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Next november I will face my third and last year of my PhD. However, my percourse has been torturing and twisted.

I started my PhD in a different group because I was kind of tricked out. My background is molecular biology and microbiology and I ended up in a group about biosensors, which was essentially sensors - nothing bio. The group did not have any senior researcher nor postdoc so essentially we were alone and the supervisor was not there.

I switched group after almost a year to food microbiology. In that period I got another PhD position but I was so stupid to refuse it. However, I was doing fine during the first month in the new group. After some time, I got results that were the contrary of our hypotheresis and I am stuck without any result since then. I must mention that my cosupervisors do not help and mostly critisice my work without knowing about that particular techniques. However, when I do something wrong they are supposed to know, they do not tell me anything, which causes losing months of time. One of them even tried to down my work in front of our boss. Also another important fact, is that our university is so bad organized that the reagents and stuff take 2 motnhs to arrive after you order something.

At this point I have no results after more than a year and a half and my PhD last for 3 years. My cosupervisors are causing me incredible delay and I am just seeing a big failure at the end because they require three submited papers. I end up in a psicologist, I work every weekend and I dont remember the last day I had free since months.

I started applying for jobs because the PhD is not giving me any knowledge at all, just monkey lab work togheter with people who disturb and try to mess around with my very small outcomes.

I just write here because I dont know whether if I can keep going like this anymore. Should I just quit even if I am jobless afterwards? Should I keep pushing harder? Is this even normal? I dont see any other PhD like this here..

  • I'm a bit afraid that this situation isn't so uncommon. I also got a lot of bad advices and "obvious" unpromising projects which cost me about 2 years. After about 1.5 - 2 years I stopped listening to other people, isolated me from the working group and did nothing else than following my own thoughts and goals. After 4.5 years in total I got my phd but I was working on several projects in parallel since I didn't know which would be promising and in the end I even had too much for a single phd... but yeah, I didn't know until I submitted.. – Ben Nov 6 at 6:53
  • Basically, I had some aspects I could benefit from: I had own thoughts and projects I followed - I obviously was allowed to follow them on my own (I know from other working groups that this is not a must while in others this is everything..) - and to the rescue, one of the post docs recognized my value somewhen and he was a great help. Not in terms of supporting my projects but in helping/pushing me through the phd in general. And also supporting my back within the working group.. – Ben Nov 6 at 6:56
  • my girlfriend's phd got dropped after 2 years and she had to start again at zero. Yet, she also did it after about another 2.5-3 years.. and in my case respectively in my working group, in the last 4 years I'm the first who finished it successfully.. five other phd students gave up/left after the funding. But my best friend got it even more worse than all I know - and he was the best of his year.. – Ben Nov 6 at 6:59
  • @Neuls Any chance there is somebody you trust who could give you some good advice? Can you talk to your faculty adviser? Or some other faculty person? This is a complicated and delicate situation that requires some wisdom. – puppetsock Nov 6 at 20:41
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I started applying for jobs because the PhD is not giving me any knowledge at all, just monkey lab work togheter with people who disturb and try to mess around with my very small outcomes.

This is called a toxic work environment! It is not specific to research/academia only, but it is a general problem.
Unfortunately, it is not good for mental health to stay in this kind of work environment.

I just write here because I dont know whether if I can keep going like this anymore. Should I just quit even if I am jobless afterwards? Should I keep pushing harder?

Pardon my words: if your supervisor is not aware of the status of your work, you shouldn't be a laboratory mouse for your supervisor. However don't jump out of PhD without any plan.

1. Discuss with our supervisor about the situation and your limits (time, funding, psychological issues).

2. Spend minimum 1 (and max. 2) hours every day for:
2.1 confiding to your friends that you are looking for a positive change by switching to a full-time proper scientific job; preparing your CV and looking for opportunities.
2.2 forging new connections and contacting recruiters, by using online platforms e.g. linkedin etc.

A smooth transition may take sometime. So don't panic, don't be impatient. AND don't be apologetic for this tough time. Be confident when talking to people for job, otherwise the chances are very low that someone with low self-esteem will get a chance.

Is this even normal? I don't see any other PhD like this here..

Unfortunately this has become normal, and there are many victims. Not all are innocent, but without supervisor's support its almost impossible to complete PhD. So his role is critical.


* P.S: whatever is written above, is not hollow. I had to quit my PhD in 4th year due to amalgam of problems. And this is how I could rescue myself from PhD-whirpool and change to industry.

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Would it be possible to switch labs again? It sounds like the the problem with the first lab was the research area/topic was inappropriate and it sounds like the people in the second lab are being inappropriate. As for your results, well, that happens sometimes and a good PI should be able to know how to handle that (it's kind of required for grant writing, after all). Do you have an advisor that is part of the PhD program but not connected with your research. If you have a thesis committee, there really should be someone that fits that description already. Perhaps that person could advise you and give you specific advice. It's hard to give advice without knowing your location and more about your background, capabilities, and goals. Sticking with the PhD program or leaving is always a difficult decision to make for anyone, regardless of the circumstances, if that helps at all. It sounds like your situation is legitimately bad, so good luck and let us know what you decide!

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