I am 5th year PhD, about to submit my thesis in few months and defend in around September this year. My computational materials science PhD thesis involved using a commercial software (ABAQUS) to model a machining problem. I had to come up with material models and write python codes to build new geometries and stuff. I did decent in my PhD with 3 publications in decent journals and few in preparation.

Now, I learnt the theory behind the working of the commercial software while beginning my work. I did it entirely through self study. However, my PhD thesis did not involve any manipulation or working with the actual theoretical formulation of the software. So, I don't have any working experience with the formulation of (Finite element method) FEA form of a problem and implementing it.

Now, all the jobs or postdoc positions in FEA application requires one to be able to solve a problem by hand, compare with analytical solutions, be proficient in implementing FEA weak forms into the commercial software...and so on. I don't know if I would be able to do it when required as I have not worked with it till now.

I don't know if I am even eligible to call myself a PhD as I feel unconfident/ashamed in my abilities to be called an expert in the numerical analysis field. What do I do?

  • Can you please edit to make your question clearer?
    – user2768
    Feb 11, 2019 at 9:33
  • 1
    If I understand what you are asking, the answer is to start now to learn the software you will be using.
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


Three quick thoughts:

  1. Discuss it with your advisor. They might know of more suitable positions, or have field-specific advice.

  2. During your PhD (and before), you should have improved the skill of learning things on your own. This will be useful in a postdoc or maybe an industrial position. Just don't be afraid to use it.

  3. It seems you have some time left before the defense. Use it to start learning the software and skills you need. Consider starting a new research project where you'd have to use these methods (nothing like learning by doing!), or just reimplementing an existing paper.

Good luck!


Think about it the way Coke-Cola did about "share of stomach". IOW, we're not a soft drink company, but a nonalcoholic liquids company. Therefore a move into tea or water was still in scope.

Another story: buddy of mine was working on (very advanced and particular) PVD thin film research in a 3-5 semiconductor. He ended up getting a job working for a commercial company doing CVD of a different 3-5 semiconductor. This guy said to me "hey...this is totally different, I don't know it." I just looked at him as if he had three heads. I had moved from the hard sciences to a finance job. And knew nothing about thin films but would have been fine with taking a run at the CVD line manager job.

So...you are a coding engineering guy. You're way closer than you think. Now...my coding experience is Basic8 from decades ago. So...I would be a fish out of water. But you are just fine. Are the PVD guy doing CVD in a different 3-5 system. WAY closer than you think you are.

Other than that, postdocs are cheap and temporary. You'll be fine provided you are smart and productive. The Ph.D. was supposed to make you feel like you could figure anything out. This is very close to your current experience. You'll figure it out since you are smart, adaptable and diligent.

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