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Other Uncertainty about graduate school

  1. Mar 30, 2016 #1
    Hello, my name is Charles and I am experiencing some doubts about my physics career; I am hoping that other people here have felt the same and can give me some advice.

    I am presently at a crossroads career-wise and am rather lost. I have just accepted an admissions offer with very good funding into a top graduate school in physics but I am not excited for it at all. It was sort of the default path as I have no desire to work a 9-5 job either. I used to know for sure that I wanted to get my Ph.D. in physics and was thrilled to go to graduate school but now I am just very apathetic about everything which does not bode well for something as challenging as physics graduate school.

    Did anyone else have similar feelings before going into graduate studies? It's very strange. I used to read up on professors' research for hours because I was intrigued, but now I cannot even choose a professor to work with because at every school, I cannot find anything interesting in physics. It is almost as though my brain has been switched with that of an art major. The same goes for other topics too; I used to have varied interests in music and other things but not anymore. I considered taking a year off between undergrad and graduate school so that I could become passionate again but frankly I haven't the desire to do anything.

    I'm hoping that this is just a temporary result of being "burned out" or something. I am hoping that others are in this boat with me, or have been in the past.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2016 #2
    Reading your post reminded me of me. I was in the same boat as you last year. I got a pretty awesome job offer and grad school offer with good funding. I too read papers for fun on arxiv and spent time solving a lot of physics problems for fun.

    I asked on this very forum if I should defer or not. If I should wait and see. If I should take the job and see what it is like. I ended up not deferring and going to grad school. Let's just say that my first year is not going the way I was hoping it would. There is one obstacle that I am struggling with and I'm working on it. Looking back I should have deferred and taken the job. If I had done that and missed physics,then the answer is obvious. Though in all honesty, the grass always appears greener on the other side.

    What will you do if you defer? If you go to grad school with this mindset, it won't be easy emotionally. Grad school definitely has its emotional high and lows in addition to your work highs/lows... but that would be true just about anywhere. So take a look at your own application ( read your personal statement etc., look at your research experiences... how does that make you feel? Do you feel eager to do more? Are you proud of what you accomplished? ( You should be, at least even if you feel like there's more to do).

    Open up a graduate text in physics and just look through it. If you go to grad school, you will end up spending a lot of time with your nose in that book. Do you enjoy doing that?

    What are your goals? Personal/Professional? Would a PhD in physics help you achieve those? That's a big one to think about.
  4. Mar 30, 2016 #3
    I am not a graduate of a degree program, but I do have diploma level technologist training + over a decade of experience in the electronics technical field. I don't have much to offer in helping either way, but maybe my own perspective and experience can highlight a few things you've already thought of.

    Its all about your desired end state. Its easy to lose a passionate feeling when you have reached an objective. Kind of like taking a break during a physically demanding task. If you rest for a bit, it is much more difficult to find the motivation to continue that task.

    That is when you need to have a real reason or goal. You need to sit down and write down what you want to achieve during your life. At first, try to think on a logical standpoint, without trying to "feel". Becoming aware of your feelings definitely can render them mundane. They seem to lose their effect. Kind of like suddenly being aware of a word and its pronunciation, then realizing its such a "stupid word" and laugh about it.

    Passion is having the eye on the prize, and using the journey in a positive feedback loop to achieve the prize. Maybe you were so focused on your undergrad that you hit a "goal plateau" when you succeeded. And maybe that made you feel like you quenched your thirst upon that achievement. Maybe this is true, maybe this isn't. There is no way to really tell other than yourself. Everyone has a different experience.

    Maybe you can explore different course load options for that PhD. Maybe you can speak to the faculty over there, and see what their experience is over there, as they see plenty of students and have their own experiences. Maybe it has to do with inspiration, maybe its your current life situation/environment.

    I find that for myself, to make level headed decisions I usually do physical exercise. It helps me regain perspective by letting some blood and happy chemicals flow through my noggin. Runs in nature, hikes through parks, ice hockey... whatever helps you let go a little bit and enjoy your own self.
  5. Mar 30, 2016 #4
    This is a very very bad feeling if you're starting grad school. Not good at all.

    First of all, sudden apathy for things you used to be passionate about could be a sign of a mental illness such as depression. Seek help from a professional to get that checked out. It might very well be nothing serious, but don't take any risks.

    I would definitely take a year off. Do some other job, perhaps even manual labor. I am very certain the passion will come back strong as ever.
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