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Programs Choice of PhD project

  1. Oct 1, 2011 #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm really struggling with the beginning of my PhD project and could use some opinions how I should proceed. And also just to express my feelings in a written form.

    So in a few weeks I'm about to officially become a full-time PhD student working in a research group where I have been working for a few months now. The problem is that although I like the group and the research done there, I'm really losing my confidence in the PhD project. I just don't feel there is enough experience in the group about the subject matter I'm going to embark in and there are groups in the world doing the same things better with tens of years of more experience. Of course, I know that each PhD student has to enter a land unknown to others in the research group, but I don't think it should happen right in the beginning. Naturally I may be wrong, I'm just a student after all, but this is how I feel.

    I've been talking with another professor about a very interesting and solid PhD project, and he even welcomed me in his group, but I decided to stay with the current group since the topic in the second group felt too theoretical for someone like me who does not want to pursue an academic career after doctoral dissertation. (These discussions were before I started in the current project.) But now it seems that people in my current group also want to take their research in a more theoretical direction, so basically I would be better off just doing theory in the second group, confident that publications will follow one another when I just work hard enough. And I have also noticed that I really enjoy theory and would perhaps like to do theoretical stuff in my PhD, no matter what happens afterwards.

    Pros of the current group:
    -I know the group and enjoy working there
    -The lab is more industrially oriented
    -I have already a fixed-term work contract with the lab and we have orally kinda agreed that I pursue a PhD in the group
    -It's ok to work 9-5 in the group, meaning I have time for social contacts and for keeping myself in good shape (of course I'm not scared of longer work hours, as long as they don't become a habit)

    Pros of the second group:
    -The group is very renowned and much more internationally oriented
    -The topics are closer to what I have studied and done earlier
    -I'm confident about the project
    -Grass is greener on the other side

    Both labs are in the same school so I have already been thinking that perhaps I could give some time to the current group and then later switch group if things just don't work out. That must be possible, right? On the other hand, it seems kinda worrying that I'm having these thoughts already at this point, so perhaps it would be better for everyone to make the switch now already. On the other hand, my current financial position is such that I cannot really afford losing _both_ positions.

    Do you please have any opinions about my situation?

    (I live in a country where master's degree and PhD are completely separate, so there is no "grad school" involved here.)


    Galactic Super President
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2011 #2


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    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    It's normal to feel overwhelmed at the start of a project. Research is uncharted territory. It's normal, even for experienced people, to not really know the answer from the outset. Also,It may seem that your group is inexperienced in a certain field, but the reality is that maybe you just need to learn more yourself before you can effectively judge other peoples experience on a topic.

    Some questions you don't seem to be considering above:

    How is your relationship with your current adviser? Do you get along? Do you see yourself getting along better with the professors and grad students in the other group than the ones in your current group? In short, which "coworkers" do you get along with better? This is more important than most people think.
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