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Faced with the first decision during my PhD?

  1. Nov 7, 2012 #1
    I'm 1 year into my PhD, in HEP physics and without going into specifics, my time has been spent doing computer simulations. From the start of my PhD there was the option to do some actual hardware work, and while this did sound interesting, I never really got started on it. My simulation work dominated my time. Fortunately that work has produced some useful results and established my name amongst the group of collaborators working on the project. It hasn't been un-enjoyable either, I don't hate what I've been doing although it has been stressful at times.

    However, recently my supervisor has been talking about me getting back into this hardware work, so I am faced with a decision. This hardware work also sounds interesting to me, and other staff members have told me it's good to have a variety of hardware & software work to offer myself more opportunities when looking to future careers - but I have some reservations:

    1) Starting the hardware work will majorly distract from my software work. The experiment it relates to is being developed at a rapid pace, and if I fall away from that it'll be hard to catch up / get back into it. I don't want to throw away all that progress, and I don't want to leave my secondary supervisor in the lurch as he would have to find someone else to take over from me.

    2) I have no real expertise when it comes to the hardware stuff. My masters year had an experimental component but it was in solid state physics where I was preparing films of semiconductor - irrelevant to my PhD work. I'm a year into my PhD already, and with this project I'd be starting from scratch. There are other students that would be working with me on it as their masters year project, but I would be much more in charge of guiding the project myself. With my software work, this has not been the case. I have been working quite closely with my supervisor and the other collaborators from other institutions. I've basically been told what to do and then just got on with it. I don't think it would be like this with my hardware work, I have a bunch of unfamiliar equipment and I've got to understand it all, assemble it, learn to use it then get some actual results.

    What should I do? Stick with software and risk limiting my options after I graduate? Or go with hardware and throw myself into the unknown, with little experience and just 2 years of funding left?
  2. jcsd
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