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Offline Guitarmaniac86

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General PhD Advice
« on: September 15, 2014, 07:48:52 AM »
Hi everyone.

I just wanted to get a feel for how others have fared during their PhD's. I am halfway through mine and I am in blind panic that I will not finish, and that I will fail the PhD. A little background:

I cannot go into details with the synthesis I am following, nor can I go into detail about the actual research project because I am bound by confidentiality clauses, however, I will give a very general overview.

When I started I already had a solid synthetic background, my Masters project was half an MRES and half a taught course so I spent 6 months in a lab and 6 months in a classroom, so I was confident that I could take on a PhD. Anyway, when I started I was given a synthetic method to follow, however, after 6 months I couldn't get the 4th step in the synthesis to work so I tried various approaches to no avail. After an extensive literature review it was deemed an improbable route at the juncture so it was decided to change approach (something I had argued for to no avail during those six months).

Around the 9 month mark, some progress had been made with the new approach however, the university gave me an ultimatum: I had to achieve two novel compounds by 12 months or be off the PhD. I made the deadline easily and then subsequently the project sky rocketed and by March 2014 I had 14 compounds that could go into a paper. They were submitted for testing however 2 failed the HPLC purity test so had to be resynthesised. No compounds have yet been tested and the HPLC tests have taken months to complete (the industrial sponsor wants to do them as they have the set up there already, they just want me to concentrate on the synthesis and leave the HPLC to them. This is not fine by me as it takes them months but they dont have the time to train me [or are unwilling to]).

Around the 15 month mark I was doing a parallel synthetic method along with the main project which has been horrendous. None of the reactions seemed to work easily and they yields were low and it felt like I was going backwards. Whilst intending on concentrating on both sets of reactions at the same time, the second set of reactions have taken more and more time, with little output and the major set of reactions has stalled. I want to progress the major reaction because I need to do an SAR study but the company and the university insist I get the minor reactions working first before I proceed. I feel this is hampering the project because with two years left and about 20 odd compounds I do not feel like this is enough for even a Masters. I dont want to quit but I dont want to fail the PhD either.

I tried to con the supervisors into signing an order form so I could progress the project but they caught on fast. They said trying to do 3 sets of syntheses at the same time was insanity. However, I feel like I have to do it to get somewhere because in my mind I have lurched from one disaster to another. I dont feel like I have lost focus because I know what I need to do in order to get the project moving, but with no bio data and differences of opinion between me, industry and supervisors, I feel like this PhD is becoming a lost cause. At the end of the day if industry and my supervisors decide how the project should go I have to go along with it, but I don't know how to broach the subject with them. They have secret meetings without me there and I am worried now that industry wants rid of me. I know I am not best placed to make decisions about the PhD as I am only seeing things from the perspective of the student and not the supervisor, so I try and see things from their point of view and if I am honest, I think I can sometimes come across as cowardly. I dont stand up for myself well I just do as I am told.

If anyone has any advice that would be amazing, and if I have come across as whiny, that was not my intention, I am trying to be as honest as possible so I can get accurate feedback from people better placed to make a judgement. I want to fix the issues rather than walk away.

Thank you for reading this far.

Guitarmaniac86
Don't believe atoms, they make up everything!

Offline discodermolide

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2014, 08:19:13 AM »
I think that most people have felt like this during their PhD. A period when nothing seems to be working and every little thing feels like it runs in slow motion.
Don't worry things will pick up again and before you know it you will be done.
Chin up.
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Offline curiouscat

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2014, 09:27:45 AM »
+1

In any case most of what you described doesn't seem like it can be changed by you. Why worry about stuff you cannot change?

Don't overthink it.

Offline Dan

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2014, 09:49:05 AM »
Same here, I did the majority of the work in my thesis in the last year. Don't panic, just keep your head down, there's light at the end of the tunnel.
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Offline curiouscat

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2014, 11:27:54 AM »
Same here, I did the majority of the work in my thesis in the last year. Don't panic, just keep your head down, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

I calculated (only somewhat facetiously) that if only I worked half as hard throughout as I did in the last few months of my thesis I should have had my PhD in less than 2 years.   ;D

Offline DrCMS

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2014, 12:09:01 PM »
I calculated (only somewhat facetiously) that if only I worked half as hard throughout as I did in the last few months of my thesis I should have had my PhD in less than 2 years.   ;D

I'd have done mine in a year based on the same calculations.  In reality without the ground work in years 1 and 2 there is no way I could have done so much in the last year.

Offline curiouscat

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2014, 12:44:47 PM »
In reality without the ground work in years 1 and 2 there is no way I could have done so much in the last year.

I think I was just lazy, unfocused and inefficient absent impending deadlines.

Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2014, 12:56:09 PM »
Thank you everyone for your posts I feel re-assured about my project now.

Don't believe atoms, they make up everything!

Offline DrCMS

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Re: General PhD Advice
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2014, 04:21:51 PM »
In reality without the ground work in years 1 and 2 there is no way I could have done so much in the last year.

I think I was just lazy, unfocused and inefficient absent impending deadlines.

For me some that groundwork was getting better at doing the practical and theoretical parts of chemistry, some was laying down the foundations of the area I was working on and some was growing up and learning to mange myself better.

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