In need of academic advice

meltdown75

Lifer
Nov 17, 2004
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Hope everyone is having a nice afternoon, or morning, or whatever you're having.

I need some help or suggestions and I don't know who else to turn to.

My wife started a PhD program about 6 weeks ago. Her field of study is biomechanics and sport physics. I don't know much about it, I only have a BA in bullcrap so all that stuff flies over my head. In the lab, she studies "subjects" and it takes 3-4 hours for each one. She has a full courseload right now too. I can get more info if required.

She is really struggling with the amount and type of material she is studying right now. She was amazing in her undergrad, kicked ass in her masters and lectured for 2 years at her undergrad university, but to obtain full "professor" status the PhD is something she needed to do. Her winning a 3-year award to pay for it all greatly influenced her (and our) decision to go, as I'm sure it would anyone.

The problem is she is finding herself at odds when trying to see some interest in the stuff she is researching. As I understand it, it is not quite what she was lecturing, and for lack of a better term, she finds it really boring and never rewarding. Some of the math formulas she showed me were pages and pages long and she had never seen them before. That's a lot to wrap your head around.

Basically for the next 3 years (or until it is done), she is going to be conducting research on the same stuff, and then (I assume) will expect to publish papers on it for the rest of her career.

I guess my generic question would be: Are there any tips for enjoying what she is doing more, or does it always just SUCK at the beginning? How about some general PhD tips? She is the hardest working person I know and she is starting to get really stressed. At this rate, she won't survive to have a career afterwards. Please help me and don't ask for pics.
 

DaveSimmons

Elite Member
Aug 12, 2001
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670
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That's why I dropped out of the computer science Ph.D program at the University of Washington a decade ago -- there just wasn't any funded research going on there that I was interested in enough to devote a career to.

I'm glad I went into the program though, for the graduate level courses & papers and to find out that I didn't want to become a college professor. Instead I've been a software developer creating programs that people use and appreciate.

Anyway, at UW there were many sub-areas in the computer science & engineering department, are there any different areas of research in her Ph.D program? Changing to a different research project or area might make the work more interesting.
 

meltdown75

Lifer
Nov 17, 2004
37,558
7
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thanks Dave.

unfortunately I think it is a little late for her to change. I am getting the feeling that when the guy (her superior there, whatever you call him) was mainly interested in getting her research money to go there, as opposed to considering what might actually be best for her.
 
Jan 18, 2001
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It's not unusual for Ph.d students to find their programs to be lacking. Many people shift advisors, areas of research, and even departments. My advice is to give a bit more time, she certainly can't really do anything until next semester anyways. Summer break could provide her with the time to build new contacts within the department and recon her alternatives. Look at it this way, she shouldn't transfer into a new lab / research area until she is sure that she will be happier than where she is now. I ended up switching from cognitive psych to ind engineering... basically found I was more interested in applied work while I was taking courses to satisfy my minor requirement. In hindsight, I should have switched sooner, but whatever...

 

meltdown75

Lifer
Nov 17, 2004
37,558
7
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hmm. allegedly she doesn't get a "break" for summer.

i hope more time does the trick. it would just be nice to see her round the corner, so to speak. i'm sure the stress of moving away from home and living alone away from everything you are used to doesn't help.

ugh
 

invidia

Platinum Member
Oct 8, 2006
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Depending on the field, going for a Ph.D. is more difficult than going through med school. I was comtempling about going for my Ph.D in physics. But realized it's too much of a risk and I don't think I can be able to handle it. Passing the preliminary doctoral physics exams is one, if not, the hardest exams right next to the actuary exams. Not only that, I would have to research and write up a 200-300 page thesis and defend it at the end.

A Ph.D is very difficult and requires you to "find" new things in your work/research. It it not something you cannot do part-time (if she has a full-time job). And it is not common for grad students to actually "find" what they really want to research/specialized in later in the year.
 

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