What do you wish you had known before doing a PhD? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I spent three years working on a PhD but never completed it.
Here are the two main things I wish I’d known.
Don’t enter a lab with a famous professor. My professor had just written a book that was becoming very successful. It went to his head. He spent almost all of his time reveling in his new found fame. He was always being invited around the world to give keynote lectures and TV appearances and such. And I was lumbered with giving his lectures and producing lecture notes, homework assignments and exam questions instead of having time to work on my research. When he wasn’t away, we were entertaining TV crews, again taking time away from research to create fake cool-looking stuff that the media might be interested in. In three years I only ever had one personal meeting with him, and that was on the very first day. Whenever I asked for a meeting, he would always blow me off. It wasn’t just me. In a very large lab, only a couple of my peers got their doctorates there. The rest had to leave and finish their work in other labs, under the supervision of sympathetic professors around the world. The ones that did get their PhDs there were either split with another non-famous supervisor or took over ten years to complete their research. That’s right, there were people doing PhDs for over ten years in the lab. I didn’t want to be one of them. Looking back, I should have realized much earlier that I was never going to get any help, advice or supervision. I should have reached out to others. I will take some responsibility by saying that I was unfocused and unorganized, but then again, that’s exactly why I needed a supervisor who could do his job of supervising.
Don’t try to come up with original work off the bat.List You X Clones Right Best Buy Can Now Of Iphone BnxqXBr Start by repeating the results of a few papers you like. I REALLY wish somebody had told me that. I thought my job was to come up with my own question and invent my own system to answer it. It was only towards the end that I realized that science is found in the “conclusions and future work” section of papers. That is where the interesting questions lie. It is so obvious in hindsight, but I just couldn’t see that at the time and nobody told me. Of course it depends on what field you are in, but if I could start again (there’s no chance of that) I would start by implementing some of my favorite papers and then take them in an original direction.
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