Let me begin by saying my Ph.D. program has been a disaster. I'm 26 and I'm finishing up year 4 in a physics Ph.D. program. I have no publications and I'm completely burnt out. I have no idea what to do.
I went into a physics Ph.D. straight out of undergrad. My advisor told me to focus on coursework to get a master's first so I did. Right around year 2 I got my masters and was ready to start research, but my advisor's wife suddenly died and he was gone for almost a year and a half. Money ran out and I had to get a teaching position to make ends meet. I tried my best to do what I could, but it's very hard to be an experimental physicist with no money. I actually got a small grant on my own that helped, but it wasn't enough. Additionally, our university grad student union went on strike for a month or two that slowed everything down.
About a year ago another professor joined the department and hired me on. It was ok for a while, he had money and I was finally getting paid to do research. Since he was building up a new lab I was helping put together all the equipment.
Now there are a few more students, all at least 2-3 years behind me, who are in the lab. I'm still expected to put the machinery together while they are getting data from experiments and actually contributing to research. They aren't collecting data, they've been given older unpublished data to analyze. Every time I bring this up I'm just told to be patient.
As of right now, I'm going into year 5 with my name on absolutely nothing. I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. My department claims 5-7 years is average but there are a lot of 7,8,9 year students here. If this would only take 2 or 3 more years I'd consider staying, but it feels like I basically had to start over halfway through.
I have one patent application in progress, one fifth or sixth author paper in progress, and a completely written review paper that I was told to not publish. My advisors won't even let me propose a thesis, saying it's "too early". I guess I just want to hear what other people would do in this situation. I was recently offered a job in industry by an old friend that pays pretty well (~$85K) which seems so tempting right now. I feel like such a failure and I think I've wasted the past four years of my life. Does anyone have any thoughts on my situation? I'm very lost in life right now.
Update: thanks for all the responses. It helps to hear other perspectives. I talked to my advisor and he keeps telling me I can graduate in two more years if I focus. I don't think I believe him. I have until Monday evening to take this job offer and I think I need to.
Update 2: I think I just quit. I spent 80 hours in the lab this week (again) only to be told I'm still not doing enough. Every day I got more and more projects piled on my plate and they all involved putting equipment together for other people. I was told by my advisor that he doesn't believe my project will even work anymore. It's just not worth it