I'm a PhD student in Europe, currently in my 3rd year of pure mathematics. It was supposed to be the final year of my studies before finding a position either in industry or in academy. However, the initial question my poisonous advisor has given me appeared to be a bit too hard (or as he formulated it "I appeared to be too weak") so he asked me to extend the duration of my studies for another year. As the university is very unhappy with people doing so, they force me to take 200 hours of teaching in this year (instead of barely 60). However, the university also offers people in their graduate studies to take a gap year in which for 6 months they work in machine learning startups without getting paid, and then 6 months in a startup in USA or Europe. I have quite solid programming background from my BSc and high school and I like equally pure mathematics and AI-related domains. Needless to say that after this year I am expected to finish the thesis, taking the teaching-penalty year.

My advisor and the graduate school said they agree for me to take this gap year "due to low number of positions in academy" and also a professor of applied mathematics told me it can open me opportunities for a job in industry and also for a post-doctoral position in computer science suppose one of my works gets published.

However I'm a bit hesitant and I wonder whether it wouldn't be better to finish my studies next year and only then to start looking for a job (probably in industry but things can change) fully paid. Also, my advisor is the current head of the graduate school and he told me "nobody would cry if you don't come back, suppose you're offered a good job" which might open problems with him after this year. What would you do? Can you share your experiences from similar situations?

  • Your situation seems unique enough that general advice might be very misleading. What is most likely to happen if you don't take their advice? And the system, itself, seems destructive. Is it typical for your country?
    – Buffy
    Mar 28, 2021 at 12:56
  • The advice of whom? I'm currently studying in France and the system itself is indeed not very healthy. I have the impression many people are not able to finish in 3 years and as my advisor told me himself I should look for another domain in math or in industry I want to keep all possibilities open, yet not to risk my degree. Mar 28, 2021 at 14:05
  • If you take the gap year and come back, would you then also get a one year extension to finish your Ph.D.? If yes, I’d take the gap year; a) if you want to, you could hypothetically put in some work on your thesis while gone (hard given the time you’d need to spend in a start-up, but not impossible), and b) if the department seems to lean towards pushing you out, then it’s probably a good idea to listen to that (e.g., lack of good letters after). The time you spent on your thesis is now sunk costs. I know enough successful people in industry who dropped out of a Ph.D. Mar 28, 2021 at 14:07
  • @gnometorule yes I can return to the school after this year. The school knows that unless they tunnel some more people towards industry, a lot of their graduates won't find a position. About the thesis: I need 3 papers to graduate. I already have one and working on another (two parts of the same problem). The planning of my advisor was to give me the 3rd one in the penalty year. In other words, I cannot work in the gap year on the 3rd unannounced problem. Mar 28, 2021 at 14:42


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