As a part of my PhD work, I wish to try a technique which is upcoming and frequently in use. I am not sure if it will be successful, though I have a good feeling about it. My supervisor is simply against it because he does not understand it. And unfortunately he does not have sufficient Math background to understand it either. He is not interested in exploring such ideas and rather is interested in getting more publications in his chosen techniques - partly because he has friends in those conference committees and mostly because it seems he does not know anything else.

By the way, my PhD is funded by the university. I am not interested in looking for another supervisor. It's a headache! What should I do? The new method will at least need 1.5 months.

  • Why not do both of the techniques? You can write a paper with a different professor at your university with the new technique. 1.5 months is not much, I think you can work also on that and separate what you work with your supervisor by what is worked without.
    – Nikey Mike
    Nov 20, 2016 at 11:05
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    How long would it take to get some preliminare results or something like that? I had an idea and my PI said yes but he wasn't convinced and toll me not to waste too much energy and time on this. After the first results it changed to "ok, forget everything else, I want this finished first"
    – user64845
    Nov 20, 2016 at 11:19
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    I think we need to know what field you are in. Is this new technique expensive and would the supervisor have to pay for materials, reagents, etc.?
    – kmm
    Nov 20, 2016 at 17:43
  • do you mean you want to make the new stuff a core part of your dissertation? or are you just exploring?
    – user61996
    Nov 20, 2016 at 22:38
  • also, how far along are you? do you have an approved thesis project or are you earlier than that?
    – user61996
    Nov 20, 2016 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


This is a question you can only answer yourself, because it's about the balance between working on stuff your group is experienced in and trying out new stuff. But let's list some arguments why you should not go off doing something just because it's interesting:

  • You probably have a Phd topic yourself, and every month spent on something not directly relevant means you're defending a month later. Will this fit in another publication you're planning to write?
  • Your supervisor is not an expert in this subject, which will definitely cause you to make some avoidable mistakes that will take time or make the project weaker. If your supervisor cannot help you, do you have someone else that can guide and teach you?
  • Even if it's a new and fancy technique, new and fancy doesn't do anything for you if you're not an expert already. You'll probably figure out stuff that has been figured out already. Will it bring direct results that you need for your other projects?
  • You'd not be doing this project in magical extra time, it's something you'll be doing instead of something else. Is it really that much more interesting than something closer to your expertise / project?

Your Phd is about doing research. Bringing projects from start to finish and publishing. Not about learning for the sake of learning. You probably did enough of that, now it's time to push the boundaries of knowledge.

  • 10
    I slightly disagree with this response(although I don't gave a negative vote). I believe that pursuing individual projects that could lead to publications is a very important aspect of a PhD. Of course, that don't have to take a lot of energy and be time consuming, but it should be done, finding and exploring ideas counts equally or even more than working on problems already defined and assigned by the PI.
    – Nikey Mike
    Nov 20, 2016 at 13:31
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    @MikeyMike: I only listed reasons why someone could decide not to do a project like this. I think kosmos already has enough reasons to want to do this project.
    – VonBeche
    Nov 20, 2016 at 17:12
  • I think this is a perfect complement to the gut response of "Why not? What have you got to lose?".
    – Earthliŋ
    Nov 20, 2016 at 20:27
  • @MikeyMike I kind of agree with you. I am doing PhD to learn, publishing is a part of the process. When I get an idea, if I can implement it and then get it published then that is true learning for me. Doing what my PI says is like working in a company and getting its vision implemented. If I had to do that I would not be living on a student's salary!
    – user58480
    Nov 20, 2016 at 22:59
  • @kosmos I think you're the only one to judge if you can implement this and get it published. You're lacking the support of your supervisor and there might be a method closer to his core expertise that might solve this problem faster with less effort. But you could also introduce something relatively fast (2 months) and fix an otherwise unsolvable problem. Without the information we cannot really say what's the case, I can only advise to also look at your own endpoints. Publishing and finishing your Phd.
    – VonBeche
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:15

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