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I will soon finish my masters course and have the opportunity to continue on in the same laboratory to do my doctors. This will be on a scholarship which would allow me to concentrate on research and not have to work unless I wanted to, all things that are appealing for obvious reasons.

The main issue is that during my time there as a masters student I have been able to see that the laboratory isn't a good environment for producing good research. Although everyone in the laboratory is nice enough on a social level, there is little collaboration being done on research, no common direction or theme between students research and generally little direction and guidance being given on individual students research. Students also choose research topics which arent in the speciality of the lab and therefore are not scrutinised to a level which doctoral work should be.

This has put me in the position of questioning whether to continue on to the PHD course or not. If I go through with it I am confident I will be able to graduate but I think the quality of my research and generally the amount that I learn will be much less than if I were able to do the same research in a more dedicated setting, this greatly diminishes the meaning of doing the course for me and also produces questions about future employment. On the other hand if I choose to not take the opportunity there's a good chance I will not do it at a later stage due to time and money reasons.

Is there anyone else that has had to do a PHD with little guidance, direction and/or collaboration ? Was graduating worth it in the end ? Did you feel you were far behind other researchers coming from other laboratories ? would you have rather gone to a different laboratory or even started working instead ?

I have thought about proactively finding solutions for this problem, one of them was to find a co-supervisor outside of my University that is more knowledgeable in the area I am researching. I have not seen this before, so is this something that is done ? If so, how do you go about finding a co-supervisor? It seems like I would have less to offer the co-supervisor making it not worth them taking me on.

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You target enough problems in your lab that it is probably worth your effort now to look for other opportunities rather than just accept the one that has fallen to you. It may be that you are well-enough placed to move to another university/lab and also obtain funding.

In some fields, students work more or less alone, independent of their advisors, but it doesn't sound like you are in such a situation.

But you can probably contact a few people in your field, not to seek a co-advisor but a new position entirely. You can do this discretely at first until you get a sense of what is possible.

I'm guessing that staying in your current situation won't be terrible. But you might be able to do at least a bit better. But you won't know until you look.

I'll also suggest that a co-advisor from another university might not be able to give you the attention you need. The nature of the relationship and the distance will work against that, as well as raising possible conflicts with your advisor. So tread carefully in that direction if you decide to go there.


I should add that before you condemn your current lab too severely, you should also look to see what has happened to other students who have graduated out of it. Are they developing the careers they hope for? Do they have good positions? If that is so, then the lab is a success, not a failure.

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