Is there any hope for me?

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Physics_UG
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So I put in my first year in an electrical engineering PhD program. I was supported partly by a fellowship and partly by an RA. I felt like a wasn't giving it 100% in either my classes or my research. I got a 3.2 GPA in my first two terms, which included three B minuses and two As. Ouch. The minimum GPA in the first 30 credits of coursework is a 3.0 but the minimum GPA in the last 18 credits of coursework is a 3.5 The fact that I didn't make at least a 3.5 indicates that maybe I am not cut out for the PhD program, but I know in my heart I can do better. However, my advisor insists that I did well with my research. I got two coauthor publications and I participated in a national competition (our team won first place). However, I feel like I contributed a miniscule amount to both publications and for the competition all I did was write the conference paper and present the research at the conference (it was a Powerpoint presentation). Most of the actual work on the project was done by the other members of the team but I was the one that was praised for winning for competition simply because I was the one that went and gave the presentation (my advisor told me to go present it). For these reasons, I feel I like an impostor.

I felt like I wanted to drop out for several reasons but ended up taking a one year leave of absence (my advisor's suggestion after I told him I was going to drop out). I think I was trying a little too hard sometimes to impress people in the lab and I came across as arrogant (even though I tried my best to be as friendly as possible). I just came across as a know it all and this generated some animosity toward me from a couple others in the group. I felt my confidence slowly dwindling as this went on. A couple times I confronted those that were talking about me behind my back and perhaps I lost my temper and made a big deal out of something that was minor. I became overly paranoid about everything and started to think I was going to lose my RA funding, which turned out not to be true (apparently my advisor really liked me). I guess I just didn't have my head on straight. Also, I really wasn't all that interested in the research I was doing and I just wasn't happy. I wasn't focused and I felt like I needed some time away.

I would like to return in the Fall to finish my PhD but I am not sure I want to return to my old group. I tried to get an RA in another group. The prof told me back in October that she could find RA funding for me by next Fall. However, a couple weeks ago she told me to just sign up for a TA. I feel like I have wasted a lot of my time since she gave me some material to read in the meantime. I have a feeling she saw my grades and decided I wasn't worth taking on. I would like a TA though since I enjoy teaching and getting some teaching experience might be good if I decide to seek a professorship later on. Also, TAing might give me some more time to explore my options and decide what type of research I would really like to do. It would give me a chance to volunteer in a couple different labs to find where my passion lies. However, a TA is not guaranteed either (grades being a determining factor for hiring TAs) and not all of the TAs are full funding. Some only waive half tuition and pay half as much. I might end up having to take out students loans for the next couple of semesters, get my grades up, and reapply for RAs or TAs the following year. I could also try and get back into my old advisor's group but I don't think I made a good impression on the people in the group and I would like a fresh start somewhere else.

So what should I do? If I don't get an RA or TA position should I pay for the next year of my PhD out of pocket, get my grades up, and reapply for funding the following year or is it not worth it to pay out of pocket for a PhD?
 
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  • #2
364
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So I put in my first year in an electrical engineering PhD program. I was supported partly by a fellowship and partly by an RA. I felt like a wasn't giving it 100% in either my classes or my research. I got a 3.2 GPA in my first two terms, which included three B minuses and two As. Ouch. The minimum GPA in the first 30 credits of coursework is a 3.0 but the minimum GPA in the last 18 credits of coursework is a 3.5 The fact that I didn't make at least a 3.5 indicates that maybe I am not cut out for the PhD program, but I know in my heart I can do better. However, my advisor insists that I did well with my research. I got two coauthor publications and I participated in a national competition. Our team won first place. However, I feel like I contributed a miniscule amount to both publications and for the competition all I did was write the conference paper and present the research at the conference (it was a Powerpoint presentation). Most of the actual work on the project was done by other members of the team but I was the one that was praised for the willing for competition simply because I was the one that went and gave the presentation. For these reasons, I feel I have a case of the impostor syndrome.

I decided to take a leave of absence (my advisor's suggestion) for several reasons. I think I was trying a little too hard sometimes to impress people in the lab and I came across as arrogant (even though I tried my best to be as friendly as possible). I just came across as a know it all and this generated some animosity toward me from a couple others in the group. These students started tattling on me and making snide remarks about me behind my back (while was usually in earshot). I felt my confidence slowly dwindling as this went on. A couple times I confronted those that were talking about me behind my back and perhaps I lost my temper and made a big deal out of something that was minor. I became overly paranoid about everything and started to think I was going to lose my RA funding, which turned out not to be true (apparently my advisor really liked me). I guess I just didn't have my head on straight. Also, I really wasn't all that interested in the research I was doing and I just wasn't happy.

I would like to return in the Fall to finish my PhD. I tried to get an RA in another group. The prof told me back in October that she could find RA funding for me by next Fall. However, a couple weeks ago she told me to just sign up for a TA. I feel like I have wasted a lot of my time since she gave me some material to read in the meantime. I have a feeling she saw my grades and decided I wasn't worth taking on. I would like a TA though since I enjoy teaching and getting some teaching experience might be good if I decide to seek a professorship later on. Also, TAing might give me some more time to explore my options and decide what type of research I would really like to do. It would give me a chance to volunteer in a couple different labs. However, a TA is not guaranteed either and not all of the TAs are full funding. Some only waive half tuition and pay half as much. I might end up having to take out students loans for the next couple semesters, get my grades up, and reapply for RAs or TAs the following year. I could also try and get back into my old advisor's group but I don't think I made a good impression on the people in the group and I would like a fresh start somewhere else.

So what should I do? IF I don't get an RA or TA position should I pay for the next year of my PhD out of pocket, get my grades up, and reapply for funding the following year or is it not worth it to pay out of pocket for a PhD?

That's kind of a sad story. Are you sure you are just not going down the wrong path? Your heart did not seem to be in it. I'm sure you have the ability, but your motivation seems to be lacking. I'm not one who believes lack of motivation is always a result of laziness. Often, it is a result of not following your true calling.

Only you can answer what the issue is. I'd say make sure that you know what you want to do with your life. Once you decide, do it 100%. Then you will have no regrets.
 
  • #3
Physics_UG
Gold Member
285
2
That's kind of a sad story. Are you sure you are just not going down the wrong path? Your heart did not seem to be in it. I'm sure you have the ability, but your motivation seems to be lacking. I'm not one who believes lack of motivation is always a result of laziness. Often, it is a result of not following your true calling.

Only you can answer what the issue is. I'd say make sure that you know what you want to do with your life. Once you decide, do it 100%. Then you will have no regrets.

Thanks. In my heart I want to finish the PhD program. I am just not sure the school wants to give me another chance.
 
  • #4
364
2
Thanks. In my heart I want to finish the PhD program. I am just not sure the school wants to give me another chance.

All, you can do is apply. I you are accepted, then they are willing to give you another chance. Once you get the chance, give them your best. You know the saying, "You can't keep a good man down."

I suppose you can start fresh somewhere else, but I would only do that if I felt the school was not a good match to my interests. Otherwise, I'd rather go there and set things right. I'd want to prove to anyone who doubted me that they were wrong to do so. Not in a vindictive way, mind you, but only in the spirit of a champion.
 

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