Research is hard, and I am aware of that. As an experimentalist turned into a modeling person, I am having second thoughts about the decision I made 5 years ago. Currently, my research is focused on carrying computational fluid dynamics simulations. My undergrad and masters research was entirely experimental, where I worked on studying nanomaterials and it's behavior. Though, it was a burning topic, I did not enjoy working in the lab and the superficiality of the research topic. As a result, I opted for changing my field in modeling fluid flow as it was challenging and I had enjoyed studying it during my undergrad.
However, things have not gone as I would have liked it to go. For the first two years, it was fun learning and carrying out preliminary simulations. I loved the process of deriving numerical solutions to the problems and my advisor also seemed satisfied with my research.
However, it has not been a smooth journey from 3rd to the present year. I have struggled a lot to develop new models and come up with new research ideas. I have been able to produce just 4 publications, that too in average journals. My work feels technically inadequate and I feel that I am consciously avoiding complexity and rigour in my research.
I am now looking for postdoc position and industrial positions, but I am second guessing my abilities and interests in the field. It is enjoyable to work in the field, but I realize that I am not contributing anything substantial to the field. I am feeling that I have chosen the wrong field to specialize in and I should have stuck with experimental study of nanomaterials. It was straightforward to publish and journals had high impact factor. I would have been an expert ir confident in the field till now.
I know it's not right to think about what might have been. But I just look at my colleagues who had continued on the experimental research and find them constantly publishing and having more confidence in their expertise. I am just struggling to get a decent publication out and I don't feel like an expert at all.
Since I can't go back in time, how can I get over the nagging feeling that I have chosen a wrong field of research? And, as an academic, have you faced similar dilemma during your career? If so, how did you overcome this?