I am a few months away from completing my PhD (nanotech/chemistry), I'm "just" writing my thesis. But I somehow feel like I have lost my motivation and I am confused about my future. I began the PhD with great enthusiasm, as I was going to do organic synthesis again after a short break.
As the project (together with a company) progressed, I felt the pressure from the company to just deliver something. So, I felt like being pushed to cut some corners in the academic work, just to present something for my boss and the company, eager to get some products launched.
Later the project changed focus in a direction a little far from my skill set and I got a new supervisor in the company. But my frustrations increased during the last year, not only because I had little progress, but also because I never felt my boss appreciated my work. Actually, they didn't really bother listening to what I have learned and continued doing things their way (why was I hired in the first place?). My supervisor at the university is a really nice person and really skilled in organic chemistry, but he has little experience in my project and is always way too busy to give proper advice.
Sometimes, I just feel like a useful idiot, working many hours (sacrificing time with my kids) without much appreciation in the other end.

Alright, that was the background. Basically, I love developing new stuff and doing research, but I don't feel at home in the industry. At the university I am at right now, they can't really use a guy like me with my broad but vague skill set. Another university (actually my alma mater) would really like me to work there, but they lack the funding. Adding to this, I cannot readily identify what I am passionate about - other than working in the lab.

So, I guess I am stuck in a dilemma. I feel like I'm not skilled enough (despite I made my first publication just after getting the BSc) to be interesting for the universities. But going to the industry, the little hope left for an academic position will vanish after short time. Maybe things will work out just fine if I just work with the things I love doing - whatever they are.

Any suggestions? I had a passion for organic chemistry once, particularly medicinal chemistry, but I'm not sure if I've been working for too long away from hardcore organic chemistry to be considered at i.e. drug companies.

  • From what you've said it sounds like your leadership might be the root cause of your loss of passion. Perhaps you should consider positions elsewhere, or try to shift your work load to emphasize the things you like doing. Rest and time with family are also important to keep your interest in your work, it's easy to run low on drive when chronically overworked. – Adam Bosen Nov 22 '17 at 19:01
  • What you feel now it is very normal. I would suggest if possible to start a side project/collaboration with the people at the university if you have the time, and try to focus also on what you really like. Good luck! – Nikey Mike Nov 22 '17 at 19:04
  • Well, today my university supervisor wrote to me (after mailing him the first part of the thesis draft), that he didn't intend to read it - just skim it and maybe correct at few errors and give me suggestions if there are some obvious mistakes. I know he is busy, but - really? Isn't it his responsibility to be sure I am doing it right? – pseudoninja Nov 24 '17 at 13:12
  • Obligatory link to our perennially top-voted question: How should I deal with discouragement as a graduate student? – Stephan Kolassa Nov 24 '17 at 21:18

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