Culture, Research Should you do a PhD? | PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge
This video is about why and what pieces of advice i would give if you are thinking about doing a phd, they are do something else. First, look for the right things in a supervisor choose a university with a lot happening. And finally, if you want to do a phd in the us, please please consider some other options as well a big caveat before i start, though this is entirely my own opinion and bias towards what i know, which is the uk system. I hope it’s still useful for you, though so let’s get started. If you’re in university and you’re thinking about doing a phd, then let me guess: you’ve probably got good grades and you really like studying. You might also not really know what else to do with yourself. If you were to just leave the university system and go into the wild, the simplest option might seem to be to do what’s next on the path. A masters or a phd. A phd, though, is something that you’ll hate. Unless you love it, it’s super common for people to drop out of phd programs, and i think it happens, because a lot of people realize that this wasn’t something that they really cared about much. After all. They were just doing it because they thought that there was nothing interesting outside of academia instead of assuming that try and get a job and see whether you really do hate it. If you do, then, after a year, you can always go back.
I was sure that i wanted to do a phd, but i still really benefited from taking a break that break helped me decide what i wanted to research. Often, the topics that people end up doing research in are the ones that they stumbled on in undergrad research or are in subjects that they liked at university. I really liked functional analysis classes in undergrad, so naturally i thought i’d study that, but in my time off on the side of doing some teaching gigs, i started exploring bits of physics i liked and following up on things that i was curious about, i got really Into quantum foundations – and i knew that that’s what i wanted to do my research on – if you do take a break, though it will be harder to go straight into a competitive phd program, but in some countries you pretty much have to do a one to two Year, masters first so take that break between undergrad and that masters it’s quite easy to get into a master’s. Even after a significant break. Don’T worry about doing a competitive masters, though just do one at a local university and get amazing grades. That will make you a much stronger phd candidate if you’re still worried about taking a full on break because it’ll look bad or because you’re dead set on a phd that’s. Okay, you should still take a break, though, to do some research before the phd research feels nothing like studying when you’re studying you’re supposed to just accept and memorize everything you learn.
Research, though, is about questioning things, and no one is there to pat you on the head. You need to be curious and you need to be willing to explore all on your own so see if that’s the kind of thing you’d enjoy before you step into a phd. You can do this by doing research over a summer or a research assistant role or a research masters for a year to see if you really enjoy that sort of thing. I got lucky because i mostly had an awesome time during my phd but that’s, not the typical experience. A lot of people run into politics with their group or feel completely neglected by their supervisor, and this can be crushing here’s. My advice then check that your supervisor is supportive and friendly, try and meet up with them before you sign up and see. If you get on, also ask their former students what it was like working with them. Make sure that the group you join also has a culture of collaborating both internally and with other groups that’s important, because at the start, you’ll know nothing you’ll learn by doing projects with others again. This is something that you can gauge from students in the group, it’s good to meet up with them and see if they seem interesting. These are probably the people that you’ll be talking to the most in the coming years and finally, look out for a supervisor whose work you really admire, remember you’re likely to work on similar topics.
So there is no point finding someone who is say famous but works on something you’re not into and there’s also no point finding someone who’s in the right field, but does low quality work Music. I think it’s super important to go to a university where you can get involved with lots of extracurriculars that’s, because a lot of the value you’ll get out of this degree comes from the stuff you’ll be doing on the side. Consider the fact that phds are usually three to eight years of the prime of your life. Other people will have a couple of jobs in that time. Maybe settle down start a family and, if you’re going to be spending those years depressed in a windowless lab instead you’re missing out what’s more if you’re making that sacrifice, because you think you’ll get rewarded, know that you probably won’t the vast majority of phd students don’t Become academics, even though a phd is specifically designed to make you one that means you can spend ages honing very particular skills that you won’t really use the general research skills are great, and i do think that i became a sharper thinker, but maybe you’d learn just As many valuable skills on a relevant job, i don’t know. However, what a phd is really good for is that it gives you a huge amount of freedom to research, something that you’re really interested in and freedom to explore other hobbies as well. So if you’re sure you want to do a phd, then make sure you’re learning things that will be valuable to you later.
Your university can expose you to so many opportunities and that’s. Why you should pick one that’s well known for active student clubs or public lectures or in a city with lots of other fun things going on, depending on what kind of phd you do? The workload can be less and way more flexible than if you were doing a job. At the same time, you have so many interesting people doing interesting things around you who you can start side projects with. I think that you should take learning things from those extracurricular activities very seriously, because you’re hardly going to have an opportunity like this again. I don’t think i did this as well as i could have, but i was conscious of it, so i did make something of an effort, but i think you can do better if you really tried here’s a list of some of the things that i did to Give you a sense of what’s possible, though i joined a science outreach group that toured the uk to show science experiments to kids over summer. I got really into effective, altruism. I ran off to teach in china for three weeks. I attended conferences all over the world. I was on the rowing team for a term even though i’m extremely small, i went to a lot of public lectures. I gave a public lecture, i’d travel to london, a lot to watch people do stand up comedy and probably the highlight the festival of the spoken nerd people accidentally.
Let me do a stand up comedy set in front of 500 people anyway. Now my supervisor knows just how often i was away from the office but yeah i don’t regret any of it. I got to explore a lot and realize just how much i love teaching and performing. So, even though i enjoyed the research a ton and i always thought that i’d be an academic, i decided to go into science communication full time instead. Okay, here we go. This is the controversial one. But let me put this to you in australia, the uk, mainland europe and many other places a phd is meant to take three years. A lot of people take longer so let’s say four years in the us. A phd is at least five years, though, and depending on the subject, the average can be seven years or more. Maybe a us phd is right for you but i’d. Just like you to consider the options before you commit that many years of your life to something you might be wondering how the non us system can be, that much shorter that’s, partly explained by the fact that it’s normal to do a masters before a phd in Places like the uk but you’re still looking at at least two years less time in total, which isn’t huge but it’s, not nothing. A nice thing about the uk system, in my opinion, is that it gives you a lot of points at which you can stop and reflect on whether this is the right path for you plus in the us.
It seems, like the phd part, can really drag out. Another thing to consider us phd’s, at least from my perspective, as an outsider, seem grueling i’ve, seen phd students in australia and in the uk, and people work very normal hours and don’t work on weekends much and go on plenty of holidays. The stereotype for us students, though, and u.s academics in general, is that they just work super super hard. If you’re going to do that, then you’ll have much less time for your own things. Remember wherever you do. The phd those years of commitment may never pay off. If what you’re looking for is a 10 year job in academia, the vast vast majority of people who do a phd don’t become academics less than 10 and what’s more. The goal may not be worth it in the first place. Tenured profs are often so bogged down with admin, teaching and supervising that research is relegated and what’s. Even more scary, for me, is the lifestyle between doing a phd and getting tenure here’s where you’ll be doing postdocs. These are two to three year: contract jobs that you’ll typically have to move around a bunch for, in my field in europe, it’s pretty normal to do three three year post docs. That would mean that you’d need to move a whole lot of times between the ages of 30 and 40., even though the prospect of landing a full time, job from this effort is still low.
I don’t know too much about it, but apparently in the u.s job, security for academics is also pretty terrible that’s, because universities hire many more casually employed adjuncts these days, instead of full time teaching staff. That means that, even after committing yourself to the field until your middle age, you might have no job security and be paid terribly. These are all things to consider if you’re going into a phd with the hope of one day becoming a professor. I hope that wasn’t too depressing because, like i said i ultimately really loved doing a phd, the experience can be a great springboard into other things, but trying for a life in academia just didn’t seem worth it to me. However, that’s just what i think i really recommend you hear other people’s opinions too. If you’re thinking about this i’ve made a playlist to get, you started below good luck.