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It is my fifth year of graduate studies in chemistry. I haven't had enough training from my professor and I don't have enough confidence to do even a post-doc. It is so close to my graduation, that I deeply feel that my PhD is nothing. So, you can imagine how stressful could be my life. After thinking a lot, I decided to do a second PhD in not chemistry but in biomedical sciences. I found a professor in one of the med schools and he told me I could be his graduate student next fall( since there is no chance for applying for spring) and during spring I can be a research assistant in his lab and work there for around 7 months until I will get the admission. I asked one of the faculty members and not my PI to help me make the best decision. He recommends me not do that and apply for a pos-doctoral instead. I am so confused. I really feel that I need this second PhD, but people are telling me to not do it and find a postdoc position instead. Could please help me?

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  • I regularly have dreams that I'm pursuing a second PhD (in the exact same field and sub-field as my first, that I got in real-life). This never seems to work out well in the dream, and I certainly wouldn't pursue a second PhD in my own real life. However, are you still planning to actually graduate with your first PhD? Sep 13, 2023 at 20:18
  • Wow, this seems really similar to my situation (except physics). My PhD work honestly has minimal scientific impact and I've not learnt nearly any new coding skills (learnt more on my summer internship than my entire PhD so far). Really don't see how I can apply for a postdoc, but a 2nd PhD somehow feels "more doable"(??) Sep 13, 2023 at 20:38
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    It is not an imposter syndrome. What do you call it when your professor doesn't;t like to teach or train you just because you are older than him? He kicks you out of any important meetings since he believes that you are not able to understand that level of talk. Tease you in front of others Sep 13, 2023 at 21:01
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    Are you sure you have an unsuccessful phd? If you finished your credits, published and defended your thesis it seems to me like a successful phd. Just move on.
    – The Doctor
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:32

4 Answers 4

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Academia is a path of constant learning. If you want to change field, a postdoc is a great way to do that. You can even change back after, or combine the two fields. So long as you can pass your PhD then it has served its purpose. Just make sure to advocate for yourself in the future to get the training and support you need.

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    Can I ask, what purpose does "passing" a PhD really serve? I thought a PhD was meant to be the first stepping stone towards serious research; if the PhD ends up being wooly, even if you switch field it's simply not clear what the point was. One could have done either a different PhD, or even gained skills in indusry (not always orthogonal!), and then commenced the path as a researcher afterwards? Sep 15, 2023 at 12:55
  • @RealDisinformation a PhD is ultimately just a qualification, like a batchelors. To pass shows you can meet the criteria of performing at that level, have acquired knowledge commensurate to that. What it is not is a pass that says you are now a scientist and ready to do all of the science. Absolutely the same skills can be gained through equivalent industry experience, you can even get a PhD based on this at some institutions because it's just a qualification.
    – Sophie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 11:10
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The same thing happened to me. I was not being trained by my first advisor. It was not impostor syndrome, I was just being treated like a cheap lab tech. There was no "advocating for myself" way to solve the problem: that advisor was unable and unwilling to train. Nice guy, but useless.

Near the end of my PhD, I asked for a Master's degree and applied to another PhD program in a much better school. Pretty much submitted the PhD thesis as a master's thesis. At the new school I got the training that I wanted, and because I had so much lab experience, was able to finish the PhD quickly.

I went on to a successful academic career.

Speak with other professors, look into other programs. Leave with a Master's or not. Get the training you need.

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  • I heard from a lot of students that they did it. I applied during the last 2 years for admission from better university, but unfortunately, most professors believe that you are the culprit and professors are always doing great. However, that professor told me there is still a position for me in his lab, and I am going to join at first as a research assistant for some months thenI become a graduate student in his lab. Sep 15, 2023 at 16:45
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Go for the second PhD. I also suggested by people to go for postdoc only, and endup doing nothing for almost 2 years. Grab the oportunity u have.

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Regardless of the actual situation that would lead to your decision to pursue a second PhD, I guarantee you that it would be a huge red flag in your curriculum vitae. Since you are so close to completing your PhD, I recommend following through and then moving on in a postdoc that best suits your interest and career goal.

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  • What do you recommend me to do at this time? Oct 18, 2023 at 2:03
  • I am thinking of asking my PI to give me a better project to help me improve my knowledge and lab work. What do you think? Oct 18, 2023 at 2:04

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