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Hope.for.the.best

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Hope.for.the.best last won the day on July 22 2018

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  1. Hope.for.the.best

    A perspective on passing a viva

    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.
  2. Hope.for.the.best

    I failed my thesis.

    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 =]
  3. Hope.for.the.best

    Advisor doesn't want me to graduate? Giving me extra work

    @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).
  4. Hope.for.the.best

    I feel like I'm doing a bad job

    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!
  5. Hope.for.the.best

    Membership required to present?

    I am not sure how common it is to require conference participants to be members of the organizing association, but it is not unheard of. It is more common to charge members a lower registration fee than non-members. If the conference fits your thesis topic and you wish to present there, then it's worth getting the membership. The opportunity to present (poster or oral) and network with others is definitely worth the money. You can choose not to renew your membership after a year. In this case, you just pay $ 35 once. Probably have a chat with your advisors and see what they think. It's possible for them to cover the membership fee if they think it is a conference that you should present in.
  6. Hope.for.the.best

    Need help!!

    I am not a relationship expert, nor I am in a relationship currently, so I don't feel qualified to give you specific advice on the subject. However, as someone who has gone through the PhD journey, I reckon family support is very important. A tensed environment at home does take a toll on your studies, and it sounds like your conflict with your wife has got into the way of your studies. Have you ever spoken to your wife your feelings and tried to work things out with her? I don't mean those conversations when you are in a heated argument, but an open and honest one when both of you are calm and willing to listen to each other and communicate. It is not a bad idea to go for relationship counselling. Even if you can't afford it, going to your school counsellor can be helpful (and it should be free for students). You should also address your snoring, not just for your wife, but for your health. Snoring is often due to sleep apnea. This is a condition in which you don't breathe properly while sleeping and your sleep quality suffers as a result. When you don't rest well, you get irritable and this exacerbates your issues at school and home. Not having quality sleep is bad for your health in the long run. I would suggest that you go to your doctor to get it checked out. It can be treated. All the best to you.
  7. Hope.for.the.best

    Conference Intro Bio: Mention Future Plans?

    The point of a biography is to get others to know more about your current research background and area. It would be more like "I completed an undergraduate degree in xxx and have an interest in xxx. I am currently working on [your research project] to [your aims]." It is rare to include future plans in a biography, at least I have not seen that. You can mention your future plans when you get to chat with other participants of the conference, e.g. during tea time. However, given that you don't want your current employer to find out that you will quit to attend grad school this fall, it is probably wise to not say anything. You never know. It's possible that someone at the conference knows your employer. If asked, you could give vague answers like "I like research and would like to attend grad school some time in future."
  8. Hope.for.the.best

    Bad relationship with advisor

    I am sorry to hear what you are going through. I had a similar experience back in my PhD and I can totally relate. You can figure out from my previous posts. How far along you are in your PhD? If you have started not long ago (less than a year), then I would suggest that you press hard to switch advisors. Since your advisors show no willingness to improve (especially the yelling part), your next step would be bringing that up to the school, as others have pointed out. I know it is not good to burn a bridge, but in situation like this, it may he unavoidable. It is very problematic to have someone who do not know your research area to advise you, not to mention that they ignore you and blame you when things are not working. It is totally right for PhD students to ask for feedback. In fact, advisors are supposed to provide feedback and assistance to students so they can move along in their projects. Ideally, advisors meet with their students regularly to keep track on progress. If things are not working, they should work with students to troubleshoot and figure out the way to proceed. Even if you are close to submitting your dissertation, you should still approach the school, as your advisors are getting into the way of your completion. Speaking from my experience, I would not be surprised that they will try not to let you defend or confer, so it is important for the school to know what's going on so they can step in if necessary.
  9. Hope.for.the.best

    Introducing yourself to faculty

    It really depends on your school. But then since you have been accepted by your program, I have a feeling that it would be more like a casual chat than an interview with faculty members. It would not hurt to prepare for responses for your research interests and project though, as these are often the conversation topics when getting to know each other in an academic setting. Try to take it easy as if you are meeting new friends. Good luck!
  10. That's basically what you need to do - introduce yourself, emphasise your interests and experience, and attach a CV. It's only 2 days, so you should wait a bit longer. I would say a week or two is a good time to follow up. When you do follow up, don't phrase your email in a pushing way. Phrase it in a way like "Thank you for your time reviewing my application. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information." Good luck!
  11. (1) It really depends how long it has passed since you sent the email. If it is just one week, I would suggest that you wait. If it has been like one month and you are sure he has not been away or anything, then it is fine to follow up, but not in a pushing way. Perhaps you can look up one of his recent papers and indicate specifically how his research is of interest to you and align with your work. It is easy for a busy professor to miss out simple emails like "I am interested in your work. Could we meet and discuss?" If you provide some context, then it is more likely to get his attention. (2) That would not be the best approach, unless you happen to go to his department, e.g. attending a seminar, and bump into him. (3) In my opinion, that is actually the best approach if he is giving a talk or workshop shortly. You definitely would not interrupt him while he is giving a talk, but there must be coffee time (or alike) after these events for audience to ask questions and chat about research. Just like (1), tell him exactly what his research interests you. You will get to interact with him in a more natural way. (4) As you said he is of importance to you, I would suggest that you get more proactive in reaching him, rather than waiting out. He may have agreed to be in someone else's committee and cannot be yours if you wait too long.
  12. Hope.for.the.best

    Need advice for new PhD student

    It is common to struggle with learning new techniques at the beginning of your PhD. In fact, I struggled with mastering new techniques too when I first started my postdoc, so learning something new is inevitable for any new projects. I know you have tried explaining to your professor your problem. Did you do it when he was kind of blaming you, e.g. saying that you are not motivated and leave early? It would not be the best timing to get your difficulties across in the heat of the moment, as he was already frustrated with you (probably a bit emotional too). It would be best if you could schedule a meeting with him to discuss your struggles, including the lack of knowledge to master new techniques in a timely manner, difficulties with balancing the demand from coursework, and perhaps, problems with settling down in a new country. Be sure to work out with him how both of you can better align in terms of expectation, e.g. you want more help vs he wants you to be on top of things quickly. It is also a good idea for you to approach the academic advisor (or any equivalents) of your program, as they have seen problems like yours and should be able to offer some practical advice. I would suggest that you try sorting out your issues before considering a change of project. You can still face the same problems (e.g. settling down in a new country) even after you change your project.
  13. Hope.for.the.best

    Did anyone tried to discourage you from pursuing a PhD?

    That's basically what you need to tell yourself whenever someone discourages you. I can see you have considered very carefully that you want to do a PhD. You have also found a great supervisor. By all means, follow your heart and go ahead! As you identified, that PhD student was likely just letting out her frustration of not seeing a future in academia. I had a similar version of story. I have been warned by supervisors, fellow colleagues etc. that if I don't exactly know what I want to do after PhD and plan ahead, then I am screwed for sure, because it is difficult to find a good lab even if I am after a postdoc. I did worry about my future, as I have seen PhD students in my department struggling to find a job after graduation, even if they decided to leave academia. In the end, I decided to just finish off my dissertation and see. After all, there is no point worrying about life after PhD if I don't get my PhD in the first place! I still attended career seminars etc., but my focus was to get my PhD done. Then, a few weeks before I submitted, I learnt that one of my supervisors got funding for a cutting-edge project that I am interested in. I approached him and that's how I got my current postdoc position. Obviously, I could not plan in advance that my supervisor would get funding. I am still not 100% sure whether I will stay in academia, but I reckon this job will equip me with skills that are transferable outside academia. Sometimes, you need to take one step at a time and see where you should go next. You can't always plan everything ahead.
  14. Hope.for.the.best

    Good publications but BAD defense/thesis

    You are not alone! I finished my PhD not long ago and I was in a similar situation, especially the toxic advisor bit. If you read my other posts, then you would have known that I got a lot of anxiety from two demanding advisors, which I named as *Andy and *Cecilia. They didn't go to that extreme to get me worked for 16 hours every day, but they got me to do so many experiments (some even irrelevant to my project) that I had to spend my whole Christmas holiday to write the literature review of my thesis! They even threatened to not let me submit my thesis unless I finished a big experiment, which turned out to be technically impossible to do. My defense went very well though and I passed with minor corrections, but they were reluctant to approve my corrections and let me confer. I was fortunate enough to have another advisor (now my boss), who has been extremely supportive and navigated me through this situation. Like you, my current boss is a super star pi in the field who has a ton of money and likes me. Anyway, back to your questions, I would say your PhD is excellent, because you have got high impact papers published from your work. An impact factor of 22 is very high in science. The fact that you are offered multiple postdoctoral positions demonstrates that you have a strong research profile. Publication record is what matters in any academic jobs. As said above, the most important thing is to have your PhD approved (which you have). Whether you barely passed or passed with flying colours does not matter. If I were you, I would be happy that I can finally say goodbye to such a toxic advisor, and embrace the opportunity to work with a renowned researcher in your field. It did take me a while to let go of the mishap in PhD. Now I am enjoying my life as a postdoc with a great boss. I am pretty sure you will too!
  15. Hope.for.the.best

    How different is grad school from undergrad?

    The short answer is very different. In undergrad, you were told what you needed to know for a topic. More often than not, the topic is well known and established, e.g. t tests and ANOVA. In grad school, however, you are expected to figure out something that has never been looked into. That means a lot of reading to understand the background and gaps in literature, a lot of thinking to formulate and investigate some hypotheses and aims, and a lot of writing and presentations to put your findings together. Your advisors will guide you, but don't expect them to tell you everything like undergrad. They will expect you to have the initiatives to look things up. What you are experiencing is kind of like grad school, but be warned that grad school is more intensive. Having said that, your habits of starting work early (instead of last min) and striving a good work life balance are helpful for grad school. It is very important to pace yourself in grad school like running a marathon. You don't want to work too hard to burn yourself out, but not too laid back so you can keep yourself on track. Having gone through the PhD journey myself, I would say setting accomplishable goals every week has been very helpful.
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