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Lowest point of your PhD

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#1 science noob

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Posted 09 June 2014 - 04:51 AM

For those who have completed or are in the process of completing your PhD, what are the major low points during your tenure? A particular tricky experiment not working? Disagreement with your advisor? Flawed experimental plan? etc.


Would love to hear from all of you. Or can someone (if any) prove that a PhD can be without the downs.  Maybe someone who has had a high all the way until a perfect submission.


The next thing is, during that depressing time, have you ever considered giving up/gave up? And how did you overcome those negative thoughts?

Edited by science noob, 09 June 2014 - 04:52 AM.

#2 phage434



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Posted 09 June 2014 - 05:59 AM

In my experience, high levels of depression correlate with being near done. Most of my former students get fed up with being in graduate school, and then buckle down and finish a nice thesis. Forward!

#3 hobglobin


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Posted 09 June 2014 - 09:04 AM

A big one was when I realised after finishing lab/field work that there is such a huge amount of data waiting to be entered in excel (or whatever) sheets and to be analysed...

A bigger one was when I realised that I ran out of money while having not finished all experiments...ph34r.png

What a f*ing time wink.png

A single lie is reproachable; a million lies is a statistic.
D. J. T.

#4 Trof


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Posted 11 June 2014 - 06:14 AM

Low points you say.. like the first one, when after several months of my boss throwing a new project at me every other week I realized, that he acually is a chaotic person, not telling me what he prefers I was doing right now, but unexpectedly requires the results after several months from "oh, you need that sample/information/... from XY, I will secure it right away" when actually he never did.

That was when I realized (though it took years actually) I can't wait for him to do anything but I need to do it myself, or push him into things important to do.


Or the last one, when I thought that after all this time I made a hell of a writing block, that I'm not able to even open my dissertation file, without feeling intensive disabling anxiety.

That was when I realized people will never fully understand how much it cost me in the end.


Or some of those inbetween.. when my boss told me four years ago, that situation with grants is serious, and he has funding for two of us PhD students only wor next few months and then wee need to look for job elsewhere, but stay near to finish PhD while working there..  when we were looking up local supermarkets, if they have opening for a weekend workforces.. then after two interviews for a new possition (with the same person, from a nerby institute) the situation changed and we continued fine throughout next years.

That was when I realized this life is just so insecure and unstable, and probably will ever be.


Or the other, when I was seriously "ill and lost a year doubting if I can even continue to work in reseach, or in any field requiring intelectual work..

That was when I realized I need to fuck this doubts, don't give up and focus on the future.


Or many other I forgot.

That was when I realized things are never easy and I better just get used to it..

Our country has a serious deficiency in lighthouses. I assume the main reason is that we have no sea.

I never trust anything that can't be doubted.

'Normal' is a dryer setting. - Elizabeth Moon

#5 Micro



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Posted 12 June 2014 - 07:12 PM

I went through 6-monthly cycles of low points for the duration of my 4 years 4months PhD… and I can’t think of a single time that my breakdown wasn’t caused by my supervisor. I could handle experiments not working, but his lack of communication, indecisions and criticisms were hardest to deal with and were often “the straw the broke the camel’s back”.


At about 4 months into my project I routinely though of quitting but I kept telling myself that after the next milestone/event/meeting it would get better. I was about 2 years in when I finally realised I won’t be getting any better just harder. Although I didn’t really care about completing my PhD, I really didn’t want to quit because I would let down my supervisors and I was embarrassed to have to tell my family and friends that I fail to complete this rather major thing that I was doing. Not the right reason to continue but I kept going anyway. I still had the breakdowns and wanted to quit but I’d let myself mope for an hour/day/weekend and then just tell myself to get over it and stop wasting time. In reality even second you waste feeling down is an extra second that you are adding to the end of your PhD… that cheery though usually got me up and moving quick smart.  I often repeating mantras, my favourites were “there is no way out but through” & “it isn’t a PhD if you don’t learn something and problems make you learn”. In the end I kept going during the 'experiments' because I really do enjoy bench work and during 'write-up' it seemed pointless to have come this far and not finish.


In the end I did complete my PhD and 2 years on I can understand the valuable lessons I learnt from my supervisor’s indecisions and criticism, and how it has positively changed the way I interact with my current supervisor. My one observation/ piece of advice… if you have low expectations and a Plan B …. Plan C and often Plan D, it is easier to pick yourself up when experiments goes wrong because you already know what to do next.


Hope it help someone to know your not alone

Micro biggrin.png  

#6 Michael Starr

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Posted 28 March 2016 - 03:53 PM

I'd say what my lowest point was, but I don't think that would be... wise, considering my self-interest.

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