the subject. (1) Office politics do exist in academia. Although your supervisor and the professor you suggest may appear to get along well, they may not want to work with each other for various reasons. You don't wish to get involved in it by accident. (2) You are not sure how available that professor is. (3) The professor is not in your field, so you may not receive quality guidance and support. It is common for PhD students to have co-supervisors, so it is not an offending request. Meet with your current supervisor and go from there.
  7. From what you described, I would say you have done more than enough to get ready for grad school. The only thing I can think of is getting the paperwork ready for your studies, especially the ones where you need to recruit participants (if your advisor hasn't done so). If the paperwork is there, it would be good to start recruiting, as it takes time to get the numbers. Otherwise, please spend more of your free time to do something you enjoy, e.g. plan a good trip, as life gets busy and stressful once you start. It's rare to have a 2-month break! Take it easy. You will get there.
  8. Well, every supervisor is busy. No supervisors have the time to sit there and wait for you to get to them. That said, I agree that your supervisor has accepted too many students than she can comfortably manage. I don't know why your university doesn't step in to ensure the welfare of students, given they have a policy in place. A PhD student or postdoc can give you technical guidance (e.g. how an experiment is done), but they can't replace your supervisor for academic guidance. Anyway, I bet you have got all your data to get to the write-up stage. That's a big milestone. I would say finish your thesis and move on. Pushing others is rarely taken positively. That said, in your situation with the other student, you could have politely talked to her about how both of you shared the lab space to get work done. Ideally, that would lead to both of you coming to an agreement, but I reckon things can be tricky with these issues. Anyway, it's sorted now, so let's forget about that. There is not much you can do regarding your supervisor's shaming behaviours. If you read my posts, you would have known about *Cecilia. She loves to shame students like your supervisor. "You are in your 3rd year of PhD, so you should know..." If an experiment did not go well, she would accuse us of wasting her money (so we were told by her then-postdoc not to show her any data until they are flawless!!!). In such cases, we had to say "I am still working on the experiment" to avoid her harsh comments. That should not be the case, as a supervisor should work with students to troubleshoot. Anyway, you are going to finish and leave her, so hang in there! The obvious reason why that student failed was errors in stat analysis. If the analysis is wrong, then the interpretation and conclusion are skewed. If you are to submit a manuscript, please ensure you receive her confirmation (as well as all other authors) before action. For your thesis, you need to be more proactive to ensure your data are correctly analysed. Don't count on your supervisor as she may not bother to check. Reach out to someone who can help with stat analysis. You can also read some stat textbooks to help you with that. Those people are very busy, so they may not get back to you that quickly. Does your university have a health service? It is not a bad idea to see a doctor there. They can treat your depression and refer you to a counsellor (if your university doesn't have one). You are definitely intelligent (as the book you are reading says) to have a PhD lining up. I would say not to give that up yet. It is easy to get trapped in a negative mindset with a bad supervisor. I have been there before so I can relate. I agree that you should take a break to attend to your mental health. Is there any way you can defer your PhD studies? To my knowledge, many PhD programs allow students to defer.
  9. It is really hard to comment as I don't know your field. I would say your strategy is wise, i.e. applying to both. If you get accepted into a PhD program, then you are competitive enough. If not, then you can get there after completing MA. Please be reassured that if you are prepared for a MA, then you are also prepared for a PhD. In most cases, PhD is just an extended version of MA. FYI, I did my PhD straight after undergrad and I am doing fine. Good luck!
  10. I am sorry to hear what you are going through. Having problems with supervisor at grad school is more often than you think. So you are not alone, even though you feel that way. I too had a difficult time with my PhD supervisors. Feel free to read my previous posts. It sounds like your supervisor does not listen to students' concerns and offer them appropriate support. It is also bad for her to keep shaming her students for not knowing something. Nobody knows everything. If it is something essential for a student to know but he/she doesn't know, she can simply ask him/her to look that up. What worry me is that she does not check a manuscript thoroughly and let students send it out (and then blames later if something goes wrong). Don't get me wrong, it is every author's responsibility to ensure the accuracy of a manuscript. However, given she is a supervisor who has more experience and leads the research, she should input more to ensure what goes out is 100% correct and educate students the importance of that. While corrections are allowed for many journals, this does not leave a good impression. In some cases, a published paper has to be retracted for errors. If you are to publish your results, I would suggest that you send your draft to her and all other authors. Even if she hastily "approves" it, you still have others to keep an eye on it. The consequence of a problematic manuscript goes to all authors. I may not have the best advice for you to get out of your current situation, other than finishing your write-up and getting your degree. The decision of staying in academia or not can come after that. Have you seen someone for your depression, e.g. doctor and counsellor? This is a very important step for recovery. Take care.
  11. Same here. I did not write mine in that order, but rather going to and forth between chapters. It is common to come up with new ideas and ways to organise your paragraphs as you go. I would not leave the intro till the very end, as you need a good background to justify your research. Have a framework and get the chapter done. Then when you finish other chapters, have a quick search and include newly published studies where applicable.
  12. Congrats on passing your viva with minor corrections! As someone who has also gone through the PhD journey, I can say these tips are more than helpful. Looking back, I wish I could have spent more time to relax than working too hard on my PhD. I have nearly burnt myself out in the process, and it took me ages to feel like myself again! One thing I would like to add though, is not to stress too much about career, but keep an eye on all possibilities. I have been told million times that I am screwed if I don't have a job lining up before finishing PhD. That got me quite worried at first. But then, I had enough stress finishing my thesis already, so I couldn't afford to add more. I decided to let go in the end and finish my thesis first. I knew I would like to do a postdoc, but there's no way I could be one without my PhD anyway. It happened that when I submitted my thesis, one of my advisors got funding for a project that I am interested in, so that's how I got my current position.
  13. I am sorry to hear that your thesis was failed, but I am also glad that you are persisting and working hard to try again. Unfortunately, failure happens all the time in research. I got a paper that was rejected twice before it got published. Guess what? Everyone in my department thought the work was great. I know your advisor is nice to work with and she wants you all the best. However, I am concerned about her lack of guidance and overestimation of your ability to do research, as you indicated. If it is a communication problem, then find ways to improve it. It would be difficult for her to offer guidance if she is not aware that you are struggling. This is easy to solve. If it is an issue of expertise and experience, then it is a red flag. An advisor should be able to identify obvious flaws in your research and warn you about that. Ideally, they should work with you to sort them out. There are strict examiners out there, but a thesis that receives a fail must have some serious issues. Are you going to stay with the same advisor for your PhD? If so, then you need to consider carefully. I am not saying that you should not choose her, but you need to ensure that all the issues leading to the fail of your master thesis are resolved. Otherwise, you risk working very hard on your PhD only to receive a fail again in the end. Having been with toxic advisors, I reckon the importance of having an advisor that "loves" you, but they also need to be able to help you succeed. My apology if I sounded too harsh. I was just trying to offer some objective thoughts. I am by no means saying that your advisor is bad. Feel free to PM me and chat =]
  14. @oqowa I can totally relate to your situation. My 2 advisors in the department where I based my PhD studies in were like yours, i.e. focusing on publishing way more than my thesis. (Read my previous posts and you will know.) They had me to do an impossible-to-do experiment while writing up my thesis. It's an experiment that is indeed technically impossible to do, but they stubbornly insisted on that. In a sense, they wanted me to not graduate so I could continue to work for them for free, as they were running out of money. I was having a hard time, but fortunately I have another advisor in another department, whom I rarely met. I think I met him once a month at most back then. I brought that up to him when we discussed one of the thesis chapters. To my surprise, he stepped in and got them to (reluctantly) agree with thesis first. Of course, I suffered quite badly from retaliation. At one point, I got yelled at and forced to choose between them and my life-saving advisor. I am sharing my experience to let you know that you are not alone. I understand you must be very desperate and anxious now. As I don't know your school's culture and dynamics, it is difficult for me to give specific advice. However, I would say do whatever you need to get your degree. That is the most important thing for you. It may not turn out nice - be prepared that however careful and thoughtful you plan, you may still end up burning a bridge with your advisor. For me, I managed to push through and get my PhD. That life-saving advisor got funding for a project that I am interested in, so I joined his lab as a postdoc. He is a very nice and understanding person to work with. You could still call it a happy ending, but my relationship with those 2 toxic advisors is permanently damaged. They didn't even attend my graduation (they did for all other students).
  15. First of all, you are not doing a bad job. Re coursework: It is a big no to compare yourself with others in grad school, as there are many students being more outstanding than you and comparison just makes you feel bad all the time. You are getting As and Bs for your coursework. Yes, there are students who get all As, but from a factual point of view, you are doing well. Research: It is beyond your control and not your fault that you get paired up with an unsupportive advisor. Just because he seems to be likeable does not mean he is a good advisor. It is not uncommon to change field between undergrad and postgrad. It just means you need to catch up a bit more at the beginning to understand the background of your project. Your advisor should have been the one to give you guidance. Note that giving guidance does not equal to hand holding. It's an active process in which your advisor gives you a direction for your research. Hand holding is more like throwing a to-do list without any discussion. In my opinion, setting weekly tasks to get work done is actually very helpful in terms of productivity. I am doing my postdoc now and I still set weekly tasks with my supervisor to get the project moving. I don't get why your advisor made such a comment. Anyway, you definitely should not pretend as if nothing has happened. You are still early on in your PhD, and you can do a lot about the situation. A bad start does not mean a bad end. If that is at all possible, try to talk to your advisor and agree on expectations between both parties. If that's not possible, then go to a co-advisor or anyone in charge of grad student matters. It's perfectly okay to change advisor if you can't work with your current one. Regarding your stress/anxiety, please go and see a school counsellor. They can be helpful with navigating the stress of grad school. Wish you all the best!
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