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Grad school dilema - leave with Masters?

  1. Jan 18, 2009 #1
    I have a bachelors in physics. I'm in grad school for Electrical Engineering now, I signed up saying I would skip a Masters and go straight for a PhD. I'm doing research on solar cells and I like it for the most part. I have a full research assistantship and I don't have to teach. My only problem is....I am in Virgina and I HATE IT HERE. I've been here for 1.5 years and I can't stand the thought of 3-4 more years. I'm trying to decide, do I start working on a Masters thesis and get out of here, or just stick it out and get the PhD? Is it really worth leaving a stable job and good research just because I'm unhappy here? I'd like to get a PhD somewhere else eventually (california) but its too late to apply for this fall, so I'd have to get a job somewhere for the mean time. I'm worried about entering this economy, especially since I have no other work experience and I don't really have any traditional electrical engineering skills (like circuits or computers, my work is mostly in semiconductor physics and fabrication) Oh and I don't ever want to be a professor, I want to work in research or industry, so I'm still not sure whether a PhD is even worth it. What would you do in this situation? Any thoughts are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2009 #2
    professors do research :)
  4. Jan 19, 2009 #3


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    I suppose what this decision comes down to is what you hate about Virginia and whether or not you can change that. And further, would moving to California actually change what it is you don't like? Would it help, for example, to move to a new house or appartment? Would it help to join a new social club or try a new sport and thereby establish a new group of friends?

    Or, is it the school environment itself that you're not getting along with - friction with co-workers, uncomfortable environment, etc.?

    There's nothing wrong with leaving with a master's degree if you need a change. Also, it's not entirely unheard of for you to contact a professor and see if you can work in his or her lab for a semester as a research assistant until you enroll in graduate studies.
  5. Jan 19, 2009 #4


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    I'd recommend sticking it out for a few more years. Later in life, you'll probably be glad you did, even though you may not like it very much now. The economy is really bad right now, so if you have a really good job that you like it probably is a good idea to stay there.

    Why do you hate Virginia so much?

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2009
  6. Jan 19, 2009 #5
    I have to second this opinion. Quite honestly, you'll be lucky in the present job market to find a job in a region of the country that you did like.

    Can you perhaps save up enough to take a good trip to California during a break? Or drive somewhere (like DC for the museums or South Carolina if you'd like a beach) for a nice weekend. That might help you stick it out til you graduate and can get that dream job in that dream location.

    Note: sometimes right after the structure of the required coursework is completed students get a bit of burnout. It's also a bit tough when you see yourself tied down to any program for a long point of time (especially if you have other friends who didn't go to grad school and are starting "real" lives). But note: There are going to be different times in life when you get burnout, and sometimes obligations (both employment and family) won't be as easy to leave as grad school would be (with nobody but yourself to consider). Grad school (especially with an RA stipend!) is a bit of a luxury. Taking a vacation or two to a nice place might help you think of it that way.
  7. Jan 19, 2009 #6
    I was in your exact same situation... well kinda. I did my PhD at a school I really disliked in a city that I loathed overall. I stuck it out since I was doing the research that I wanted to do along with the collaborators I wanted to work with.

    For me the hate was the city itself- it was just not a nice city to live in. Not student friendly (even though it had 11 colleges...), it had no real urban feel, and was just not a place where a twenty-something person wanted to hang out. What helped me was realizing that this was only a small, short annoyance to deal with in terms of my likely post-grad school career. In addition, it was a good source of motivation to finish my dissertation in a timely manner.

    Oddly enough, I moved to Virginia for a postdoc after I completed my PhD and I am not entirely in love with the state, but it is loads better than where I was (in some respects)! If you are stuck out in the boons (Blacksburg?) I empathize. But remember, it is not something permanent.
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