If you hold a PhD or are a PhD advisor, what do you think students should learn from their PhDs?

  • #1
I mean apart from the obvious that they'll select some research topic and learn about that.
 

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  • #2
berkeman
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In what major? Could you narrow down what you are asking about? Do you mean outside of school, or in school but to be well-rounded, or special skills that help PhD candidates do well? Your question is too broad so far to generate a useful discussion, IMO. Thanks.
 
  • #3
Major: Engineering or sciences. Skills that can be applied outside of school but are learned during your PhD and can be used during it as well.
 
  • #4
BillTre
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Generalized thinking/problem solving skills are the most widely applicable skills inside and outside of school.

Another answer would be hands on skills (dissecting things, photo/optics, drawing, making circuits, plumbing, fabricating things, etc.)

Another answer would be knowledge gained that allowed you to do things for your PhD which are hierarchcially lower than your PhD subject. For example, I got a PhD in biology, so I had to know a lot of chemistry (for many reasons). Biology runs on principles of chemistry, thus it is hierarchically higher. Chemistry is very useful for doing and understanding a lot of things.

Many places require a foreign language if you do a PhD. This can be quite useful.
 
  • #5
Generalized thinking/problem solving skills are the most widely applicable skills inside and outside of school.
Shouldn't an effective primary education system handle this?

Another answer would be hands on skills (dissecting things, photo/optics, drawing, making circuits, plumbing, fabricating things, etc.)
A bit confused. I assume you are referring to some of them as I doubt one can be good at all of them or have the time to become good at all of them.
 
  • #6
BillTre
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Shouldn't an effective primary education system handle this?
Yes, but not always. Also you can get better.

A bit confused. I assume you are referring to some of them as I doubt one can be good at all of them or have the time to become good at all of them.
All at once unlikely.
But, to be "useful" or "useful" in particular restricted circumstances is no so difficult.
 
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  • #8
marcusl
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My advisor believed that a PhD candidate should display the following:
1. Ability (with help) to identify a research topic that is interesting, relevant, and amenable to study by the candidate (i.e., not easy but not impossible either).
2. Ability to write a grant proposal, including all that entails (statement of problem, explanation of its importance, background and summary of state of art, laying out research program, planning budget and schedule, etc.).
3. Managing said research program.
4. Ability to realize that work performed was valuable and sufficient for degree (i.e., knowing when to stop).
5. Writing results in papers and a thesis.

It’s challenging compared to programs where an advisor leads the student by the hand through the degree, but, if followed, it sets the student up for success in whatever they do afterwards.
 
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  • #9
wle
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If you hold a PhD or are a PhD advisor, what do you think students should learn from their PhDs?
A PhD is basically a research apprenticeship. So if you do a PhD then by the end you should have learned to function as an independent (if still junior) researcher in your field. This includes learning to do some of the things listed by @marcusl above.

I think maybe the litmus test is that, by the end of your PhD, you should have become more knowledgeable and have better insights about (at least) the specific research problems you worked on than colleagues who helped you and offered guidance along the way, including the supervisor. This shows that you can conduct research and learn something by yourself. I think it's not such an impressive PhD if, at the end, your supervisor can explain and answer technical questions about your own research better than you can. I don't know if this is realistic in every field, though.

It's of course also good if you can pick up skills along the way (like teaching, programming, learning a new language) that may be useful if you leave academia afterwards, but I don't see this as the purpose of the PhD itself.
 
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