A young me, BSc grad (Physics; UK RG uni), got a PhD (physics) offer in a field I did not apply for and then accepted (and rejected an offer from a topic I did have experience for) -- now I've 'experienced' the error in my ways, I want to start again. I'm sure some others have gone through the same thing!

The condensed sob story is the PhD I signed up for is for a project that has given me no new skills since my last UG summer internship, is too easy and unstimulating, and fails to push any scientific boundaries because it is more-or-less aiming to test a technique at a UK national lab that has been well documented at other labs; overall has lacklustre scientific impact and does not align with my future interests. Despite asking 4 times to switch topic, my supervsiors always say no and it seems to be funding related; this national lab is the most inflexible research environment I've ever worked in, and I've worked in 5 other research groups now. The 'sob' part of the story is I can't begin to tell you how for the last year this has ruined my mental health. Right now I have suspended my studies and am doing an academic internship in economics (which is going well and I feel better).

  1. Finish current PhD and somehow find opportunities to gain research skills to apply for a postdoc in a demanding and competitive field (e.g. climate modelling)
  2. Apply for a new PhD in desired area, start afresh
  3. Apply for a new PhD in a desired area, but race to submit PhD thesis before joining -- obviously supervisor would state that intention in reference letter. (Yes they know I'm searching for something new; one of them said he'd write me a reference)

The establishment would of course say #1, but unless I start actively disobeying my superiors by doing my own thing (I have very little research freedom; again, I've been in multiple other groups so I can say this), I fail to see how I can gain the skills to switch field to do a postdoc somewhere worthwhile.

I want #2, as it means I can spend the intervenning time upskilling on the relevant things before embarking on some real research in a PhD. However, I simply know the incredibly backward academic culture / doctrines that exist, meaning that between #2 and #3, I suspect the P(admission|#2)/P(admission|#3) << 1. However it still would be useful to know if P(admission|#3)~ε?

So, any thoughts / advice?

  • You got a PhD? Or were accepted to a PhD program? How does one get a PhD they did not apply for? A PhD is much more self-directed than other schooling; if you aren't learning anything, a lot of that is going to be your own fault.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 4 at 17:05
  • 2
    Sorry, missed the keyword 'PhD offer' -- fixed! I applied for a specific project at this Uni, but a different group sent me an offer. Well, the Uni had such a great name I felt I had to take it. Shame, I wish I could tell younger me to take the offer from the less prestigious place in an area I cared for. In any case, I'm happy to be told the lack-of-learning is my fault, but then some advice on how to deal with supervisors who don't let me do my own thing? Vs my other research experience where I've had a lot more chance to learn, and have successfully done (have worked in 5 groups). Aug 4 at 17:06


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