Did i make a mistake?

hey guys,

I am an international masters student in the UK. I have been put in a position where i had to pick between doing a PhD in engineering or a job.

The thing is I know for sure that I want to do a PhD as I aspire to work in one of the big AI research labs. However, I am not sure if i would be able to work along with my supervisor during the PhD, as she is so controlling, also, the university that offered me the PhD opportunity is a low ranked university in London.

So with that in mind i had to pick the job opportunity for now. and i told myself i will keep looking for PhD opportunities in better universities in the future.

did i make the right decision? Am I going to regret leaving this opportunity?

@obai first, let me answer your question up and front: There is simply no way to answer your question with a simple Yes or No. Just forget about it. Whatever answer you might get from other people it will be “If I was in your position, I would do this…” but every single person would give you a different answer and would be an answer based on what works for them rather than for you.

Although there are a couple of questions that might give you some insights about this:

  1. About your supervisor, you mentioned she is very controlling. Thinking clearly, do you think you would be able to work under her supervision straightforwardly for 3 or 4 years? My guess is, considering if you are already concerned about this, then you would not. Maybe you would but your mental health would be all over the place and it is just not worth it.

  2. How wide did you cast your net searching for other Ph.D. programs? Being an international student myself, even though in the US, I assume you faced some pressure to find a job position so you could keep your visa status. With that in mind, I reckon you did not have much time to look into other programs. Take your time right now to dig deeper into other programs, and interact with the faculty and with other students.

For example, I dropped out of a Ph.D. in Management recently because I just hated everything about it. But I recently discovered that the kind of research I was looking for is applied only to 2 universities in the US and none of the other universities I looked into elsewhere. Did I make a mistake leaving the other program? I am sure I didn’t because I was hating it, my mental health was beyond the ropes and I didn’t give too much thought about it when I applied to it. Although, the past 7 months were paramount to dig through the literature, find things that really resonate with me, and go for it.

What I can tell you is this: I know how it is to have a ticking bomb under your chair. So, as much as you can to stall it, the better. If you are really interested in the Ph.D. program, you will use your spare time to study more about the topic, investigate the program, reaching out to other students and to the faculty in the programs. I know because that’s what I have been doing. And definitely reach out to other students in the program and ask specifically about the downsides of the program!! If those are not strong enough to stop you applying for it, at least you can prepare yourself ahead of it.

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@diegoneto Thank you so much for your reply, it means a lot to me.

You are absolutely right, I felt like I have been pressured into the program without having enough knowledge about it. Also, being an international student there’s already enough stress on you as I am sure you can relate haha.

I forgot to mention that my supervisor is quite new, and there isn’t an established research group (as far as I know). Which is why I had to rely on my own decision as there aren’t students (that I know of) enrolled in the same program, that I can ask. Also, you are right, I did not have the time to look for other programs, so I started on developing a list of all potential programs and supervisors that I share similar interests with.

I really really appreciate your reply, it is the first time I feel like I could finally relate to someone.

I wish you all the best in your studies and what you do.

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@obai Been there, done that my friend. :fist_right: :fist_left:

I am glad my experience (mostly painful :joy:) could help you!!

I don’t know how advanced you are in your research about PhD programs but I would like to share some insights I wish to know before:

  1. Even though looking like an extension from the Masters, PhD programs are very different in terms of the degree of control the student has over his studies. While in the master’s you can pick a general topic and we go through the classes like in a production line, my experience in the Ph.D. is that from the outset you are the master of your own fate in a very specialized fashion. Meaning you will have to decide which classes you are going to take, and what your research is going to be about from the get-go. This is not to frighten you but just for you to keep in check about what specific topics you are interested in. The more specific you are, the better for you when applying and when deciding about your research. My reference for this is according to the US standards and in the Management field, so take this with a grain of salt when translating it to your field.
  2. If you can think about a standard for the academic field, is that it is a toxic environment. Considering the pressure for publications and that scholars might be great thinkers of their field but probably don’t give much thought about relating with others, that is not a surprising statement. So my recommendation for you is to a) find a topic you are motivated enough to work on it even if you don’t have any support from your supervisor, and b) put significant effort into finding programs with a great culture rather than only ranking, your mental health will appreciate it.

Overall, I believe those are the 2 major topics you should keep in mind, and do feel free to drop a message if you have any other questions! I definitely relate with you when it comes to going through issues you just don’t know a single soul in the entire world who can relate with! Even though we are spread around the globe, we do exist! :grin:

@diegoneto Thank you so much, that was so helpful.

Actually, I never thought about seeking a good culture when doing my research; instead, I made decisions based simply on my research interests and my ability to imagine myself working with the supervisor. Nevertheless, I think this is a really great point.

Also, if you don’t mind, I would love to have one of your socials, as I am more active there and I find it a bit challenging to navigate this website :joy:

Thanks a million

@obai sure thing!! Look me out on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/diegoneto