After I got my masters, I started my PhD project three years ago. My start coincided with the start of the pandemic. I spent many many months all on my own with little to no help and no equipment at an almost deserted research lab. I would write to my supervisor and sometimes talk to him but their initial ideas just wouldn't work out and somehow I wasn't able to convince them it wasn't for lack of trying. I did my best with the little things I had access to. Since the subject was also out of their usual scope, no one had any knowledge to support me or direct me to the appropriate literature.

After almost a whole year I had the annual talk with my supervisor and he was like you haven't progressed much and when I told him I am sorry but I wasn't even given a frickin camera until last month to record anything and was working with my smartphone camera he told me he wasn't aware of it!!!! I had asked for a camera repeatedly but their answer always was others have priority you will be given a camera once one is free.

I was working at a research center and everyone else was at a university lab about 20 km away. No one was there to witness my struggles or suggest anything. I was hoping that once the pandemic was over things would get better. But nothing happened. This would perhaps be more acceptable if the other PhDs would have gotten the same treatment but they were all sitting at the university lab with their and my supervisor and had easy access to everyone and everything. Once I asked if I could switch my workplace to the university lab and my supervisor told me we can't take everyone to university. Mind you, everyone else starting their phd was given a place at university and I was literally the only phd in this external lab with some postdocs, if they ever bothered to show up that is. Eventually my supervisor and the professor in my project had to accept that what they initially thought, would not work and I had to work on other things.

After three years of struggling, constant desperation, overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and being entirely ignored, I was notified the other day that my funding would not be guaranteed anymore. The professor told me I should start writing my dissertation. Today, I came to work but I started crying in the bus and have been crying since in the lab. I have just submitted one research paper and that's still under review. I can probably come up with one more paper but that's it. I haven't been to a single conference. I haven't had one single undergrad student to supervise. I haven't met anyone and never made any connections. I was literally forgotten and ignored. I just can't anymore... At times I felt like I was kept away because I reminded my supervisor of his failure to be a supervisor. My dissertation will be thin with not enough material to fill the pages because whatever I did was just repeating one single experiment over and over and over again for the past 2 years. I just wanna go home to my parents and forget I ever wanted to work on a PhD. I have an appointment with ny direct supervisor next week to talk about my dissertation but I am so so mad atm that i can't imagine talking to him. What can I do? Should I throw in the towel and forget about the three years I wasted?

  • 1
    This is more venting than question. It's hard for anyone to give good answers. Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 12:56
  • When someone is having big problems (or problems that seem big to them) and feeling very bad like this, I don't think we should tell them that they are "venting". That word suggests someone who is expressing frustration about a minor issue.
    – Oliver882
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


I don't know if I have good advice, but here are some thoughts.

It sounds like you have had an extremely difficult time in your PhD and didn't get the support and advice you needed.

If you have submitted one paper and might submit another, you have done better than many people (especially if you take into account the difficult circumstances you have had).

I don't know your field but I think it is common in some fields for people to repeat an experiment for two years and not get it to work and it is definitely not their fault.

Does your professor think you can write your dissertation and pass? Do you think it is possible that you will be able to do that?

I recommend trying to be on good terms with your professor. You can remind him or her that you have had great difficulties due to the pandemic, being isolated in that lab, not getting the equipment you needed, and the experiment not working (which was not your fault). Maybe ask for advice or support. Try not to blame him or her. You might have to be prepared for him or her to argue back a bit and say you should have asked for help sooner or something like that. I don't know what they will say. But just stay calm and tell them what you have done, and try to figure out together what is best for you to do now.

I also recommend talking to a therapist or doctor about stress, anxiety, or depression. You could just tell them what you have written in your question here and they might be able to give some helpful advice. For a start they might be able to give you some reassurance and encouragement. Maybe your university has a student welfare department, for example.

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    Also, there are other questions on this site by people who have had very difficult problems during their PhDs, so if you search for them you might find useful ideas
    – Oliver882
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 14:25

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