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Specialty Chemistry Forums => Chemical Education and Careers => Topic started by: mir on July 20, 2007, 07:13:49 AM

Title: phd - how is it like?
Post by: mir on July 20, 2007, 07:13:49 AM
I have until 5th of August to decide if Im going to do a phd.

But Im wondering, is it really so bad being a phd-student like that presented in the piled higher and deeper-comics? See this stripe and others:

(http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive/phd100199s.gif)

???

What is your experience (and dont be afraid to tell the truth, just ignore what you said later on)...
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Mitch on July 20, 2007, 04:50:56 PM
Read every one of those PhD comics, they are surprisingly accurate at describing the graduate student lifestyle.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: enahs on July 21, 2007, 12:17:17 AM
While I am not actually officially working on my Ph.D. now, I will eventually.

I have been told, by many people that both have phd's and by people with just masters that make more money and enjoy their job more then people with phd' and are generally more knowledgeable; That the whole going for a Ph.D. is a race, a race to see which happens first, you get a life or you get your degree.


Really though, if you want to do your own research in chemistry you need a Ph.D..
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: mir on July 21, 2007, 07:44:53 AM
Read every one of those PhD comics, they are surprisingly accurate at describing the graduate student lifestyle.

Im a bit naive, I thought the phd-comics was only a caricature of the real world. And now you are saying that its true? What can I say, then the phd-comics is my Bible until the 5th of August  ;D
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: lemonoman on July 21, 2007, 09:14:47 AM
PHD Comics really only show part of it.

They don't touch of stuff like the harem of sexy women who'll want you for themselves, the sleeping on top of piles of money, or the salesmen who'll give you a new car everytime he stops by.  And then the salesman offers you his wife for a night.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: enahs on July 21, 2007, 11:33:59 AM
lemonoman is confusing Ph.D. with being a famous movie celebrity. Easy mistake to make. I know I am one of the sexiest men alive, so I figure all my other chemistry compadreas are as well, right?
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: hmx9123 on July 22, 2007, 09:55:43 PM
Surprisingly, the PhD is not a test of your ability but a test of your perseverance.  Expect the worst 2-3 years of your life up front, then followed by 2-3 years of hard work.  Make damn sure you do your PhD in a location that you like or you'll be worse than miserable.  If you've ever been in the military, imagine boot camp for 5 years.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: lemonoman on July 22, 2007, 11:31:33 PM
Seriously though, it depends soo much on what your supervisor is like.

Some supervisors will demand you be in the lab for a certain number of hours (sometimes ridiculously long) ... some are very very lenient, and as long as you get your work done, they really don't care when you're there.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: DrCMS on July 23, 2007, 04:36:46 AM
Lemonoman has hit the nail on the head, your supervisor is key to how much time you have to spend in the lab.

The social side of things is important to keep you going when experiments fail and to celebrate when they don't.

I had a great time doing my PhD maybe the best 3 years of my life.
The first 2 years were free and easy ~6-7 hours a day in the lab and everynight down the pub till closing time.  Maybe a few hours on a Saturday in the lab or on the NMR but ever Sunday free. The third year I started to put longer hours in ~7-8 hours a day 6 days a week going up to ~10-12 hours a day 7 days a week when i was finishing everything off.  That meant only a few hours in the pub each night.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: AWK on July 23, 2007, 06:18:13 AM
THink also about the future. Your earnings can be much higher
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: mir on July 23, 2007, 03:35:31 PM
THink also about the future. Your earnings can be much higher

But I cant ignore the fact that having "only" a MSc is an advantage too:
  - More jobs available
  - The industry is looking at you as expertise they can shape into what fits them best
  - You are not very specialized which makes you a generalist
  - Stability in income and you dont need to move to new jobs every time
  - You are on the edge of over-qualification and still a potato (you can "grow" everywhere even in Arctic)

PhD have following downsides which I have heard and read:
  -  A PhD-student is travelling on a emotional roller-coaster with 90% depression and 10% pure ecstasy.
  -  10-12 hours in the lab and pressure builds up since people are expecting results.
  -  Fewer jobs later on, most of them are administrative jobs. When it comes to jobs, a professional scientist is doomed to jump from project to project the first years, since they all are based on short-term contracts. No security and difficulties in building networks outside the job-related circle.

But if you want to be a leader, a PhD-degree is an huge advantage.

I think, I will take some 100-courses in physics and mathematics the following year. And let this decision mature into something I can stand for 100%.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: enahs on July 23, 2007, 08:40:30 PM
Your Ph.D. con about fewer jobs and the type is completely wrong. Not only do you have all the opportunities opened up by having a Ph.D., but you also have access to all the opportunities opened up by having just a masters. You also have a much better chance of getting that job that just requires a masters if you have a Ph.D., and getting it at better pay as well, or at least better benefits.


Really, if you want to do your own research, you either need to make something and patent it and become a billionaire and start your own research company, or get a PhD. If you just want a good, challenging and hopefully enjoyable job then a masters is probably fine.


And the whole emotional roller coaster thing about Ph.D. I just do not get bothered by those kind of things.  Do it because you can find something in it your can enjoy.

And just because you set out to achieve some goal and you fail, does not mean you failed as a scientists and your project was a wash and you do not get your Ph.D.. You can learn just as much from your mistakes.


My adviser keeps telling me "If you are not making mistake or not failing at something you are not doing real research.".

Not that I am officially working towards a Ph.D. or anything. Long complicated annoying story that has nothing to do with anything except the bureaucracy of the graduate school and nothing to do with the chemistry graduate school its self.


 
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Berettagtz on July 25, 2007, 03:03:30 PM
so from your posts I get the impression that going to a phD school is mostly, if not all research.  How many classes/credits do you have to take?  And also on average how long does it take to get a phD after 4 years of undergrad?  Furthermore, how much is the average phD tuition?
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Borek on July 25, 2007, 04:32:06 PM
PhD is about proving you can do research by yourself. It is not about "I am going to teach you multiplication table" but about "let's define operation and call it multiplication. Find out whether someone did it before, find out whether multiplication table exists, and if not - try to derive/calculate one by yourself".
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: enahs on July 25, 2007, 04:42:38 PM
so from your posts I get the impression that going to a phD school is mostly, if not all research.  How many classes/credits do you have to take?  And also on average how long does it take to get a phD after 4 years of undergrad?  Furthermore, how much is the average phD tuition?


Well, unless you have really convinced the graduate department, they will make you go through the basic classes on your way towards a Masters Degree. Depending on the situation, and how many of those classes they make you take, but, even if they made you do everything required for a MS it would take you only two years to complete those. After that, yes it is pretty much all research; your own and you being the gofer of other faculty members.

At the minimum of going straight from BS towards a PHD they would make you take at least 3 of the 4 basic masters level core chemistry classes (one organic, analytical, inorganic and physical chemistry); I would imagine.

There are a few difference in the general outline for schools in the USA or say in Europe, when it comes to graduate level.



As for the time, it takes some people not long and some people really long.

As for tuition, in the hard science, especially chemistry with it being such a core science important to every major industry, you rarely have to pay tuition. You tuition is paid and you usually get a stipend. You also can get in on grant money, and if you are helping some other professor with their work, they sponsor you with some of their grant money (this is in part what the grant money is actually for).

Maybe the first semester or two, or if it is a really big school you will have to pay. But the cost is totally dependent on the area and school. I could easily find you graduate programs with 1/4th the price of some undergraduate programs.

It is usually not that hard to get a stipend and tuition paid (well, not in the parts of the US I have ever lived and know people attending graduate schools). Many schools will require you to be a TA or teach a freshman lab, etc. to qualify for the stipend though.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Berettagtz on July 25, 2007, 05:00:45 PM
Thanks enahs and borek for your replies.  I still want to know how fast one can get through phD school.  I understand that it is not easy and it takes time, but on average how many years does it really take?  I've heard 6 years, I've heard 10 years but nothing concrete. And what are the requirements to get into phD school?  I suspect they don't accept just about anybody.

Thanks in advance!
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: enahs on July 25, 2007, 05:23:50 PM
The requirements will be at minimum a 2.7 cumulative GPA (out of 4) in your undergrad chemistry classes. Some schools (most probably in America) will require the GRE (http://www.ets.org/gre/). More well known or schools with a larger graduate chemistry program will require a letter of recommendation. Any professor will do, does not even have to be a chemistry professor. Just somebody who has done the work that can state they think you can do it, and do it well.


I would not expect to get a PhD in under 5 years going straight from BS to PhD. But again, while you will not be making much money during this time, you can still be being paid to get your education; and all your student loans for undergraduate will be deferred during that time.


Also note, you do not even have to have a undergraduate degree in chemistry. Virtually any school will accept a undergraduate degree in Physics, or math, or chemical engineering, etc. They will just require you to do more traditional classes upfront.


To get a PhD you have to make an original contribution to your field of study. No time frame can really be put on that. And in chemistry there are many different fields, and depending on what school you go to, and what the faculty there focus on, and the kind of help you can get, some sub disciplines of chemistry will be much "easier" to produce an original contribution to the field of study then the other (note, being able to produce an original contribution and define it properly in a thesis and defend the thesis are two entirely different things).


Really, they almost do let just about anybody in with a bachelors degree in a scientific field (except in the very very top of the schools with the best and most well known chemistry programs). The requirements for the stipend and paid tuitions are higher. And getting in and being able to handle the workload are two different things!
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Berettagtz on July 25, 2007, 05:47:27 PM
thanks once again enahs.  Your replies help a lot.  I just finished my second year of ACS chemistry and I think this is a good time for me to decide what I want to do with my education.  I definitely want to go to grad school, but I am still deciding between masters or phD.  The only drawback that would keep me from going to phD school is the time it takes.  Six/five years is a long time, but then again it might not be. 
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: enahs on July 25, 2007, 06:04:31 PM
Talk with some of the faculity members at your current school. Ask them these question. Especially if you are considering going there for the graduate programs, as they will know everything you need.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Berettagtz on July 25, 2007, 06:15:37 PM
at my current school they only offer a masters.  For phD I would have to move.
Moving would not be a problem.  I might even consider going to europe.  Are phD programs any different in Europe?  And do they offer stipend there?
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: constant thinker on July 28, 2007, 10:03:49 PM
One pro to having a PhD is personal glory and satisfaction.

The biggest reason why I'm planning on eventually going to graduate school to hopefully get a PhD is for the satisfaction of having the highest degree possible...

...along with the monetary rewards.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: Berettagtz on July 28, 2007, 10:52:11 PM
Constant thinker,
I agree with you.  I think the personal glory is far more satisfactory than the money.  Any PhD graduates who can elaborate on this one?
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: mir on July 29, 2007, 05:53:17 AM
When your done with the PhD and you are satisfied and got the glory. What are you going to do next? I guess, you will never be satisfied. And about the glory, there is always a bigger mountain to climb. And if Mt. Everest is defeated by you, you have still yet Mt. Olympus on Mars.

And also, can you afford to make your own ego satisfied? And the risk for climbing mountain is falling and falling far. Its blowing on the top, its a rough environment. Over the death zone (8000 m), you cant expect to keep sustain a normal life.

Quote
I might even consider going to europe.  Are phD programs any different in Europe?  And do they offer stipend there?

In Norway there is no problem getting a PhD-degree also for foreign students, because very few in Norway are choosing chemistry for living and those who do, chooses to work in the industry (well paid and lots of jobs especially in the oil-industry). The Norwegian government pays you minimum 139 NOK/hour. A normal PhD is lasting for 3-4 years. Which 3 of them are pure reasearch and 60 ECS-credits of subjects (if you are a foreign student, a Norwegian-class is included). The fourth year you are employed as an researcher (engineer). You are also need to lead some student-courses an do some lectures in subjects you choose to share your experiences.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: mir on July 30, 2007, 03:14:45 AM
On a request I would like to place my answer in this thread:

Norwegian universities:
http://www.uio.no/english/
http://www.uib.no/info/english/
http://uit.no/informasjon/english?Language=en
http://www.umb.no/?avd=30
http://www.ntnu.no/portal/page/portal/eksternwebEN/
http://www.unis.no/

More links in this site, but I have already mentioned the most important ones for chemists:
http://www.studyinnorway.no/sn/where_can_i_study/list_of_institutions

About tuition:
http://www.studyinnorway.no/tuition_scholarships
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: hmx9123 on August 01, 2007, 04:31:14 AM
I kind of wonder if, after I'm done with my PhD, I won't simply become a tree farmer somewhere and never use my degree again.
Title: Re: phd - how is it like?
Post by: constant thinker on August 01, 2007, 11:11:21 PM
I kind of wonder if, after I'm done with my PhD, I won't simply become a tree farmer somewhere and never use my degree again.

That's why I wonder if chemistry is entirely right for me. I tend to get bored/distracted really easily. I want something that has many options. During my undergrad studies I'm probably going to try and double major chem and bio. Then I figure I'll probably also be close to pre-med.

I'll have the option of sticking with chemistry (which looks like what's going to happen), go into a branch of biology, or go to med school. Also I figure a double major of chem and bio basically is complementary to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries so I'll be an appealing applicant... At least that's what I hope.