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Quitting the PhD


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#1 brand

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 05:57 AM

Dears,

I started my PhD in translational biology here in Austria before 6 months after completing MRes in biomedical science from UK,where I rejected an offer from Canada for this project.

However ,after starting only I came to know that almost 15 PhD students were quit from the institute within the last 10 years due to the lack of proper supervision and guidance.

I also dont have any senior PhD students,Post docs in my field,where the supervisor was able to spent only 30 minutes in the last three months .

So I am thinking to apply for a new PhDs .Hence it would be grateful to know what will be the chances for getting a new one,as I already acquired new techniques such as TIRFM,FACS and confocal microscopy.

So I have some more techniques and exposure in addition to the masters,but still the quitting issue does impediment my chance?

Thanks

#2 hobglobin

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:36 AM

A PhD is also to proof that you can work independently, therefore don't expect too much supervision...Of course some is needed from time to time but less than while doing your master thesis. Anyway you also can develop your own ideas and feel free to make your own stuff within the project's goals, this can be an advantage too, if you know the methods and techniques sufficiently. And you can ask other researchers to help you for some parts of the work and so make useful/helpful connections.
Anyway for me much important would be a project that is reasonable, i.e. you really have a chance to manage it within the time and you can see aims that you can reach. Help and supervision you can get elsewhere if necessary.
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#3 brand

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 11:40 PM

hI,

Thank you for the reply.The reasonable timing,thats major stuff concerning me.Here a typical PhD student takes around 4.5-5 years for the completion of PhD and so far only one student out of three successfull doctorates got a post doc and an impact 6 paper publication.

Having a pure biological background and using electron microscope,Atomic force microscope and all other complicated instruments with out proper guidance is time consuming.

I want to start my postdoc within the next 4 years.Mean time I cant be pessimistic like other doctoral students in the lab now.

#4 gebirgsziege

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 03:31 AM

First - it depends on the lab you are in - and from what you tell us your lab has not a great reputation in educating people well - because more than one PhD who quits each year is quite a high number.

Most people whom I know finished their PhD within 3-4 years here in Austria. So the time needed sounds relatively long for me - which probably is also not the best sign. Do the people get payed during the whole time of the PhD - usually PhD contracts are given for three years only and then do not get full salary....are you aware of such problems?

High Impact publications are important, but are usually not the things that decide if you get a Post Doc or not - what is more decisive is the amount of contacts you were able to establish during your PhD and what those people think of you - because I know about many many jobs that were never published but were given directly to somebody.

And last: if you really want to stay in science you must be aware that you are not able to plan your career as you possibly are in industry. So you need enough enthusiasm and be able to tolerate a high level of frustration and most important you must be able to meet challenges within a short time like Dr H already pointed out - so if you really think this is not the right place to do your PhD you should start to look around, and if you think you can manage the tasks and survive the lab you should start to work hard to be the one of three PhD students who make it ;-)
A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. (Oscar Wilde)

#5 brand

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 04:39 AM

Dear ,

Thank you for the valuable advice about post doc.Being an industry and collaborated to the university,students usually get paid until they decide to stop.The fact is that there are no experts are coming and the company don't like to throw away the 5 years experienced student.In fact ,I was stunned by the group leaders awful behaviour to the one who got post doc in US,solely because ,he was reluctant to stay here further.

Although only 6 months I have some novel results and the company is very happy.So,I am confident enough that I can make a very good outcome within the next 2.5 years.

But the only retrieving factor is that lack of commitment from my supervisor.Just one week after I started I was asked to supervise a master student for her remaining 5 months lab work in surface chemistry and cell invasion.Having a good background in cellular and biochemical science I was able to guide there ,but couldn't do with PDMS and clean room related issues,which is not my field.

Strikingly until the last day of her work I didn't ever seen that she was being asked,discussed or judged for her work properly.I am not happy with what she achieved and I afraid she may lose her carrer now.

Any how I am spending only 30 minutes per day for further PhD applications and rest for my PhD here.So no negative thoughts will interfere with my productivity.

#6 gebirgsziege

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 05:02 AM

But in summary this does not sound to bad. Although your situation seems to be challenging, it looks as if you are at a good institution with both - links to basic science and applied science. And if you are not at a research only institute (i.e. university) you are in a lucky position that your salary is not depending so much on project applications.

I am sure there are people around who will be able to help you with the techniques you need - because there will be a scientist or technician in charge of the instruments/labs. these people (usually) know more about the everyday lab work than your supervisor. As far as I have seen from your last mail you seem to be coping well - and having freedom to work on a project also gives you a good opportunity to progress your skills and to develop a research profile - which you often do not have when a supervisor is guiding you with a lot of attention through your project.
A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. (Oscar Wilde)

#7 brand

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 06:58 AM

Dear,

Its a fact that at my institute is owned 80 % by company and 20 % by the university and its a non profit .At the moment we don't have a technician/scientist for the instruments ,except one for cell culture.Although a post is been advertised for a long time ,but no one has been applied yet.

The fact is that one group leader told to me that the company have a very bad reputation at the university,and indirectly in Austria ,which impediment the availability of any PhD students to him,where a PhD position is announced for the last two months and not received a single entry until now.

I know that its a very good position to be multi experienced,which I really wanted after masters,where such positions are usually available at MIT & Oxford.

Any how I am extremely thankful to both of you for the advice given and wish you very nice weekend.

#8 pito

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 11:40 PM

Dears,

I started my PhD in translational biology here in Austria before 6 months after completing MRes in biomedical science from UK,where I rejected an offer from Canada for this project.

However ,after starting only I came to know that almost 15 PhD students were quit from the institute within the last 10 years due to the lack of proper supervision and guidance.

I also dont have any senior PhD students,Post docs in my field,where the supervisor was able to spent only 30 minutes in the last three months .

So I am thinking to apply for a new PhDs .Hence it would be grateful to know what will be the chances for getting a new one,as I already acquired new techniques such as TIRFM,FACS and confocal microscopy.

So I have some more techniques and exposure in addition to the masters,but still the quitting issue does impediment my chance?

Thanks


You do mean that those students left themself? Its not that the institute kicked them out?


Anyway, strange question, but have you ever confronted your supervisor with the lack of guidance?

+ PhD does indeed mean that you need to work more on your own.. altough its true you still need guidance.. Nobody can work on his own for 100%.
You cant be an expert in every think you do.

One thing to keep in mind: the grass is always greener at the other side...
If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some then not ask and stay stupid.

#9 brand

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 04:14 AM

Dear Pito,

I think when striving for candidates to open positions no start companies will ever sack the existing work force. For example the one who got post doc in US now initially spent 6 months cell culture training under the company cost in an external institution.Can u think about paying 1345 euro per month as a salary and further training cost for 6 months to study simple cell culture?

I already talked with my supervisor and he agreed that he will bear more time for me.Any how I am confident that I can finish here successfully ,but at the moment I am not happy with the exposure I had now.

#10 pito

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 09:38 AM

Dear Pito,

I think when striving for candidates to open positions no start companies will ever sack the existing work force. For example the one who got post doc in US now initially spent 6 months cell culture training under the company cost in an external institution.Can u think about paying 1345 euro per month as a salary and further training cost for 6 months to study simple cell culture?


PhD students get "fired" once in a while..
Once you are in, it doesnt mean you are in till the end... if you suck at your job, you will get kicked out.
+ you are not looking at the cost-benefit ratio like you should. Yes, they invest money in PhD students, but the benefit is that they get results, new products.. If they dont: there is no point in furter investment in that person.

(and you speak of post doc.. this is a bit different then PhD students)

I already talked with my supervisor and he agreed that he will bear more time for me.Any how I am confident that I can finish here successfully ,but at the moment I am not happy with the exposure I had now.


Good.

Just a little note:
supervisors often dont know that their students need attention or help. If you dont ask it: they think everything is fine... This is also part of the PhD education: becoming more self aware and becoming more assertive.
The days that teachers/supervisors gave you all the steps and told you how to do every step is over.

I cant really know how it is where you do your PhD, but I can give an example of a supervisor that works at the university here and he guided 15 students before he encoutered his current student.
This student came up to him (because I forced her) and said: I need help, I cant deal with it, you need to help me more because things are not working as it should...You are my supervisor, so supervise me, help me or I quit.
It came as a shock to the supervisor! Never before had any of the 15 previous students dared to ask for help!
Now the supervisor changed his way of dealing with students a bit and he became more pro active (asking if they need help etc himself or planning regular meeting moments with his students).

Do you know what that supervisor told me after he had that chat with his 16the PhD student? He said: damn, those 15PhD before this one.. I wonder if they had problems too? If they did, then why didnt they ask me? They are grown ups.. I am not going to hold their hand like a little baby.

And I know of 3 of them that they regulary complained (to me and others) that they didnt receive the help they wanted or that their "supervisor" wasnt good etc... While I knew he was very very good! I (and the others working there) could always enter his lab/desk to ask questions! He even stayed during weekends/late hours to help if you needed help. But he was of the principle: no questions, no problems.
And I often told those students to go up to his desk and ask for help.. but none of them did it...
Once I got so tired of this crap that I took one student with me to his desk and said: she has a question, but she is afraid to ask it.
At that moment, that girl her face looked like a tomato, never seen a girl that red, I think she was about to sink through the floor.
But it did help as you could allready read.

But in general it always ended up the same way: either I (or someone else) helped them to continue or either I (or the others) informed the supervisor that he needed to explain something to his student because something wasnt clear. However we always did this in a subtle way because we knew the students wouldnt like it if their supervisor helped them because they complained to us.




You see what I mean?


My experience with people/students/new workers is simple: 90% of them is not assertive enough and doesnt dare to ask questions.
If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some then not ask and stay stupid.

#11 brand

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 10:59 PM

Dear Pito,

Thanks a lot for the advice.However I didnt say that we have a post doc in our lab.We had a PhD student ,who went for 6 months cell culture training before 4.5 years and after the completion of his course now he enrolled for his post doc.

Finally as far as I am concerned my British professor taught me that proper research means strategic planning and analysis.If a professor can not analyse how much productive is their students and what impediment their result he is not supposed to guide the students.


Regarding my supervisor,no other student and group leaders have a good opinion about him.For example if I asked for a help the maximum he gives is 5 minutes /day, that's even avail around 5 pm the time he leaves .Honestly I don't know what the hell making him that much busy having single Ph.D. student and there are no paper to be published.As far as I am understood he hadn't supervise a single student even at his post doc.


Those who quitted were done it mostly around 2-3 years. Basically its a time period to submit the thesis in UK and the sole reason for their quitting is they couldn't afford further 2-2.5 years for the accomplishment of the PhD. In short,Its my mistake that I didnt bother about the overall resarch impact to Austria in Biological field.According to the one who got post doc now,"research in Austria is pretty unorganised and unproductive."

#12 pito

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 03:20 AM

Dear Pito,

Thanks a lot for the advice.However I didnt say that we have a post doc in our lab.We had a PhD student ,who went for 6 months cell culture training before 4.5 years and after the completion of his course now he enrolled for his post doc.

Finally as far as I am concerned my British professor taught me that proper research means strategic planning and analysis.If a professor can not analyse how much productive is their students and what impediment their result he is not supposed to guide the students.


Its not that easy..
+ you can only start to analyse how good a student is after the first months or even first 1-2 years... Keep in mind that in research a lot can go wrong and it can take quite a while before you end up with good/wanted results..
Its not that black and white.
+ I am not sure how it works in your country, but in mine: a lot of the PhD students are completely "new" (unknown). This means that the supervisor/professor has no idea at all about the student, so its not all that easy to see how he/she works etc...

And one important thing a lot of people seem to forget: A good supervisor can only be as good as his students allow the supervisor to supervise...
Supervising is not a one way direction!

(just some general notes, not specifically ment for you)



Regarding my supervisor,no other student and group leaders have a good opinion about him.For example if I asked for a help the maximum he gives is 5 minutes /day, that's even avail around 5 pm the time he leaves .Honestly I don't know what the hell making him that much busy having single Ph.D. student and there are no paper to be published.As far as I am understood he hadn't supervise a single student even at his post doc.


Those who quitted were done it mostly around 2-3 years. Basically its a time period to submit the thesis in UK and the sole reason for their quitting is they couldn't afford further 2-2.5 years for the accomplishment of the PhD. In short,Its my mistake that I didnt bother about the overall resarch impact to Austria in Biological field.According to the one who got post doc now,"research in Austria is pretty unorganised and unproductive."


I see.
Then its indeed not right/correct.
He should invest more time in your research.
I am not sure what you need to do, its all up to you. If you think he is no help at all and you risk losing your oppertunity to get that PhD.. then think about alternatives.
Also: are there others in the lab that might be able to help you? If this is the case then maybe you can still stay.. If your supervisor cant/wont help you, maybe someone else can so that you still can continue.
If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some then not ask and stay stupid.

#13 Adrian K

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 07:52 AM

...
Finally as far as I am concerned my British professor taught me that proper research means strategic planning and analysis.If a professor can not analyse how much productive is their students and what impediment their result he is not supposed to guide the students.

Regarding my supervisor,no other student and group leaders have a good opinion about him.For example if I asked for a help the maximum he gives is 5 minutes /day, that's even avail around 5 pm the time he leaves .Honestly I don't know what the hell making him that much busy having single Ph.D. student and there are no paper to be published.As far as I am understood he hadn't supervise a single student even at his post doc.
...


You are not alone who meet such professor. Trust me, I had even meet professor who is more worst than what you had described. I can't offer you any good advices, but if I am compulsury to give you one, that would be change the supervisor before is too late. Dont give unnecessary struggle.
Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the lion not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.

..."best of our knowledge, as far as we know this had never been reported before, though I can't possible read all the published journals on earth, but by perform thorough search in google, the keywords did not match any documents"...

"what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"---Goddess Casandra reminds me to be strong

"It's all just DNA. Do it."---phage434

#14 brand

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 09:12 AM

Thank you Adrian,

I already requested my previous supervisors for reference and will start applying for new projects.Its my dream to get a PhD and cant spoil for some resolvable matters.

I thought about in depth ,and if get a project under a well reputed professor definitely I will move forward.




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