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Please help! Thinking about bailing on my PhD..super stressed with quals

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I am a second year graduate student in Molecular Biology going through quals at the moment. Our program requires us to write an R01 and defend it. Our proposed topic cannot be on our thesis or related to anything our lab does. This whole process has been so frustrating for me, mainly because my advisor couldn't care less about the whole process because she is in the Pharmacology program, which doesn't have to go through this..their quals take 6 weeks and our quals take 4 months! We are encouraged to discuss our proposed topics with our advisor and committee members. However, when we write our R01 we can't have any help. While writing our 2 page topic proposal, I asked my advisor to go over it to make sure the experiments were logical and not too ambitious. Anyways she refused and said she didn't really know anything about the topic. After I received my critiques she refused to discuss them with me. The other committee members have said they are too busy to meet with me to talk about my plans for the R01. This whole process has been so stressful for me and I think I am at the lowest point in my life. I had a breakdown and went to the program director who contacted the dean. The dean was furious that the faculty have not been any help. The dean discussed everything with my therapist and they decided I should take a break from lab to concentrate on my quals. It has been 2 months so far and I have been really struggling with depression and anxiety. I am now beginning to wonder if this is the right path for me and I am considering quitting my PhD and leaving with a masters if I pass my quals. I have no interest in pursuing an academic career, however, I want to go into a career related to tech transfer. I feel like having a PhD will help with career opportunities as many people have told me tech transfer/ consulting/ patent law etc. only hires PhDs. I know this is super long but I was wondering if anyone had any advice on what I should do. I live in NYC and I love it and I have made many friends in the grad school. However, I am doing long distance with my bf of 5 years and this is really taking a toll on our relationship. We are both committed to making this work and it has been 2 years of long distance. This whole process of grad school is seriously making me wonder if this is the right choice for me since I have been so stressed and it really has been taking a toll on my mental and physical health. Any advice would be very helpful!

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You need a new advisor! That to me seems like the first step, not just quitting altogether. Another option would be to take a medical leave of absence from your program, which would give you time to get your mental health where you need it to be as well as find another advisor and committee before continuing in the program.

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You need a new advisor! That to me seems like the first step, not just quitting altogether. Another option would be to take a medical leave of absence from your program, which would give you time to get your mental health where you need it to be as well as find another advisor and committee before continuing in the program.

I agree. I think this is an advisor problem! I think a period of leave followed by returning to a new advisor could be very good, if possible.

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Thanks for the feedback! I am taking time off of lab and just focusing on my quals. I meet with my therapist every week and I am taking medication which has helped a lot. As for getting a new advisor, I'm just worried that I'll end up taking 7+ years to complete my PhD. That might be okay if you want to stay in academia, but I have no intention of staying. I don't even plan to do a post-doc. I think I will set up a meeting with the program direct and see what he says.

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Thanks for the feedback! I am taking time off of lab and just focusing on my quals. I meet with my therapist every week and I am taking medication which has helped a lot. As for getting a new advisor, I'm just worried that I'll end up taking 7+ years to complete my PhD. That might be okay if you want to stay in academia, but I have no intention of staying. I don't even plan to do a post-doc. I think I will set up a meeting with the program direct and see what he says.

I don't think switching advisors is the difference between a five year and a seven plus year PhD. It seems like it might be the difference between a PhD and no PhD. Not to stress you out, but don't fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy with your current, unsupportive advisor.

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Absolutely agreed with all above.  You can take a medical leave so you have a chance to breathe and recover.  

 

I would absolutely change advisers before quitting the PhD altogether.  It sounds like you do want the PhD but with the additional stress of trying to deal with unsupportive adviser and committee.  Your adviser does have a responsibility for guiding you through various processes of the PhD, including the quals and coming up with a topic.

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