In my current study. I am trying to solve a problem A by using a technology B. My supervisors consider themselves as experts in B. I have a scholarship for 3 years and 1.5 years are over. I have passed my exams and my Ph.D. proposal presentation was passed 6 months back. But now I realize that B=evolutionary computation is not a useful technique and is incapable of solving any real problems in the industry. I have a first-hand experience with that, now.

I wish to explore C and D as techniques but my supervisor is totally against it stating he cannot help me in that. Considering I am using a scholarship I am under additional pressure to do only what his 'vision' states. Any other technique I propose is challenged vociferously by them even in the inception stage.

What should I do? I can confront them and say that EC is useless and I wish to explore techniques which actually do something. There is no top conference which will accept my work but it lead to extreme pressure and argument. My supervisor is only interested in his growth within the academic community of EC and has no concern about what industry does. I do not wish to be an academician and investing my time on training myself in such a work is not in sync with my aspirations.

Kindly suggest as to what I should do? Should I give up the scholarship and look for other Ph.D. opportunities? That is a huge waste of time and effort, though. The scholarship is given by university and not through my supervisor's funding.

What is a good way out here?

  • 7
    You might want to reconsider whether getting a PhD is a good idea in the first place. You don't sound interested in academic research, and that's what PhD programs are generally all about.
    – user37208
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 21:09
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    " I realize that B=evolutionary computation is not a useful technique and is incapable of solving any real problems in the industry" [citation needed]
    – marts
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 21:45
  • You should not create the post in one username and then attempt to edit in another! If you have two accounts they should not interact with each other! Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 21:52
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    For merging two different accounts see here: stackoverflow.com/help/merging-accounts
    – Ric
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 22:23
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    Are there other potential supervisors in your department doing research which you would be more motivated to pursue? Is it possible to switch supervisors and keep your scholarship? If you're trying to do research which you feel unmotivated to pursue, you won't make as much progress as if you were motivated. And 1.5 years is not too late to switch supervisors and topics. Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 22:56

2 Answers 2


First of all: talk to your supervisor! what does he expect as results? What does he think? does he really want to leave you for the rest of the time doing nothing?

I think, to say that a technique B is not useful to solve A can be a PhD alone. Are you really sure that it is not? Did you exploit EVERY possibility? Or are you just not interested in finding the right way but are more interested to do something that works?

Even dough in the end, Einstein, Newton, Gauss and Shannon are the ones who were right, but never forget about the hundreds and thousands of people, that tried another approach/theory but found out it was a dead end! This is research. Writing that and why some approach not works is as valuable as finding the right path. Mostly regarding such a big field as you mentioned.

If you can really state that there is no way to use this technique (and propose other/ use similar techniques like ANN or ML in general), that's already good research. I really think, you just don't like to do a PhD at all?

I do not wish to be an academician and investing my time on training myself in such a work is not in sync with my aspirations

Three possibilities:

  • give up the PhD and go into industry. There are a lot of companies which do research, mostly in the field I assume you are working on (machine learning, big data?)
  • Ask your supervisor what you should do next and stick with this PhD
  • if you really find another topic, which you find very interesting (even if it may fails! that's academic research, stick with it...), you may start a new PhD. But I would only suggest that if you do it for the fun of research and not as training. What you actually train as a PhD is doing research on your own. So don't expect the same experience and usefulness for the industry you would earn in the industry.

Just because you don't see the usefulness of what you are doing, doesn't mean that is will be forever useless.

You advisor probably sees the field better than you. Trust him/her. And you never know what can you do with that stuff in the future.

More than that, research doesn't need to be useful. There are simple theoretical advancements that are proper research projects/results but cannot be directly applied now. Or ever. Still, people can build upon it, or avoid that path altogether, because of that work.

And this is not only academia. Go check how many patents IBM has for stuff that was never developed into products...

Research is about extending the boundaries of knowledge.

(This sounds like a deGrasse Tyson/Sagan quote - it might be).

Of course, these developments are not as sexy as something that can change the world tomorrow, but they are as valid as research, albeit sometimes more difficult to get funded. Once you get your phd, you can work in whatever you want (aka whatever you can dig up funding in).

IMHO, it is not worth wasting a couple years and a funded position over this. I know I didn't. I also believed that the subject of my phd thesis was useless. Well, it isn't and, as a postdoc, I'm working on expanding its boundaries. I'm quite happy about it, if I'm honest.

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