My PhD research will be in numerical modeling of Selective laser melting (SLM) process. I will be using finite element method, Fortran and python programming and a bit of machine learning in my research. My research is going to be completely computational based. I will be using Abaqus finite element analysis software for my research.

I took three courses (Finite Element Analysis, Mechanical behavior of materials and Numerical methods in scientific research) as part of my grad school requirements. I have a background in metallurgical engineering.

Now, I have got B-, A-, B+ grades in the three courses respectively. And I had worked hard for these courses, probably should have worked harder. My advisor says the grades and courses are a formality and I should focus on my research as I will learn more by doing than through any coursework.

It's true that I won't be developing any finite element code for my research and I will learn programming and fundamentals of material behavior as I go about my research, I am concerned that the abysmal grades in the courses is an indication to my research and future academic career inability. Is it? Any advice?


My advisor says the grades and courses are a formality and I should focus on my research as I will learn more by doing than through any coursework.

Your advisor is right. Listen to him. Class in an engineering Ph. D. program mean very little. Research is more important by an order of magnitude.

| improve this answer | |

It is true that research matters much more than coursework in graduate studies (if you get a paper in Science then no one will care if you got a B- in some random course). I half-jokingly tell my students that they should get the minimal grades needed to keep their scholarship.

That said, bad grades in your own field of study are not a positive indication of your research and future academic career potential. I would not ignore this. Go over the class materials again, see what might be relevant to your own research and make sure you become an expert in these things. If you didn't do well because you were focused on research and didn't work hard, then that would be another matter. You yourself mention you worked very hard on the coursework and still didn't manage to get it right. This could be a number of things, but still - take this as an opportunity for self-improvement.

| improve this answer | |

First, let me say that I don't know exactly how bad your grades are since I do not know the rules in your country.

My impression is that you care too much about grades. A single grade (or even three) is often not only related to how you do in the subject, but also to many other things -- how strict the prof grades, in what kind of mental state the prof is, what questions were asked, things like attandence etc. What is a really bad grade for one prof could be the best grade for another. What you should care more about is the feedback you got. This can include feedback from yourself (e.g. do you feel comfortable to solve new problems in this area?), the prof (if you get the exam back, you should closely inspect it -- how did you lose points? For failures in memorization? Or solving new problems? For bad handwriting? Were the questions inappropriate?) or your advisor (who can probably say a lot more about your abilities than an exam).

(Of coursey beware that you may not be able to judge yourself appropriately.)

| improve this answer | |

I agree with everybody about the low importance of grades, but offer one suggestion. Maintain good enough grades to not be kicked out of your program. At my institution, two C's on your transcript will get you the boot.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.