I shouldn't have got my PhD. I have published 5 papers in Q1 journals. But that has been possible because the topic is hot right now and much rigor is not required for publishing.

I can use an open source or commercial software without knowing how it works in detail and churn out papers. I am just pushing some buttons in a black box and getting results.

I can't teach the numerical method behind the software or the mathematics involved because I never understood it. Other students who work on this field take courses and have thorough understanding of the subject. They go on to teach the subject. While I am poor in mathematics, I am just dumb and lazy to self study it, solve examples.

I am publishing papers now at a decent rate, but I am lacking depth. I am not suitable for my field of research. I don't know if I can do anything about it now.

I recently got a PhD and searching for postdoc positions. I just don't fit anywhere. Everyone wants someone who is expert in the theory or have strong mathematics background. I have neither.

I shouldn't have got my PhD. I think, my advisor, committee and university just wanted to get rid of me.

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    Look for a postdoc position that needs applied approaches. There you can increase your portfolio while on the side embarking on self-study of the relevant materials. Pretend you take another degree on the side, namely mathematical foundations of xyz. You have the advantage that now you know how to study and you know why you study. Don't expect results fast, just treat it as a part-time degree and approach it with the required discipline and you will come closer to your goal. Good luck. Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 22:32
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    Rarely can anyone spend years publishing papers and working on software if they were not competent. It sounds like you are more pragmatic in your approach than analytical. There are many suitable positions for people with your expertise. Consider a job outside of Academia.
    – John Doe
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 22:33
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    What exactly is question?
    – user111388
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 23:26
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  • I got lucky with my committee. They never asked theoretical questions. I actually don't know stuff. It's not imposter syndrome. As a phd, I should know these.
    – johdep
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 11:40

1 Answer 1


This sounds like classic Imposter Syndrome combined with end of degree burnout.

What you are feeling is natural, but having a bunch of papers published seems to imply that this is emotional and not a substantial issue.

The job market in many fields is terrible at the moment. Some of the issues in finding a good position are external and will hopefully subside before too long.

I suggest that you talk to a counsellor about your feelings and also push hard in the job market using all available resources, such as your advisor, etc.

Both the feelings and the job issue will pass if you don't let them affect your sense of self-worth.

Depth will come. You have proven that you can learn. The end of your formal education isn't the end of your education.

  • The problem is I am 31 years old and I will try for tenure track positions after a year or so. I will be expected to teach the subject and will be interviewed expecting mathematical prowess. I don't know if I can do it. Even during postdoc appointment, I will be asked to provide evidence for in-depth knowledge, I would fail then. I just feel so disappointed in myself for not working harder when I had the opportunity (PhD 1st-2nd years)
    – johdep
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 22:32
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    I think most research places will give you some breaks on what you teach, making it easier for you to get started. And, in teaching, it is more important what you make the students do to learn that it is in what you say to them in lecture. Don't give up. Grow into the profession. And your age has no meaning in such things. You are who you are.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 22:40

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