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Get my PhD early or stay and publish as much as possible?

  • Thread starter bjnartowt
  • Start date
  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I am wondering what looks better on a CV: that I published a lot, but stayed in my PhD institution for 6 years or so, _or_ that I finished my thesis quickly, and graduated quickly? Some professors' CVs say they started their PhD in 1968, and finished in 1971 (Charles Thorn of University of Florida), which seemed awfully impressive.

I've been working as quickly as I can: I've formed my committee more quickly than most, and have made 3rd author on a paper. I've just finished up my 2nd year as of now (May 3, 2013). Thoughts?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
If you stay an average amount, it will be more impressive if you publish more than average in my opinion. It's definitely impressive to people outside of academia to finish a PhD in 3 years or so, but what really speaks to who are going to be your superiors/peers is your potential to contribute quality work.

Disclaimer: Not from personal experience.
  • #3
Why would you even want to leave early? This is probably the only time in your entire life you'll ever get to be a research scientist. Why not enjoy it for as long as possible?

Somebody motivated by jobs and pragmatism and career might race to the finish line thinking that will get him ahead, but I think someone motivated by passion would just stay and continue to work on her/his projects. A phd project isn't something you "get out of the way" so you can get on with life, it's part of life...

Just my two cents.
  • #4
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There are some good reasons for trying to finish quickly. These include taking advantage of current job opportunities, trying to get your good ideas published before another group scoops them, or simply moving on with your life (at least... if you've realised that reasearch isn't something that you want to be doing).

Impressing people is not one of them.

From an academic or hiring point of view no one really cares how quickly or long your PhD took. Most people familair with the process to acheive a PhD are well aware of the serendipity involved. One project may require that a student sit around for six months before a part comes that she needs for her experiment. Another may jump onto a project where a lot of the legwork has already been done, modify some pre-exisiting Monte Carlo code and explore some unique cases of a problem and then write up five papers in the span of two years.

Aim for quality in what you do.
  • #5
When you want to stay in academia: publish. Either more than average, or better than average (nature, science, or whatever is seen as an important journal in your field).
You will not have time to publish once you've moved on to another job.
Also, meet a lot of well known people and try to publish with them, or at least make sure they know who you are.
Having a good network is always important.
  • #6
I'm not sure if this relates to you career agenda, but I am personally publishing an average amount during my PhD, but saving enough material for at least two publications after the PhD. This is because if I take an industrial job, I can still publish steadily so that when I find an academic job my CV is consistent. I have heard from academics that this is very important.
  • #7
It took me four years to publish my last bit of PhD related research. I just didn't have the time for it. If you find scientific research and publishing important, find a job where you can put it in your job description, either in industry or academia. There are industry jobs where scientific research is appreciated and even seen as important <GASP!>.
  • #8
Yeah, I mean...I would really like to get into academia. I very much like the research/teaching balance. I don't mind grading, and I am genuinely enthusiastic about helping people learn higher concepts (though, I do get worn out by the clamour of pre-meds about grades). I have tried very hard to get into academia, and have mis-stepped quite a few times, and intend not to mis-step again. I could go into industry, but I'd rather not. I understand that academic jobs are very scarce, so I am trying to be as competitive as possible. Hence, my initial question about what looks better on a CV. Just because I'm asking "what looks good on a CV" doesn't mean I'm not passionate... In any event, I am grateful for your feedback so far. I suppose I should take my time, and try and establish a network...

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