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Offline a student

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choosing my phd thesis
« on: December 11, 2009, 02:01:44 PM »
hi
I want to study PhD, I haven't decided for the subject of my thesis yet, I want to work on something that seems to have a better future can you tell me where do you live and in your country which branch of organic chemistry is more attendable :P

Offline JGK

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2009, 03:34:18 PM »
Why do people expect others to choose their future for them?

My advice to you is, study what interests you not what you think will get you the most monetary reward. Being stuck in a job you hate for your working life (30+ years) will not be fun. Whereas if you're in a job you enjoy time passes very quickly.

Also the field of chemistry in vogue at the moment may not be by the time you get your PhD, things change in the sciences.

Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Offline cth

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2009, 05:23:35 PM »
I would advise you to choose your PhD depending on the supervisor, no matter what is the subject.

Keep in mind that a PhD is 3 to 5 years full time (depends of the country), and it is a very work demanding period. Do you want to spend all this time of your life with someone you can't stand as your boss?  ??? So, go talk to academic researchers and find one you truly appreciate. Then, whatever the research project, you'll adapt to it.

I have seen cases, quite rare thanksfully, where relationship between a student and his supervisor is bad. And it only gets worse as time flies by. This is not something you want to experience.

Offline JGK

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2009, 02:47:20 PM »
I would advise you to choose your PhD depending on the supervisor, no matter what is the subject.

Sorry, but I just don't agree with you on this one, choosing something based on what your boss is like is an extremely superficial way to decide your future life.

Doing something that you enjoy, are interested in and motivated by will be far more rewarding for 5 years even if you don't like the boss. 5 years will seem an awful lot longer if the work isn't enjoyable and doesn't interest or motivate you (No matter how nice the boss is).

And what of your Post PhD life? You'll have 30+ years of it. do you want to carry working in a field that you chose based on what the boss was like, or what interests you?
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Offline 408

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2009, 03:39:02 PM »
I must agree with JGK.  Choose something you love to do and can see yourself doing forever.  But the supervisor is always important as well, but I find it secondary to the research material.  The best way in my opinion is to find a topic you like, talk to the supervisors for each group, and then choose.

I must say I lucked out in this regard.  I chose an amazing field, and had the opportunity to work for my supervisor as an undergraduate, and learned that this guy is simply an amazing person.  The fact he is the department chair and internationally known is just a bonus on top of getting along with him and doing some amazing chemistry together.

Offline cth

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2009, 03:52:18 PM »
I would advise you to choose your PhD depending on the supervisor, no matter what is the subject.

Sorry, but I just don't agree with you on this one, choosing something based on what your boss is like is an extremely superficial way to decide your future life.

Doing something that you enjoy, are interested in and motivated by will be far more rewarding for 5 years even if you don't like the boss. 5 years will seem an awful lot longer if the work isn't enjoyable and doesn't interest or motivate you (No matter how nice the boss is).

And what of your Post PhD life? You'll have 30+ years of it. do you want to carry working in a field that you chose based on what the boss was like, or what interests you?


Sorry, but it seems you miss understood what I meant. Naturally, the decision to do a PhD has to be thought through carefully and it is much better to do something one likes. But, when a Student mentioned: "I want to study PhD, [...] which branch of organic chemistry is more attendable", I assumed he has already made his decision after much thinking and that he likes organic chemistry enough to make it his job.
At that point, I don't think working on any particular area of organic chemistry will make any difference to his motivation:
-Will he be happier if he works with phosphines rather than fluorine chemistry?
-Better with polymers than with natural product synthesis?
As a student who just graduated, he probably doesn't know much of the subtleties between different organic chemistry areas. And anyway, he will get to work on many of them during his career. So it doesn't really matter.

At that point, when someone has decided upon a PhD and which area (organic chemistry in this case), I keep thinking it is better to choose a PhD depending on the supervisor. Moreover, a good supervisor can help you make (or rarely destroy) your future career as an academic researcher. As his student, you benefit from your supervisor networking and influence, which could help you find a good postdoc afterwards... This is true regardless if you are good, or not so good, at doing science. It is the less glamorous part of science, where lab politics are important. I think it would be "an extremely superficial way" not to take it into account and leave it to chance.

BTW, nobody ever talks about that "dark" side of science (where it is not enough to be good, but need networking as well. where there are conflicts between professors and students are caught in the middle...) to students. The surprise comes later, when it is often too late.  :'(

The best way in my opinion is to find a topic you like, talk to the supervisors for each group, and then choose.
Agree. In this case, the topic chosen by a Student is organic chemistry. Then my answered followed: choose the supervisor, after talking to many of them.

Offline baboom

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2009, 04:09:11 PM »
There can be conflicts between group members as well. Just look at what happened with the guy from ukraine. Someone switched his acetic acid powder with explosives.
BABOOM!! :o

Offline Borek

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2009, 04:13:57 PM »
BTW, nobody ever talks about that "dark" side of science (where it is not enough to be good, but need networking as well. where there are conflicts between professors and students are caught in the middle...) to students. The surprise comes later, when it is often too late.  :'(

Friend of mine put a lot of work into an interesting research, he had very intresting results, but his advisor didn't like him - so asked for refining, refining, correcting and so on. In the end Andrzej did not get his PhD, even if he was most likely the brightest and most disciplined guy from our class.

Sure, this was in specific country (Poland) at specific time (politically intense - second half of eighties, if you know a bit about Polish history it was boliling here, even if mostly under the cover) and specific case (Andrzej is a declared socialist, very untrendy at the time, his supervisor was deeply catholic - very trendy at the time), still - such things happen.
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Offline Borek

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2009, 04:14:42 PM »
Someone switched his acetic acid powder with explosives.

I must admit I have never seen powdery acetic acid.
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Offline baboom

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2009, 04:31:58 PM »
I meant citric acid
BABOOM!! :o

Offline cth

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2009, 05:03:22 PM »
There can be conflicts between group members as well.

Sure. Not only it can, but it does.

* If it is a conflict between two PhD students, the situation is equal. You have ways to either win this fight or simply move to another lab next door and keep your chemicals locked at night. It's manageable.
* However, if a PhD student is in conflict with his supervisor, the situation is different and not equal at all. Said crudely, the student and his scientific career are screwed: no money (so, less chemicals to work with), bad referee letter for a postdoc applications, unfair and bad student reputation from the supervisor talking to his peers... No way the student can get through this and have a good academic career.

Friend of mine put a lot of work into an interesting research, he had very intresting results, but his advisor didn't like him - so asked for refining, refining, correcting and so on. In the end Andrzej did not get his PhD, even if he was most likely the brightest and most disciplined guy from our class.
Sorry about your friend. That kind of situation is rare, but sadly it does happen sometimes.

Personally, I got very lucky because I had an excellent supervisor during my PhD. I owe him a lot. But at the end of my PhD, 3 years ago in UK, I saw a supervisor abandoning his entire group (2 postdocs, 3 PhD and 1 master students, including two friends of mine) to move to a professorship place in another university. All the students and postdocs eventually dropped off from research. Of the two friends of mine, one was way more hardworking than I and he deserved to do a postdoc more than I... Just for an unfortunate choice of supervisor. At that time, I lost a lot of my illusions and innocence. I wish to no one to get through that.

I don't want to appear too alarmist or pessimistic, but every new student should be aware that a small minority of academics are to avoided, just like in any profession.

Offline baboom

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2009, 05:08:01 PM »
The best thing you can do to avoid these situations is to be politically correct
« Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 05:33:29 PM by baboom »
BABOOM!! :o

Offline cth

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2009, 05:41:05 PM »
The situation is not always equal if there is a conflict between the students. The prof have been working for a longer time with one of them and may also have "favorites". Basically, if you started with the grad student, you started with the prof.

The best thing you can do to avoid these situations is always be politically correct and keep a distance until you know the group dynamics.
Sure, the situation is never exactly equal. And in this case, we come back again to the influence of the supervisor.

The work of university professor is not only about research, teaching, administration and money hunting. As a group leader, he/she should have human relation skills as well (a complicated and demanding job  :o). A good supervisor should be able to calm down any conflict that arises from time to time within his/her group, avoiding any deterioration of the group atmosphere. A not so good supervisor may add to the conflict, favor one side against the other,... That's never for the best.

Offline baboom

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2009, 07:09:11 PM »
Yes you are right
BABOOM!! :o

Offline Telamond

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Re: choosing my phd thesis
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2009, 01:27:07 PM »
I was wondering for some guidance in a similar matter as well. So instead of making a new post, I thought I would post in an already active one.

I'm about to write my final master's thesis. I've already found a professor that I like a lot, and I'm very interested in the project. The thing is that the professor usually assigns Ph. D students to mentor us during the time for the thesis work, and I'm not very fond of the person he chose for me...

That person was more of a slacker when they were the TA for one of my previous courses, and it's been a general joke around the department that they're not the best chemist (theoretically and experimental either).

As I want to apply for a Ph. D position after my final thesis work (as I really, really, really am interested in the project), should I try to work along them or should I voice my disapproval as mentor for my thesis work? :/ I'm not the one who usually goes for making ripples in the water, how important is the mentoring for my final project?

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