I have a bachelor degree in applied mathematics and I'm currently doing a PhD in molecular genetics as a computational biologist. I started in my thesis lab in January and since then I've had serious problems understanding exactly what my supervisors expect me to do.
Here are a few of the underlying issues:
I've had to transition from a first principles based approach to problem solving to a top down, data-oriented worldview - something that has not come easily.
There are no upper-year students doing a project similar to mine that I can shadow while I learn the ropes.
My supervisors talk about my project and direction at a very high-level, so the details of what I should be doing or how I should be doing them are unclear.
I face a constant stream of discouragement, be it my peers succeeding while I don't, my supervisors just expecting me to 'figure it out' when it comes to the details, my unsupportive family, etc... and it's affecting my ability to work.
I did a number of very technical projects in my undergrad and I enjoyed them immensely. I have little love for my current project - likely a symptom of not succeeding.
How do I deal with this? Is it a normal part of the process to feel lost and hopeless - even this early on?
Most importantly: At what point should I cut my losses and drop out or switch departments?