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I'm stuck in grad school

  1. Apr 22, 2013 #1
    I have a MSc in astrophysics and I'm a last year PhD student. My project is not going anywhere, I haven't published any paper and I'm far from finishing. My advisor is very picky and won't let me publish anything and I'm terrified the last years have been a huge waste of time.
    What do you think my options are?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2013 #2
    Seems to me your options are:

    • Drop out
    • Change advisors
    • Stay with your current advisor

    What do you mean by "last year" PhD student? Is it the 7 year boundary you're pushing?

    What country are you located in?

    You probably have almost no employable skills. What programming have you done? What lab instruments, if any, can you operate? You're about to be unemployed, one way or another, and need to start preparing for that.

    If you've been in grad school more than a couple of years and have published nothing then your grad school advisor has failed you in an epic way.
  4. Apr 22, 2013 #3
    I'm located in Europe and the PhD only last three years. I can program in Python, Fortran and C and I am bilingual.

    My supervisor keeps saying that we have to perfect things and he's afraid of comments of possible referees, that's why I'm not publishing anything.
  5. Apr 22, 2013 #4
    Lots of advisers are that way IME. Well, not maybe not lots... but they do exist. At my grad school I would say about a third were successful researchers and publishers. Another third were not, barely publishing and barely graduating students. The final third didn't even bother and effectively just taught. It was a very competitive process getting a competent adviser. If he/she had a high student acceptance rate in the incoming class there may not have been many advisers to choose from and there may not be one to switch too.
  6. Apr 22, 2013 #5
    It sucks because I only have one year left and I really don't know where else to turn. I do know how to program but I certainly don't have the skills to work in a big company that require senior positions. Do you know where I can look for companies that hire programmers and also offer some sort of training? I'm looking for a positions anywhere in the world.

    Do you think that programming is the only optionion if I quit academia?
  7. Apr 22, 2013 #6

    George Jones

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    What happens if you don't finish in three years? Have you talked to your supervisor about the looming deadline?
  8. Apr 22, 2013 #7
    I won a scolarship two years ago but my supervisor is not really paying for me. But you're right, I have to talk to him as soon as possible. I'm just very afraid of doing it because I think I might lose it and compromise my future. I'm really pissed off because I won the scholarship because I was the first student in my class and now I'm failing!
  9. Apr 22, 2013 #8
    I'm sorry to hear about your situation, I don't understand why an advisor would stop you from publishing, isn't that the whole point of spending 3 years doing research?

    I've heard of a lot of people having really bad experiences with advisors and having to switch schools and start over their phd's/continue a similar thesis topic with someone else. I personally know one that won a scholarship for a phd in a top 10 astrophysics program in the US and despite being a top student, he left it for his home country a few years later because he hated the environment and unsupportive adviser. Did his phd in a far less famous university and still had a successful career, he's a lecturer at a top 5 UK uni now.

    I think Neil de Grasse Tyson had a similar experience.

    Might want to look into alternative sources of funding, intern programs or even other phd programs on the side elsewhere as something extreme if your project really isn't going to get finished.
  10. Apr 22, 2013 #9
    I'm not sure I see your problem: Contrary to what many people (e.g. Locrian) seem to consider the norm or even mandatory, your supervisor won't let you publish crap for the mere sake of putting an oh-so important publication to your CV. Sure, that really sucks for you. But that alone isn't really an issue. Assuming your program requires you to have a publication to get your PhD (many do, your huge problem is really a non-issue if yours doesn't), you still have one year to get something worthwhile out of your thesis project. Talk to your supervisor and make it clear that, for the sake of both of you, you need to somehow get your PhD finished.

    I strongly advice against dropping out of your PhD program. The worth of a PhD in industry is that it demonstrates/certifies a certain level of frustration tolerance and the ability to turn problems into at least some solution - which is exactly the challenge you seem up to at the moment. Usually, little emphasis is put on the length of your publication list (that varies between fields and depends, as you would probably agree, on the personality of the supervisor) or the quality of your research (that no one is qualified to estimate, anyways).
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  11. Apr 22, 2013 #10
    I'm glad to hear I was wrong - these sound like very employable skills to me, assuming you have reasonable competency in them.

    Start networking with companies. Try to find people with a similar background who changed careers - often they're willing to discuss how they did so and what the market is like. They may have helpful ideas on how to sell yourself to future employers. Maybe you don't need it - maybe the PhD and something in your field works out. It can't hurt to learn about your options and prepare for all eventualities.

    Changing careers would be tough, but it will be a thousand times tougher with a year of unemployment under your belt.
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