In September I started a mathematics PhD at a UK university straight after my undergraduate MMath degree at a different university. On the whole, I am enjoying the experience. However, I've been having recurring thoughts that perhaps I am not cut out for doctorate level work and it might be a good idea to revisit mathematical studies at a later stage.
Basically, since coming here I've been feeling consistently like my heart isn't in it (and this has had a negative effect on my work ethic). This is not necessarily because I’m not capable of doing it, but rather because I never had a proper break from academia and I feel like I've been running out of steam. I know PhD students very frequently go through spells of feeling dispirited, but I feel that if my heart is really in mathematics that this shouldn't be happening. I would rather go into doctoral studies with a running start knowing that I am adequately trained in the area I am in, rather than adjusting to a learning curve (and an inexperienced supervisor).
Here are some options I have considered:
- Having a complete break from academia (6 months to a year), followed by a period where I slowly ease myself back in at my own pace by reading.
- Taking CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training) courses. I had previously applied to this and been rejected, but now I think I would be more competitive. I think this rigorous training would be helpful for me.
- Doing something altogether different -- learning another programming language and doing a programming job, or working in simulation/modeling at the Met Office, or another company that relies heavily on fluid dynamics. Or maybe even the EPSRC (which is where a lot of the funding for PhD mathematics students comes from)
- Getting a normal job to demonstrate people skills, and saving up money to do another Masters programme, which will put me in a very good position for my PhD.
After doing the above, I could return to a PhD programme much later, when I am a much more mature person with a better mindset towards my work.
Thankfully, my parents are willing to support me emotionally and financially while I pursue any of these.
My question is whether this is a good plan. In particular:
- Is it a good idea to take a break from studies if wanting to continue them at a later date, especially for mathematics? Would it hurt any opportunities later on down the line to take up a PhD a year or so from now?
- Would my department or supervisor think badly of me for wanting to terminate my studies - and (generally speaking) would I not have to pay back the studentship instalments that I've been paid so far? (I've been funded solely by the University, not by a funding body such as the EPSRC).
- What would be some worthwhile things to consider doing during a break from academia?
Update: it sounds like this would not be a great idea, and I should only make the move if I am really, really convinced about it. Nonetheless, I'm leaning further and further towards it because I think it's better to take a break from my studies now rather than 3 years down the line. I don't seem to have the motivation required to be a good doctoral student at the moment. This is something I might speak to my advisor about.