Short PhD

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  • Thread starter Malamala
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  • #1
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Hello! I am not going to give details about the situation (for obvious reasons) but here it is: I got accepted for PhD to a very good American university, in experimental particle physics and I met a famous professor here who is willing to be my mentor. I talked to some of his old students and they all said good things about him (both personality related and research related). The thing is that his students usually finish the PhD in about 3 years, while the average here is about 6. I am not sure if I should go for it or not. I really like the work that he is doing and a recommendation letter from him would definitely mean a lot and I am totally willing to put as much effort as necessary into the projects he gives me. I am just not sure if a 3 years PhD would be good for my future career? Will I get to learn enough? Will the post-doc or professor positions I will apply to might view such a short PhD as a bad thing (the students I talked to graduated quite recently so I am not sure about the long term impact of this)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

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  • #2
Choppy
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What's the sample size of students finishing in ~3 years? And where those students in similar positions as yourself?

In my experience (I'm in Canada) a 3 year PhD is not unheard of, but that's often because students usually do a master's degree first and if they carry forward the project into the PhD, they don't have much of a learning curve to climb. So in total, they finish ~ 5-6 years from completing the BSc. So the reason I ask about the sample size is that if this is just 2-3 students, it's possible that they may have been already working on the project in some capacity before starting. Or perhaps they were exceptional students with exceptional projects.

If it's a much larger number then you may just want to look at what's happened to the graduates. Are they now in places that you'd like to see yourself in?

I think you're right to question the reason behind what seems like an abnormally short time to complete the PhD, but the fact that it is short is not necessarily a roadblock.
 
  • #3
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What's the sample size of students finishing in ~3 years? And where those students in similar positions as yourself?

In my experience (I'm in Canada) a 3 year PhD is not unheard of, but that's often because students usually do a master's degree first and if they carry forward the project into the PhD, they don't have much of a learning curve to climb. So in total, they finish ~ 5-6 years from completing the BSc. So the reason I ask about the sample size is that if this is just 2-3 students, it's possible that they may have been already working on the project in some capacity before starting. Or perhaps they were exceptional students with exceptional projects.

If it's a much larger number then you may just want to look at what's happened to the graduates. Are they now in places that you'd like to see yourself in?

I think you're right to question the reason behind what seems like an abnormally short time to complete the PhD, but the fact that it is short is not necessarily a roadblock.
He is a professor for many years (also a Nobel prize winner) and he has always been like that with his students. One of his old students (who finished in less than 3 years) is actually the head of the physics department now. Also another one is a professor at another top American university. Another one went to finances after (of course this is not a huge sample...). I don't really think that all the students that worked with him during the years were geniuses, it's just his style of mentoring.
 
  • #4
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Sounds like a win.
 
  • #5
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Sounds like a win.
More details would be good :D I am genuinely looking for honest pros and cons (I don't want to make a biased decision)
 
  • #6
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I don't know of any cons of working with a Nobel prize winner whose students go on to successful careers and who can save you 3 years of your life.

Your OP almost sounds like you think finishing in 3 instead of 6 years is bad. It's the opposite.

I guess one thing to check is to see if there weren't special circumstances; e.g. in Europe PhD times are shorter, but largely because they begin with a masters, and so some of the time was just moved, rather than removed.
 

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