My post is related to a previous question but this time I think it is more clear for people to answer.

So I finished an integrated Masters with very good grades and a strong thesis in field A. And then due to covid I made a strange choice and moved to a very similar Masters and due to personal problems I did average in the grades( that for the 2nd university is considered more than sufficient) and averagish thesis in a field B still relevant but very different on the research workload and techniques.

Unfortunately while doing B my daily supervisor gave me a direction without any elabboration and plan. The more I tried I didn't find joy doing it, his help was bad and minimal. He also struggled with his own research field. I also had personal problems due to anxiety and other issues and struggled immensly. Generally the supervisor above remained very unsatisfied with me and this already affected a phd application fo mine where I included him, since he also agreed. I was one of the 2 last candidates.

I found out throught my 2nd experience ending how to finally stand on my feet and figured I should have never left area A since it's the only one I would like to do a PhD - I am keen to continue in that only.

I understand that in academia that nobody cares about mental health and I am also no interest to try to defend myself and say I was anxious. I want to move forward and found 3 solutions:

  1. Avoid including supervisor from field B and see which university accepts me with references mainly from uni A - since the professors there are scientificly more relevant to A.

  2. Including him and putting him last and try to defend in my cover letter and ( maybe - although unprobable that I will reach) interviews how much actually he observed me ( because he didn't really much see me much on action) and question the differenec in the two fields. I will also include that I found that I was not interested in field B and learned how to do my work in that field and learned some things - but found no interest to proceed further. Although A in the meantime became more interesting to me.

  3. Go to industry and R&D , gain experience and ask references from there when I will feel ready to try again?

I am contemplaiting in initially doing 1 and 2 in different applications and have 3 as my main target.

Any suggestions , considerations , comments would be really helpful!

  • I've made some bad choices, but made it in the end and am now mid career as a professor. I won't go into any detail, but just want to reiterate the answer below, that, if you are sufficiently young, then you have time to learn and recover.
    – jdods
    Jun 11, 2023 at 14:54
  • thank you! yes I am still young enough I hope!
    – Alex
    Jun 15, 2023 at 13:22
  • Let me also add that what has helped me was really reconditioning my mindset/mentality. Beating back the tendencies to make poor decisions and to become more professional in my behavior and less reactive. Also lowering the effect of my own sensitivity and self-judgement on my mindset. If there is a serious mental health concern, professional help could be appropriate. Something like mindfulness meditation could be helpful to these ends as well. Give it some time and deep effort/introspection/self-reflection. I hope within the next decade to see you update this post with a story of success!
    – jdods
    Jun 15, 2023 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


very different on the research workload and techniques.

Ignore the workload, focus on the techniques: you learned how they do thing in field B. Whether you can build on that, you will do that again, you will integrate the strong point from there into A, whether you will despise any person in field B jsut because field B, it is up to you.

1 and 3 are not mutually exclusive. Get back in touch with advisor from thesis A, you may describe very briefly your goals (pursue a research career, i.e. a PhD in field A). Since we all need money to survive, try to get a job in the field.

2 is very convoluted. Why should you try to get a reference letter that put you in the uncomfortable position of defending yourself against it? A reference letter should be at best something that helps you, at worst something that fullfill a bureaucratic formality, not a disadvantage.

I would personally consider field B a closed door, there are way less emotional costs in counting it as "past experience" and not doing any effort in keeping the contact there. Your mileage may vary.

You are what you are, but do not keep on bringing the burden of "strange" choices. You do not need to justify them, nor to judge yourself for them, the advantage of being young is that you can do plenty of "wrong" choices and you can learn and recover from any of them.

  • Thank you for your answer! I will take into consideration your advice. Especially the last part, it is something really important for me.
    – Alex
    Jun 15, 2023 at 13:21

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