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Thinking about a second ph.d.

  1. No

    63 vote(s)
  2. Getting math ph.d. after physics is good; but don't get philosophy ph.d. after that

    6 vote(s)
  3. yes, both getting math ph.d. after physics, and philosophy ph.d. after math is good

    6 vote(s)
  1. Jun 23, 2010 #1
    Background info about myself: I am 30 years old. I got BA with double major in physics and math at UC Berkeley in 2001. I got Masters in Physics at University of Minnesota in 2004, and I got ph.d. in Physics, at University of Michigan in 2009. I am now pursuing my post doc in Raman Research Institute, India. My appointment is 2009 -- 2011.

    Anyway, from time to time I am considering getting back in graduate school and getting another ph.d., in math. I actually considered it before I ever started a post doc. I was worried that if I count the three years I spent in Minnesota, then it took me 8 years to get ph.d. which is bad. But if I go and get another ph.d. in math, and hurry up and make it within 3 years, then I would have spent 8+3=11 years for two ph.d.-s, which is 5.5 years per ph.d. which is not that bad.

    I guess right now that would not work since now I started my post doc which takes 2 years, so then it would be 8+2+3=13 years, which is 6.5 years per ph.d. But still may be the "good" part about having two ph.d.-s make up for the "bad" part about taking such a long time?

    Anyway, there is a completely different factor that makes me want to do that. I guess I am worried that I am not a competitive candidate for a post doc (I applied to a number of places before and India was the only thing I got), so perhaps I would have better luck getting into graduate school which is not as competitive. Besides, in graduate school I will probably find my way better since it is more structured and I would have an "advisor" to guide me, while as a post doc I am pretty much left on my own.

    Finally there is that worry that being a PROFESSOR is even more competitive: I heard that at oen school there was one place and 300 candidates per position. But then the question is: why do I WANT to be a professor? The answer is that I need to make money; so if I am not a professor I would have to do some other job, and that job would take time away from the research that I would be doing on my "spare time". Well, if I will be graduate student then I would be payed, like most grad students are. Of course I would be payed a lot less than professors, but being rich has never been my dream. I just want to be albe to do research all day long without having to do non-research job. Well, being in grad school takes care of it. So, now that I have ph.d. in physics, I can go get one in math. And after that I can go get one in philosophy. Each time I will pursue my interests: I am interested in interpretaiton of quantum mechanics. So this can be either "physics" or "math" (i.e. mathematical physics) or "philosophy" (i.e. philosophy of physics). So I will get three ph.d.-s AND will be able to keep doign my research without getitng a job.

    But I guess I am a bit skeptical about it, mostly because usually people don't do that, so there has to be a reason why not. This seem strange: if it is so rare to have multiple ph.d.-s, it should look prestigious, and if it does, why don't everyone want it? So may be there is something bad about it that I am not aware of. Anyway please let me know what you think.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2010 #2
  4. Jun 23, 2010 #3
    I haven't read the entire thread yet. But at least the first half of the page seems to be saying that the reason math ph.d. is a bad idea is that it would make you do research in math, which would not be helpful for physics. The courses in math are helpful; but you don't have to do ph.d. just to take courses.

    I guess in my case I don't mind doing RESEARCH in math, because my area of interest is "mathematical physics", so some math departments have faculty doing research in this. So what I am basically asking is this: is it a good idea to continue researching exactly what I am doing now, while "calling" it a math research, by finding a math department where faculty does what I am doing.
  5. Jun 23, 2010 #4


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    Your main reason for wanting to do another PhD seems to be that you want an "advisor" to guide you. Well, firstly, as a postdoc you should have a boss who act as a mentor and guide you. But, secondly, if you really cannot research independently after spending a long time on your PhD and then a year or so on your postdoc, then maybe you're not cut out for research after all-- I can't see how trying for another PhD will help you in that.

    I guess it seems a bit bizarre to me that, after going through the process of getting a PhD once, you want to do it again in another very related field (I'm pretty sure, from your previous posts, that you work in a very theoretical area of theoretical physics, which really isn't that far removed from mathematics).
  6. Jun 23, 2010 #5
    300 candidates to one position seems somewhat normal in the industry. That's not too competitive in the private industry. I've applied to jobs where over 3000 have applied and I would be one of the few 20 or so that were selected for a screening and then for a face-to-face interview.

    I would advise against a second Ph.D. Having spent 20+ years for a higher education just makes you look like a full-time student afraid to step into the real world. Not good in the eyes of many employers.
  7. Jun 23, 2010 #6
    You are right that this is one of the important reasons; but still not the main one. The main reason is that I am sceptical regarding my chances of getting a second post doc because it doesn't seem like I made a good impression here in India. So I hope that may be I have better chances of getting into graduate school since it is one level below and, therefore, less competitive. Plus, I also hope that this would allow me to ask for references from previous schools rather than the post doc where I am at right now.

    Basically what happened is this. I suffer from Asperger syndrome, which is considered to be a mild form of autism. This causes my communication style to be aggressive even thought I don't mean it to be such. For example, my tone of voice is naturally twice louder than normal, and it actually takes PHYSICAL effort to control it, which, naturally, I can't remember to do all the time. This, in combination of my forgetting to take showers, basically allienated my advisor and made her not want to talk to me.

    Strictly speaking, this is okay since, according to policy of this specific institute, the post docs are completely independent. But in my case I need supervision particularly with editting my papers before I post them, because my writing style is very unclear. So, because I got no help editting them, when annual reports came about people said things like "this is just a bunch of jargon", "it is a complete nonesense", "this work lacks consistency of thought".

    Now, I know from my experience that when I first tell people about my work that is exactly the reaction I get. Then, after I explain it for several hours, FINALLY they would understand it and have much better opinion of it. To prove a point, that is exaclty what happened with my thesis advisor, Luca Bombelli. During the first year he was very confused and visibly angry in response to any of the ideas I told him about. But finally when he understood them he liked them a lot better.

    Another proof of the same point: I have few differnt arXiv papers. Only one of them was co-authered with Bombelli. The one that was co-authered with Bombelli gets cited; the rest do not. Now, based on content the ideas are similar. So clearly the difference is that the clarity is better when he edits it for me.

    So the above lead me to believe that IF I were to make better impression on my advisor, then I would have had a year to explain what I am doing to her, and, like Bombelli, she would have understood it finally and would have written a good report. But, because I made a bad impression on her, AND complained to director about it, the director actually did me a favor and decided to ask external referrees, in order to make sure that personal opinions about me won't negatively influence the reports (most of the time they ask internally for post docs, and they ask externally only for professors, so basically he did me a favor by asking externally for me). Now, the external referrees didn't have a year to discuss anything with me, so OF COURSE they say it is nonesense since that is typical first reaction to my ideas.

    Now, I am not complaing about him doing external referee report. After all he did exactly what I wanted him to do, so I should be thankful. In fact, based on my, rather limitted, interaction with the advisor, I am sure if he were to ask internally it would have been even worse. What I am saying though is that IN IMAGINARY SCENARIO if I didn't wear out her patience, THEN may be her opinon of me would have been good (since I would have had a full year to explain all of my thoughts to her) and then the director would have done the internal referee like he usually does AND would have gotten a good feedback. Now I am not blaming her either. I knwo that at the beginning she was super-patient and I was the one trying to take advantage of every bit of her patience which is what weared her out. But I guess basically due to my Asperger I usually can't tell where the line is until I cross it. So my Asperger (strictly social aspects of it) is what screwed me up.

    Also, to be completely fair, yes she tried editting my paper when I asked her to, and yes she made a lot of corrections, so I am sure if I were to ask her again and again then within a year she would have brought all of my work to readeable form. But I guess I was the one who stopped communicating with her, basically because of her overall negative attitude that transpired the whole time I was talking to her. So I guess it is my fault: it is better to endure negative attitude and then have good reports than not talk to her and have bad ones. But at the same time talking to her was not very productive either since she was disagreeing with me on some of the basics, and for that reason never got beyond that. Again, I feel it is partly her attitude. Because when I vissitted Bobelli he had much more positive attidue about my work, and even when I tried to explain to him the things she didn't agree with, he didn't understand her perspective. From his ponit of view my work was just fine.

    But anyway, back to the point of the article. Basically, in light of all this, I don't see how I can be a competitive candidate for a post doc job. I am sure if I ask letters of recommendation from the Institute it would only distroy me. So my only option is to ask outside the insittute. One obvious person to ask is Bobmelli, I am sure his letter will be very positive one. But the bad thing is that they ask for three letters of reference, not just one. I guess I can pull two more people from my ph.d. committee back from graduate school, but that would look weird: jobs would wonder why I insist on getting people from the past and not from my current position, and they will suspect something is wrong. I guess Bobelli is less suspicious: I can say I was collaborating with him while a post doc here (which is partly true since I made one visit to see him, and plan to make more visits). But it is still a bit of a stretch.

    So I am thinking that may be I should apply to be a graduate student and that would make me more competitive. After all, graduate school is one level below post doc, so perhaps there is less competition? And also, since it is one level below, I can always tell that this is a reason I am not asking references from my post doc place: it won't make logical sense to. So what do you think?

    Well there are two things

    A. I allienated my boss (see above)

    B. In this specific institute post docs are more independent than in most other places. I was explicitly told that whenever I asked anyone here at the Insitute.

    I think what is holding me back is that I chose to work on very fringe areas of physics. I was hoping to use it to my advantage: if not much was done in area X, then I can do area X completely in my own way and be famous. ANd that is exactly what I did, which the institute policy allowed. But what ended up happening is that I became increasingly sceptical about my own work.

    For these reasons I actually switched from causal sets to interpretatoin of quantum mechanics. But now with my new research in the latter I am also skeptical: a lot of my ideas to explain non-locality in QM are very "conspirational" so if I ask myself which is bigger the problem that I create or the one I solve? The answer is really up to your "taste". So thats why I am very uneasy continuing working independently. I want to actually ask someone what THEIR taste is, and just go along with that.

    I guess the natural thing to suggest would be "why don't you switch to something mainstream". But you see, I have no experience working in anything mainstream. I was very obsessed about my own ideas the whole time and did not pay attention to anything else anyone was doing. So now that I finally feel DONE with my own stuff, and ready to pay attention, I want to go back to graduate school and let someone teach me -- something I never let them do before.

    It will buy me more time, basically. Obviously buying time by doing FIRST ph.d. longer is not a good idea since it looks very bad if I am slower than most. But if I do a SECOND ph.d. then it is easy way to buying time WITHOUT looking bad; in fact, I might actually decrease the number of yeras per ph.d. by spending less time on the second one then I did on the first one.

    The fact that the field is very related is precisely why I want to do it. I do NOT want to switch my area of research. So thats why I am looking for an apportunity to "have it both ways": do another ph.d. without actually changing anythihng I am doing.
  8. Jun 23, 2010 #7
    I would think you'll struggle to find an advisor who wants to work with you in a PhD capacity when the topic is a field which you're already very familiar with. You'd be going backwards. 'Buying time' isn't a good reason to do a PhD, at all - and even then, I don't see how a second PhD would help in any way with the issues that you describe above. The problems that you are having in the academic world aren't going to disappear with a second PhD, and I'd think that, even if you did find somewhere that would accept you for a second PhD, you'd have tremendous difficulty finding a post-doc position after that. Think of the way that you would appear to future employers - you completed a PhD, a post-doc position and then went backwards to PhD level again. Unfortunately, you don't get many chances with post-doc positions. A couple of positions make or break whether or not you will be able to work in academia - there really isn't any reset button to get more chances.
  9. Jun 23, 2010 #8
    Do you really want to be a grad student again?

    I'd ask myself: what opportunities are available to me with two Ph.D.s that aren't available to me with a single Ph.D. ?
  10. Jun 24, 2010 #9

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    We've gone around this particular block before, I'm afraid.

    It's time to face facts. You bombed at one school, bombed at a second school and only graduated because someone at a third school took pity on you and took you on. You were only able to get a postdoc at a third-world country and even there you were by an empirical standard completely unproductive. You have exactly one published paper, done as a grad student in collaboration with your advisor, and this paper has only 15 citations, 8 of them yours.

    This is not the profile of a successful physicist. To contrast, a former postdoc I know who left the field because he knew he couldn't get a permanent job had, one year out of graduate school, 14 published papers and 235 citations. Again, 8 of the citations were his.

    You use your Aspergers as an excuse. Aspergers does not equal ingratitude - you have metaphorically spit on anyone who has ever tried to help you, and then come to us wondering why people have decided to stop helping you. Asperger's does not equal arrogance either - you have ignored every piece of advice ever offered to you, because you know better. You seem not to have noticed that the same behavior is leading to the same negative results, but somehow this behavior is not something you are willing to change. I am surprised that other people with Asperger's haven't taken you to the woodshed for pretending that your own shortcomings are caused by Aspergers. Perhaps they are too polite. But squandering opportunities is not a symptom of Aspergers.

    To quote someone from a long-dead thread: "If I may summarize your original post, you refused to listen to anyone who has ever given you advice as you stumbled from school to school alienating people with your childish behavior as you went your own way.

    You are *very* lucky that you met so many *very* patient people on your way."

    No, another PhD is not going to help you. Changing your attitude might, but it's hard to overcome a squandered decade.
  11. Jun 24, 2010 #10
    To be fair, it looks like this guy works in a pretty esoteric genre---I wouldn't expect too many people were working in his field, so naturally his citation count would be low.

    The guy you are talking about is probably in particle phenomenology, or astro-particle physics or something. Those fields are a lot more band-wagon-ish, and you can get a pile of citations by being the second person to write a paper on something popular. For example, look how many citations the first unparticle papers NOT by Georgi got.
  12. Jun 24, 2010 #11

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    You can quibble about this, but it doesn't change anything. One paper? From 2008? And nothing since? You cannot tell me this is a profile of a successful student.

    You can take a look at a previous student from the same advisor at the same stage in his career. He had 3 published papers, 46 cites (and only 3 self-sites), and is publishing with other people.

    This is very far off the mass shell for a permanent position. Many undergrads have better publication records.
  13. Jun 24, 2010 #12
    In addition to the one paper you are talking about ( http://iopscience.iop.org/0264-9381/26/7/075011/pdf/0264-9381_26_7_075011.pdf ) I have also recently written two proceedings papers -- both were peer reviewed. So this adds to three papers.



    I know it is still less than the 14 papers you said the other person have written. But in your next response you said that one of the Bombelli's students have also written 3 papers:

    So, from the above, it follows that at least I am on the same level as Bombelli's studet.

    Furthermore, I have submitted one more paper to the Physics Review D. I got referee reports. One of the two referees considered my work to be very good. I did their corrections and I am now awaiting re-evaluation.

    Anyway, I could have submitted all of my arxiv papers to the jornal and then I would have had 10+ publications. Why didn't I? Well, because I my writing style is not clear, so, unless Bombelli edits them, I am almost certain they would be rejected. But that is a problem with English, not physics.

    Also, part of it is psychological: precisely BECAUSE I feel I wasted a lot of time, I don't feel like going back to papers I have already posted and try to edit them; I feel like going forward and writing more papers in order to "catch up". And that is ultimately why I won't submit them to journals: I know they won't be accepted unless I do heavy editting first. Well may be that is a mistake. One of the things the few things the prof in India advised me is precisely that: going back to my arxiv papers and edit them instead of doing any more papers. May be I should visit Bombelli and utilize that visit specifically for that purpose.

    Actually I am surprised by what you said. When I jsut started a post doc position, I asked how many papers do people normally write during their post doc appointments. I was told that the first year post docs typically write one paper, and the second year ones typically do 2 or 3 papers. Now, in order for that student to write 14 papers, he had to write 3 papers a year, which means he had to work faster than the first year post doc. Or are you saying that in India people work slower because it is third world country?

    The difference between Asperger and ordinary misbehavior is that people with Asperger don't do it maliciously. I agree with you: Asperger is NOT about wanting to hurt people. But Asperger makes a person unaware of social norms. So, while a person with Asperger might have best intentions, they accidentally hurt others, out of ignorance. It is kind of like if you don't know English well, you might intend to say the word "flag" and then instead be heard saying offensive f-word, and no one will believe you that you really meant to say "flag".

    In my case that is exactly what happened. For example, when I asked her whether or not she would expell me, I had no idea that I was accusiong her of anything. After all, she is in a position of authority, so, by definition, she is right. Rather I had doubts about myself, becuase I had history of being expelled before. So my question whether or not I will be expelled was really question about ME: namely am *I* in danger doing someting that would RIGHTFULLY cause me to be expelled? But what she heard me saying is accusing HER, she decided that I was accusing her of "abusing her power" (her own words).

    Then, the next thing that pissed her off was that when she said that if I don't trust her it is not going to work, I asked her whether she was "threatening" to expell me. She was upset because I used the word "threaten". But I don't ever pay attention to the words I use. Here is another phrasing of the same question: "did my behavior that portrayed mistrust put me in danger of being expelled". As you see, this new phrasing only blames me, not her, and therefore is much better. But due to Asperger I simply don't pay attention to words, so while I MEANT to ask the latter, I instead asked whether or not she was "threatening" me with expulsion, and then she was all upset about it. Now, since I didn't use the word "threaten" maliciously and in fact I didn't even notice I used it until she became mad at it, it is clear that hte problem is my lack of mastery of social language. Well, lack of social skills IS Asperger.

    Subsequently, I ended up being accused of disrespecting her for even smaller things. For example, one day I was writing some equations on a blackboard. I forgot to erase what was written by other people before me, and instead started writing on one of the corners of black board in very small letters. She then interrupted me and said that if I expect her to pay attention I have to "at least do some minimal things" that includes erasing the blackboard. I then picked up an eraser and started erasing the blackboard. Since a lot was written it took me like a minute or so to erase it. During this whole minute she kept lecturing me on how horrible I was for not having erased it, even though I was erasing it right in front of her.

    Here is another example. A couple of weeks later after the above incident I was explaining one of my physics theories to her. Now you konw sometimes when you talk about physics, sometimes you imagine an abstract observer, and you might personify that observer as "me" or "you". Well, that is exactly what I did. Then she interrupted me and said "would you stop making rude personal comments about me, because I don't have to be here". I then wanted to explain to her exactly what I just said: that "you" was meant to refer to abstract observer. My first sentence in explaining this was "it is part of the language". Then she interrupted me right there with a phrase "you can easilly control it", so I didn't even have a chance to explain that I didn't mean to refer to her, personally.

    Now I understand that it is me rather than her: after all, she is rather friendly with everyone else, so obviously my communication somehow differs from other people's. But I have NO IDEA how. I mean I dind't come in the room with intention to attack her. I came with intention to explain my theory and that is what I was doing. I can only guess why I came across as attacking. One guess might be my voice is naturally louder than other people's, and also the pace of my speach is naturally faster. But that is only a guess. THe fact of a matter is that I DIDN"T KNOW that I was comming across as agressive, until I saw her reaction. And that is PRECISELY why I say it is Asperger. When a person without Asperger is beign rude they konw it. But what Asperger does to you is that you can come across as rude without meaning to.

    Now let us move on to the bigger picture. You said that it is not just in India that I "spat at people's face", but you claim that I did that back in USA too, during the whole 8 year history that I have written about in that older post. Again, I don't know why that is the case. Yes, I made very stupid decisions that have hurt ME and MY career, but I don't see how they have to do with spitting at other people's faces. I mean, the professors who gave me advice already had their ph.d.-s so hwo was I possibly hurting them by not listening to their advice?

    Now, if I sit and think about it, then yes I can make some GUESSES of how I was rude:

    a) If I ask them to give me a project, I also ask them to invest some time into supervising me. So, by not cooperating, and not making progress, I ultimately made them waste their time. In other words, I have shown disrespect for their time.

    b) By not taking their advice seriously I have implied that they are stupid and their advice is not worth my attention

    c) By subsequently demanding that they give me more chances I was implying that I did everything right, which logically implies that it is all their fault; and that is despite the fact that they have invested more efforts on me than on average student

    But here is the point: I came up with the above answers to my own question ONLY NOW, AFTER HAVING BEEN THINKIN AOBUT IT FOR A LONG TIME. It took me months and months of thinking before I could realize the above. When I was IN a situation I sincerely didn't know I was disrespecting or harming anyone at all. I thought I was only harming myself. So again this means ti is Asperger. When a person who doesn't have Asperger harm others, he knows very well that he is harming others and he CHOOSES to do that out of malice. But in my case I had no idea I was harming anyone. So this has nothing to do with malice. This has to do with lack of social awareness, which is Asperger.

    This was not due to arrogance, this was due to rigidity of thinking. Let me give you an example. As you recall from my post a long time ago, one of the main things that screw me over during the first few years of grad school is that I assumed the main thing is coursework, not research, as a result of which I neglected the latter. Now, because of that wrong assumption, I had a question: how come if I count all the prerequisites, it would take me two and a half years to complete quantum field theory course, while Oral Exam is at the end of second year? The answer I typically got is that if someone wants to specialize in quantum field theory they can teach themselves (and, therefore, either skip the first course in the sequence, or else teach themselves the last course). Now, from my current perspective yes it makes sense: since graduate school is about research then courses are like a "dictionary reference" which means you can take SOME courses while teaching yoruself on other things. But back at that time I could not accept it. I was thinking courses are everything, so how can something like this possibly happen?

    As a result I keep going from office to office asking the same question over and over again. Now, if I was arrogant, why would I be asking that question for the whole month straight? If I am smarter than others, then they would not be worth listening to. So, obviuosly, I was not arrogant. I expected people to tell me "you are wrong in such and such" and then I would happilly say "hey I now see the light". But the problem is that I simply couldn't accept the fact that thigns are not about coursework. Yes, I was willing to accept that I was "wrong" in sonmething, but not THIS. So since I was willing to be wrong in anything else, clearly I was not arrogant. My thinking was simply too rigid to get out of "courses is everything" frame of mind.

    Now, the rigidity of thought IS a well known symptom of Asperger. A lot of people with Asperger get locked into some train of thought and can't get out of it. And in fact it is common for them to COME ACROSS as argumentative when, in fact, what drives them is something quite different from what you would normally assume (see for example this thread

    If I look back at the 8 years in graduate school back in USA then I do see what the behavior is: I was insisting on my own ideas and didn't listen to other people's advice. For example when I was told don't take so many courses and focus on research I didn't listen and continued to take as many courses as possible while ignoring the research. Also when I finally did get to a research I was told "I know you don't like such and such concept, but just accept it as an axiom and move forward". Again I didn't want to listen to it and continued to try to dwell on whatever I disliked.

    However, I don't think the above mistakes are applicable at all to India. I mean in India just the opposite scenario happened: I asked my boss whether or not she would give me an assigment and she kept insisting that I am an independent researcher and she can't give me any assignments (in fact that is one way I allienated her: when she said it to me the first time I couldn't believe that I REALLY had that much independence so I asked the same question few more times, and one of these times I asked whether I would be "expelled" if my own self-taught work will be too far off which is what angered her).

    Now, if my mistake in USA was giving myself my own assignments and not doing what I was told to do, how can I possibly be "making the smae mistake" in India if here in India I was TOLD to self-supervise? In fact, my original reluctance to do so would be the OPPOSITE to my behavior back in USA.

    Asperger's has to do with being unaware of the way the world works, and specifically social rules. So if one doesn't konw the rules of the game then yes they will blow it.

    Now in my case I was told many times that grad school is not the same as college and in gradschool it is no longer about courses. But again, my inability to wrap my mind around this is due to a rigidity of thought, which is also part of Asperger. As I mentioned earlier, I had a number of questions that were precisely the result of my not grasping that concept. So the fact that I ran around asking those questions indicates that I sincerely didn't grasp this, as opposed to being arrogant.

    As you said, "changing my attitude might". So, since I intend to change my attitude, I want to get some audience to wittness it. So, if I won't get into a next post doc, I am thinking of doing another ph.d. Otherwise, if i won't do either post doc or ph.d. because of past mistakes, how would anyone wittness my changed attitude?
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  14. Jun 24, 2010 #13
    Why don't you try and discuss the things you're discussing here with them? Explain to them what you just did to Physics Forums, and I bet it's going to be easier following your desired career path than to try and tackle another PhD.
  15. Jun 24, 2010 #14
    I hate to say this, but I suspect that you will find it *very* difficult to be admitted to another Ph.D. program. To begin with, many schools have explicit rules against dual Ph.D.s, and even the ones without such rules do not encourage it.

    Plus... "Since I intend to change my attitude, I want to get some audience to witness it"?!? I'm not seeing any change there at all...
  16. Jun 24, 2010 #15
    As far as that female professor I don't feel comfortable communicating with her. I mean, long time ago when I was trying to, she would act as if I am about to attack her physically or something (for example, she would carefully phrase her responses in as few words as possibe, she would also respond VERY quietly, and one day when I walked into her officce and closed the door she asked me to open it in a rather rude way). So now I am at a point that I don't even feel comfortable asking her what time it is, let alone explaining anything to her.

    Now, the good part is that I am not officially "under" her, so the whole evaluation process was carried by a director and NOT by her. And as far as director goes, yes I tried to explain to him some of the things. In particular, I told him that I believe that the reason I got the reports that I did have to do with clarity of my work as opposed to a content. I gave him three pieces of evidence to back it up:

    a) The content of my arXiv papers is similar; yet the only one that others cite are the ones that I co-authered with Bombelli. So, clearly, the style is a reason for lack of citations. Now, HE didn't worry about citations. He worried about the people he asked who told him it is nonesense. But here is a point: if a style can cause lack of citations, it can ALSO cause people to call it nonesense.

    b) When I was working with Bombelli during the first year he was of very low opinion of me. He was even considering refusing to work with me few times and the only reason he kept working was that I won't get degree otherwise. But AT THE SAME TIME during the second year all of a sudden his opinion of me changed for the better and he ended up considering me MORE promising than the average student. Why did it change? Because my language is not clear so it takes a long time to adjust before one cna understand me. That is NOT just my own interpretaiton; THAT IS WHAT BOMBELLI SAID HIMSELF when during the "good time" he was explaining why he USED to dislike me during the bad one. Again, the director doesn't care about the "bad time" with Bimbelli, he cares about the people he asked (none of whom is Bombelli). But the point is that if Bombelli's opinion changed for a better, may be these people's opinion wouldl have changed as well? I suggested to the director that he contacts Bombelli so he can verify the above. He refused to do it.

    c) I suggested to him that I go work with Bombelli so he can edit all of my papers and re-submit new versions. Then after that, he can show the new versions to the same people he asked and see if they like them better. If they do, that would be a proof that it is about style and not content, since the content would not change, only style would. Again, he refused to do that, too.

    Basically his generic response to ALL of my evidence is that "yes it is POSSIBLE that I am right". I then told him that if it is POSSIBLE that I am right, why not check it? He said that he "doesn't want to know anything he doesn't have to know" (his own words). I then asked him why don't you have to know it? If it is about style and not about research potential, wouldn't it imply that you should extend my stay for the third year (the purpose of these referree reports was to see whether or not to extend my stay till 2012, while my oriignal appointment was till 2011). He said that he won't change his decision no matter what he findds out since his decision is already made. When I asked why not, all he said was that it is standard procedure that he has to follow.
  17. Jun 25, 2010 #16


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    Your decision is already made. Before you started this thread, it was made. Go ahead and apply for a second PhD.
  18. Jun 25, 2010 #17
    But I know at least two people who were able to do it. First of all, there was a visitting preacher at the adventist club I went to back in USA. He had 2 or 3 ph.d-s. Then also the father of Mr New Zeland, Arnold Do Toit, has at least 6 ph.d.-s (he is in late 40-s and still pursuing one of the ph.d.-s). So obviously some schools do allow it.

    I changed it in a way that I made up my mind that IF I go to grad school again I will do exactly what my advisor says and follow all the directions.
  19. Jun 25, 2010 #18
    Well before I made this post yes I my mind was almost made up to apply to graduate schools. But now that I see most people think it is a bad idea, I am more leaning towards only applying for postdocs. So I DO take your opinion into account. But my mind is not made up yet one way or the other because of the issues with post docs I have been bringing up, so I need to talk and clarify your points of view.
  20. Jun 25, 2010 #19
    Allow, yes, encourage, no. Your attempt at a "do-over" will not be looked at favorably anywhere, but it's certainly possible that you might be accepted somewhere despite this depending on the details of your background.

    However, I think looking for another postdoc is a *much* better course of action. Doing several postdocs is very common.
  21. Jun 26, 2010 #20
    I do plan to apply for post doc. My question is whether or not I should apply IN PARALLEL to grad schools as well, in case they won't accept me for post doc.

    When I was applying the first time around I only was able to get offer from two places: Perimeter Institute (Canada) and Raman Resesarch Institute (India). Then I blew my apportunity in Canada because I was invited for one week interview that was not structured so I was expected to approach people myself and socialize but due to my Asperger I didn't know how to. In India I didn't have to go through interview because it is too far away, so I got in.

    Anyway, in both of the above places my former thesis advisor, Bombelli, knows someone personally. In Perimeter Institute there is Sorkin, who used to be Bombelli's thesis advisor; in Raman insitute there is Surya who used to be one of the other students of Sorkin. So, the fact that I did not get anywhere else shows that getting a post doc position is really hard and Bombellis personal connections is the only thing that can save me. Now the problem is that he doesn't have too many other connections. When I asked him what to do the only thing he could think of is one of his former students who works in one of the small schools somewhere. But obviously there is no guaranee for anything.

    To make it worse, most post doc posiions require three letters of recommendation. Right now I can only have ONE good letter: he one from Bombelli. I am not going to even ask anyone in my insitutte to write anythign because of my bad reputation. This means that I will probably have to ask two more former ph.d. committee members back from USA for two more letters. This will look very weird and the places I apply to will be wondering why didn't I get letters from the current place I am at. On top of this, out of these three letters teh only strong one will be Bombelli's; since none of the other committee members are in the field.

    That is why I keep thinking: should I apply to grad schools IN PARALLEL of applying for post docs? That way if I won't get any post doc may be I will still have somewhere to go, since grad schools are less competitive (I didn't need any personal connections to get into grad school).
  22. Jun 26, 2010 #21


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    Casualset, have you considered other alternatives besides Grad School or Post doc? What about industry?

    Btw, have you analyzed your performance as a researcher? It looks like you are the reason why you have so much trouble working as a researcher; you said you can't write well, and you don't get along with anyone.
  23. Jun 26, 2010 #22
    I won't consider alternatives outside theoretical physics or math because being a physicist was my life time goal since I was 9 years old.

    Yes. Here is a list of things that holds me back:

    1) 2001 -- 2003 During the first two years of graduate school I assumed the rules are the same as with undergrad: courses are number 1 and research is optional until I am completely done with courses. That held me back.

    2) 2003 -- 2005. When I was finally doing reserach, I was working in areas of physics with which I "didn't agree", so I wanted to rewrite all the axioms in a way that I agree with them before proceeding. That held me up more

    3) 2006 -- 2009. I fixed both of the above problems. I didn't take any more courses and in my research I worked at the topic I can agree with. So I successfully got Ph.d. in 2009.

    4) 2009 -- 2010 While part 3 looks good, it has a bad side effect to it. That topic I worked at was very obscure so I was intellectually isolated from most of what is going on in physics. I liked it at first, since it is easier to be original and famous this way; but now I see it is not good on grand scheme of things. Like right now when I have doubts about this little nitch I am working at, and WISH to do something more mainsream where I would be more confident, I don't have enough knowledge to proceed.

    5) Due to Asperger I am very isolated socially (don't have any friends, etc), that is why I don't know how the world works in general, not just academia, and that is why I am making the kinds of mistakes I do: if I had peer interaction I am sure I would know these things ahead of time or if I don't someone would have corrected me.

    6) Again, due to Asperger my communication is unpleasant which allienates people. And again, it is not just in academia but elsewhere too.

    7) My writing style which is confusing

    Now as you see confusing writing style is only one part out of 7. But you see, if I didn't have the first 6 things, then I would have been able to focus on that last part and overcome it. But because of the first 6 things I just don't have an energy to focus on item 7.

    I agree, but I intend to change these things since physics is my life time goal. But I want to arrange so that IF I change them I actually get another chance to show it. Hence the whole post doc/ grad school topic.
  24. Jun 27, 2010 #23

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    Causalset, tet's look at this from the point of view of the math or philosophy department. Why would they want to take you on? If they admit you, that means they don't admit some recent graduate who has a degree in math or philosophy and actually wants to pursue it.

    Additionally, it's getting quite tiresome to hear you blame all your personal shortcomings on Aspergers. Maybe Aspergers is the cause of your repeated failures, but you're going to have Aspergers all your life.
  25. Jun 28, 2010 #24
    The reason I even brought it up is that I heard of two people who actually DID follow that path. One person did 2 or 3 ph.d.-s in a sequence (didn't know how many) and the other one (the father of mr New Zeland) did at least 6. So obviously there is a way to convince a department to take me, despite the reasons not to which you just mentioned.

    By the way, regarding "degree in math" thing that you mentioned, I do have one. After all, since I am applying to grad school, by degree you mean BA. Well, when I was undergraduate, I did a double major in physics and math.

    It is true that I will have Asperger all my life, but Asperger doesn't mean I can't learn; it means I learn slower than most. For example, back in high school I was interrupting classes with inappropriate behavior and also occasionally pulling fire alarms;according to both high school councelor and privite therapist I was seeing (not me!), that was due to Asperger. Well, ever since I started college I never done any of these. So since I successfully outgrew that behavior I can also outgrow more recent problems that I was having.

    Basically Asperger makes me younger than my age in some areas. So back in high school when I was 16 my real age was 12. Then in grad school when I was over 20 my real age was 16. So, at some point when I will be fully adult I won't have these problems.

    Now, putting high school aside and speaking of what I encountered in grad school and now, I believe the main cause of all this is being isolated. If I was speaking to my fellow graduate students about what I was doing then I would have come to my own conclusions that other people's advice is right. After all, the reason I finally believed them is that my own experience confirmed this to me. Well if I was talking to other students I would have been able to rely on their experience, without having to experience it myself.

    And also, if I was talking to people, I would be regarded as "one of our own", so the current boss won't be so hostile towards me either. Even if I made the mistakes with her that I made, she would know it was an accident since my overall profile is very different. But if I don't ever talk to anyone then that makes me look strange and then, of course, who knows what to expect from me. Plus, research-wise, if I was talking to people then my progress would have been evident, and I won't have to explain that "I did good physics and it is ONLY my writing style". Everyone would KNOW this on their own.

    So basically starting from my next school I plan NOT to isolate myself, and I hope that will solve a lot of the problems.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2010
  26. Jun 28, 2010 #25
    You should really know that the highlighted bit doesn't follow from your assumptions. There might conceivably be a way to convince a department to allow a specific candidate to read for another PhD but it doesn't follow that there must be a way for a department to allow you to read for another PhD.

    Moreover, the people you mention seem to have done PhDs in different areas; this is a sign of their ability to achieve highly and of their ambition. You want to do a second PhD in the same discipline; this displays neither ability nor ambition.

    Again, this doesn't follow. It might be possible, but it doesn't follow as a logical conclusion. You should really know this.

    Again, this doesn't follow.

    Look, you're really going to have to come to terms with the fact that eventually people will stop having sympathy for you because of a medical condition from which you allegedly suffer, and will instead just give up on you as a bad job.

    You really should accept that you'd be much better off by looking to become productive in some other area rather than attempting to be a perennial - and perennially unsuccessful - student. You have to grow up and accept reality eventually, alleged disability or not.
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