I am a 6th year PhD in computational chemical engineering. I have extensively used Lammps for my Molecular dynamics simulations. However there are many aspects of the modeling tools that I have no idea about ( like the time integration procedures used, the algorithms to make parallel computing possible...etc). This makes me feel bad about myself. I know that it is not possible to know everything and an important part of PhD is research output, so not all attention can be diverted into learning everything about the tool.

But, my question is, what to do if that bothers me greatly? I don't feel like a potential expert in my research and I feel like that's something to worry about.

How does one feel like an expert or become confident about their research/technical abilities? Does that come from acknowledgement of the deficiencies and being humble of the fact that probably I won't know many aspects of many things?

Are there any advice you would like to give a new PhD graduate to ensure a satisfying research career?

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    Do you feel like you are able to distinguish between (a) imposter syndrome and (b) the need to master these tools for your research? In other words, do you need these affordances of the modeling tools for your research, or are you measuring yourself based on what you assume others know? – TaliesinMerlin Nov 21 '19 at 16:16
  • This sounds like impostor syndrome to me! If there's specific aspects of the tool that you NEED in order to complete your research and your lack of knowledge is holding you back, then seek out tutorials or in-person help for those specific aspects. But otherwise not knowing every aspect of the tool you use isn't a problem, it's normal. – ekl Nov 21 '19 at 16:35
  • Possible duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/135096/… – Ethan Bolker Nov 22 '19 at 3:14

Regarding the tool: Read the manual, search and do tutorials, try and achieve extra results with it as if you wished to get out a paper on the data obtained by specific functions for the software. As gamers say, 'Go hardcore, git gut' Become an expert by becoming an expert user of your tool or at least of the techniques.

As for the advice: Besides the possibility of impostor syndrome, set up objectives for yourself, get goals , personal ones, and work to achieve them. No one can know everything, but you can contribute to the general effort of ignoring less about the world, so yeah, your contributions may be tiny or big, but they are helping out science. Just swallow up expectations and do the ebst you can, and more important, try to enjoy it.

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