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Picking PHD project - risk vs. reward

  1. Aug 30, 2014 #1
    I have 2 projects I'm considering. One is a very high risk project that I would be taking nearly full ownership over, where I would be building a new measurement instrument for characterization of a very hard to measure property in semiconductors. Cons: will probably be heavily managed by professor. Professor is new. I don't fully understand the theory behind the project and it is alot of theory to take in. I don't know if I'm actually good enough at programming and electronics to handle it. Even if I work hard, results are not guaranteed. Materials used are not used in industry, characterization techniques used not in industry, making it risky for employment as well. Only employment value is selling transferrable skills.

    Second project is a low risk project. The professor just received tenure and has a track record of placing students in industry. The equipment is commercially available except for some modifications, and most of the work will be in data analysis and sample fabrication. All the equipment is used in industry and has specific jobs lined up. Results are guaranteed if I work hard. I understand and like the theory behind his work. Cons: relatively routine work. mostly data analysis of results using known instrumentation. little real device fabrication or instrumentation involved, at most data analysis and modeling.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2014 #2
    I'm sorry you are not finding help at the moment. Is there any additional information you can share with us?
  4. Sep 7, 2014 #3
    Personally, the 2nd one involving data analysis and modelling sounds more interesting, but to each their own.

    When you describe these two projects as "Low Risk" and "Low Reward", how are you categorizing reward? Publishing?
  5. Sep 7, 2014 #4
    From the original post it sounds like your goals are getting a job in industry. If that is the case I'd say go for the second project with the professor that has been having people in his group to go industry.
  6. Sep 7, 2014 #5
    Publishing is one measure of reward, and another is learning broadly applicable skills in programming and electronics. Mostly, my goal is to work as upstream as possible. I don't want to be just a tool user, I want to be a tool maker or at least learn about tool making. This may be unrealistic though, as getting the training to become a tool maker makes me less competitive for jobs as a tool user, and there's more jobs as tool users than as tool makers.

    The second project has me analyzing data from commercial instrumentation that is used in 2 types of jobs in a single industry. That is why I don't want to do it as much; it has me as a tool user, rather than a tool maker.

    I looked up the 1st professor's old group which had a mixture of people going into industry and academia. It isn't as terrible as I thought. I guess I'll see from their personalities.
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