I am starting a PhD this Fall, and I'm absolutely terrified that I'm nowhere close enough to the "frontier of knowledge" to enable me to do quality research.
For background purposes, I have a BSc in Chemical Engineering and a BSc in Pure and Applied Mathematics. I finished both of these simultaneously in a 4 year span, as my philosophy was always that I need to be as efficient in my learning as possible and race to that mythical place where the edge of knowledge resides. The issue, however, is that it's now all too clear to me that I'll never be quite where I initially envisioned I would be before starting my PhD.
It is also clear that I have a lot to learn before being able to contribute significantly to the project I'm being placed on, and I worry that I'll spend too much time taking classes and learning what's already known, and not enough time exploring what is not known. This is all made worse by the fact that my PhD will be mostly theoretical in nature, so I feel that the lag time between when I am done "training" and when I can start publishing papers is significant. I did a lot of experimental research in my undergrad, and it was clear to me there that this problem does not exist in as dire a form as the path I chose to go down (and that I am actually excited to go down).
To be clear I am not expecting to make monumental revelations in my PhD, and I don't think anyone is really expecting me to do that either. I am just wondering how someone that carries out theoretically/computationally focused research decides when "enough is enough" and stops taking classes. In sorting out my class schedule for this Fall, I am worried that my addiction from undergrad of taking as many courses as possible will interfere with my research, and at the same time I am not confident that I know enough to conduct research of any sort at the moment.
So if your PhD was largely theoretical and computational in nature, I guess I'm wondering how you were able to balance learning and researching? Anything you wish you did differently? Is it normal to spend a couple years accruing knowledge and not publishing much? Do you have any books/resources you recommend that deal with this sort of dilemma?