I have an undergrad in mechanical engineering. My Masters, PhD was in Mechanical too. However, I have never been academically strong (grades were majorly C and B+). I had to retake advanced mathematics, continuum mechanics and Finite element analysis course during my undergrad as I had flunked the courses.

However, I always enjoyed the field of computational mechanics, how materials behave is something I enjoy thinking about. I pursued the field in my Masters and PhD, inspite of not taking any grad level course during the programmes. My committee never instructed me to take the courses, I thought self study would suffice.

I have a PhD in application of computational mechanics, I have 3 first authored papers in materials science journals, not mathematics intensive journals. I am worried about my future in the field. I am continuing with a postdoc under my PhD advisor for a year and am searching for other positions.

I shouldn't have pursued higher studies, atleast not in a field I have theoretical deficiency. I still love my field, but I am still afraid of the theoretical papers in my field. My work (application focused) is not mathematically intensive and is pretty straightforward. I can argue that given a direction, one doesn't need a masters or PhD to do what I do.

I know, there won't be anyone who had experiences similar to mine. It is always expected that people go for highers studies in subjects they are good in. I did the other way round. What should be my course of action now to have a potential academic career? I think I am up for a dissappointing career outcome, but still I want to give it a try.

  • 5
    What exactly is your porblem?
    – user111388
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:10
  • Do you want to pursue a career in academic research? Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:14
  • 1
    @henning--reinstateMonica yes, that's what drives me. I love doing research, but apparently I am not much good at it. I should have been comfortable with my research field by now. I want to give this career path few years.
    – cvhs
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:17
  • 5
    Does this answer your question? I don't have the theoretical background in my PhD topic. I can't justify getting the degree (Note that while the timeline is somewhat different (a couple of months before defense, rather than after), many of the answers seem applicable here as well.)
    – Anyon
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:59
  • It is easy to get bad grades while knowing "everything" (depending on teacher). Are you sure you had reasonable graders ie that the grades really measure your abilities?
    – user111388
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


This is a pretty solid case of Imposter Syndrome, I think. Yes, lots of other people have experienced it. Part of it is the letdown after completing a degree, perhaps. Part of it is the realization that your field is very wide and no one can really grok all of it.

But you seem to be able to function pretty well in your field. Thesis? Check. Papers? Check. Specialization? Well, yes, of course. Doctorates are like that.

The test of it, is whether you can get a suitable position. If you don't fall in to depression and sabotage your own applications then I doubt that there are any real barriers. The research you love is valued by academia. Do that.

If you are still connected to the university, they probably have a counseling office where there is someone familiar with these sorts of feelings and can give you some professional advice.

As to your grades, they were apparently strong enough that people let you continue your education to the end. No one will care much anymore about them. They can be a poor, or at least imperfect, surrogate for measuring knowledge in any case.

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