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I am about to defend my PhD in materials engineering. My work is related to numerical modeling of an additive manufacturing process. When I joined for my PhD, I was offered a different topic which was rigorous and 100% in my interest. However, my research topic was changed after few months into something much simpler and less rigorous but still aligning 70% to my interest.

I have couple of papers and I am decently published at my particular field. But I feel that I am doing very simple work, something even a master's student could do in a year.

I was an experimentalist before my PhD. However, I was frustrated with carrying out experiments and thus opted for a completely computational research. I think it was a mistake. I used to find doing a good Experimental work much easier than a good computational work.

Even though I like them, I am objectively bad at mathematics and physics. I shouldn't have gone for computational studies. I am good with simple work but I will never be able to get published in computational mechanics and numerical methods intensive journals (Journal of solid and structures, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering).

I publish in applied journals like additive manufacturing, surface and coatings technology, materials and design, where new numerical methods need not be developed or theories need not be implemented for successful simulations. Existing models can be repurposed for my work. I just use a open-source software to carry out my simulations without changing anything in the software's source code. I just write python and Matlab scripts to analyze the simulations.

I am worried about my future career. My work is too simple for academic or industrial positions. I don't know what to do after graduation.

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    I think industry likes people who can immediately apply the formula & give results like what you did though... Many of the people who talk about AI, big data data science also are mostly just shove data as input and using the software/library etc without changing much or anything..
    – kate
    Sep 24, 2020 at 14:38
  • @user176372 Close vote retracted so. Awaiting answers from others.
    – Trunk
    Sep 5, 2023 at 9:38

3 Answers 3

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One reason that people like yourself see their own work as "simple" is just that they are the world's foremost expert in that narrow subfield. They (you) know it better than anyone and you've lived with it for a long time so you see how it fits together. This is related to Imposter Syndrome, of course.

Your dissertation and degree aren't the end of your career, but the beginning. You've crossed one "finish line", the degree, but that opens out into a world of opportunity. You aren't limited now to what you have done in the past but can start to move to adjacent areas if you wish. The degree process is a pretty narrow funnel, but, once through it, the opportunities open again.

Don't be discouraged. Leverage what you have into what you want.

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My work is too simple for academic or industrial positions. I don't know what to do after graduation.

While you will not win a nobel prize with such applied research, it is surely not simple work. And it is surely useful work. There is many companies in industry that will be more than happy to hire someone with this skill-set, saying this as someone working on the interface of academia and industrial R&D.

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It's a pity this post is nearly 3 years old.

The main thing needed in your situation is an even-handed look at your work to date by someone in your field. I don't think someone like that will find too much fault with your work.

I worked as a postgrad in that field so I know a little about being frustrated in experimental techniques. It would have been useful if you elaborated on how this occurred.

Please note that materials science today is unavoidably a combination of experimental work and analysis/conceptualization/modelling. You need to the latter to minimize repetitions of the former - which are tedious and often prohibitively expensive. The math models allow one to speculate on the process' nature since each of the major terms of a model's fitted equation signify a mechanism. The joy is when the model's indications for a mechanism suggest experiments to validate it and then you can do some seriously original and exciting experimental work !

At this remove, what's done is done. You must make the most of what you have got done, write it up and present it as best you can for your viva.

Industry or government research labs with good equipment and support on techniques you use is where you need to go now.

And don't go around with a hang-dog expression of inferiority over the ordinariness of your work to date. If nothing else it was done extensively and honestly and without whoops in the lab or seminar room - the common vices of people in this field.

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