Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reason I'm Leaving #2: I Hate my Research

I don't mean that I hate research in general. I don't hate figuring out how to address a problem, collecting and analyzing data, or writing up my results. I don't mind research.

I hate academic research. And my academic research in particular. And I think that by the time you're in the dissertation stage, if you hate your research with a passion and can't motivate yourself to work on it at all, you should consider other options. Because that is what you will be working on for the foreseeable future. And while you may not love your future job like crazy, it's ridiculous to think that you have to take a job in which you utterly despise the major task you will be doing. Especially if you have options - and with an advanced degree, you do have options.


I've mentioned before that due to the constraints of my discipline's focus, I've had to shift my dissertation topic away from the problems/questions I was really interested in, into something more palatable to my discipline and my advisors. Ultimately, I wound up with a project I'm proud of and think is important for someone to work on ... but one that I am not at all interested in.

Also, I am interested in research that has at least the potential of having a real-world impact. This is frowned upon in my discipline, and many others in the humanities and social sciences. Those "real world" problems are not seen as worthy of our time. We focus on theory.

So I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how my research fits into narrow, abstract theories, and how my results relate to those abstract theories that have no relevance to the real world. In short, I have to focus on research outcomes I have no interest in.

It's devolved to the point where I resent every single second that I have to spend with my research. I find it uninteresting and pointless, and absolutely dread sitting down to work on it. This commenter at a blog entry about graduate school sums it up in a way I really relate to:
It's not a matter of time [that determines whether I'm going to drop out of grad school] - it's a matter of writing a bullshit thesis on a core area of linguistics. My original topic was the structure of the french syllable. How do I put this? "I don't care." That probably describes it best.
I relate to this quote so, so much. It's not a matter of not being in the mood to do research, or of "not wanting to go to work" that day. I've actually grown to hate my project, and my topic, and to not even care enough about the outcomes to even take time thinking about it.

If I have to finish my dissertation to take whatever job I wind up getting, so be it. I will plug my nose and finish, and take my degree and run.

But I've realized now that I do not want do to this research anymore ... and definitely not for the rest of my career, which is what would happen if I took an academic job. I'd write new papers based on my dissertation data, and re-analyze my data to address different questions, and basically be caught up in the minutae of this project for another decade or so while I worked toward tenure or to get a better job.

Well ... I have been in school far too long, and have gained too many skills, to spend the next ten years digging deeper and deeper into a project that I already have little to no interest in, and that I literally have to force myself to sit down and work on for a couple of hours. No thanks. I'll take my degree and my research training, and go find a job where I can work on projects that interest me ... or at least projects that I don't actively hate.

I may not love my next job, but I don't want to hate it. And I hate my academic research. So I'm done with my academic research.

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Ed. Note:  If this post resonates with you and you're thinking about trying to jump ship from academia, check out our website, which offers advice, support, and resource links for people who are unhappy with their lives in academia and are possibly looking for a way out: http://www.howtoleaveacademia.com

Also, we have just published an e-book of stories and advice from postacademics ("Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia"), which can be purchased on Amazon at this link.

Go check out these additional free/cheap resources - we're here to help! -JC

49 comments:

  1. I like your post a lot. I am a first year masters student in the social sciences who has been toying with the idea of leaving. If I was instantly rich right now I would just leave and tell everyone who is disappointed in me to kiss my ass. Yet, I am not rich, and have put a lot of money (with the help and support of my incredible parents) and time into preparing for my upcoming field research. What if I finish the field work and begin my thesis-writing phase and simply CANNOT motivate myself to sit down and work on it? Unfortunately, this is a legit concern.

    On one hand, I am not enjoying myself, but on the other hand, what is one more year of unhappiness for the the degree I have worked so hard for?

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  2. Thanks for reading. Well, perhaps the change of scenery and the change in tasks that will come with doing field research will help you rediscover your love of your topic and of research in general.

    If nothing else, though, you will gain useful skills that you will be able to use in whatever job you wind up getting.

    And since you mentioned being a masters' student, I should note that while I'm doing this outside job search, there are a LOT of jobs for which having a masters' degree will be an advantage. So I don't at all regret doing my masters - both for the skills I got and for the extra credential.

    So my advice to you would be to try to stick it out and do the masters', but to not feel pressured to either (1) write the absolute perfect masters' thesis or (2) to go beyond that if you're not interested.

    But either way, keep in mind - your happiness matters. We aren't told that enough in grad school, but it's true. :)

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  3. Hey, I am the one who posted above. Just put a name on this time so it is clear to see who's saying what in consecutive responses.

    I think that is what I will do. At this point, there is a 0.00001% chance I will do a PhD at any point in my life, which I am fine with.

    Something that can keep me comforted is along the same lines as your point (1) above... The thesis does not have to be perfect. I don't have to go and present my research at every single conference in North America. I can try for a few presentations and a few publications along the way, but unlike those who plan to pursue a PhD, I do not have to go crazy disseminating my research to every outlet possible. So, hopefully next year when I'm writing my thesis I can find a little bit more balance between grad school insanity and my own life.

    And you're right - happiness matters. Like Les Brown says, "If you can't be happy, what else is there?" - my grad program organizes all kinds of workshops and help sessions, but this is one thing that is lacking. Actually helping students to stay happy could do wonders.

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  4. I have to say, I've spoken to a lot of fellow graduate students who are amazed that I would even consider leaving without finishing my Ph.D. To them, the Ph.D. in itself is a calling and a goal they want to reach. And I think that's great for them.

    For me, the Ph.D. was a credential I needed to be a professor, and not an end goal in itself. Now that I'm thinking I might not want to be a professor, the degree itself isn't very appealing. So I am not necessarily planning to finish it. And right now, I'm perfectly fine with that. If I ultimately change my mind, so be it. But as long as I'm fine with not finishing, then I'm giving myself the permission to not finish if I don't want to. It sounds like you're on the right track.

    I hear you on the grad program's version of "help" for students - our department organizes very few things that aren't centered around our work, and does very little to encourage students to make connections or pursue friends or activities outside our department. For some people that strategy might be great - but it seems pretty naive to think that a majority of students will be happy solely interacting with people/events in their departments.

    They may not think happiness matters, but I sure do.

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  5. Your article... Feels like I wrote it.

    PhD is not end in itself, it is condition for some better job, and HUGE RESPONSABILITY that comes with it.

    I hate my research. It is UTTERLY POINTLESS. It is so pointless that I just cannot comprehend the fact that I do it.

    Is not everything in life in some existentialist sense QUEST FOR MEANING. My getting up in the morning, SMELLING FLOWERS or LOVE, affection... It all goes down to attributing meaning to meaningless life and silent absurd world.

    That said, my job simply DOESN'T HELP. It is so utterly meaningless that it forecast that shadow of meaningless on other things that subjectively have meaning for me. In the light of my job (physics of condensed matter scientist), nothing else have meaning.

    Colleagues are of no help either. They are lowlife, sleazy bastards, gossiping behind ones back all the time.

    I am rich. I am here because of my family, which is ego driven so much, that my being PhD for them is huge accomplishment PER SE.

    If it were for me, I would be perfectly satisfied being plain physics teacher, although I am the most intelligent guy here and most capable (but at the same time the most unmotivated).

    sorry for being anonymous. Cause I am chicken:)

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  6. I think there should be a support group for those who feel totally worthless in graduate school, doing pointless research, and having negative motive to continue this path. I used to love research when I was working in a research oriented hospital, but all that passion dies away, little by little, since the day I got into graduate school. I think I suffer from a bad choice of research field - I switch from doing the so-called "real-world" research based on patient populations to a "pure scientific" and "theory-driven" research area. I think I am the only grad student in my department who actually hates my research and did not see PhD as a life goal. Once I was asked by some freshmen during an class interview: "why is my research important" and "what contribution I've made so far to this field": I tried to give some bullshit answers but I felt so blank and empty inside. The truth is - I feel like a failure every day by staying in grad school and watch other fellow students give wonderful talks and present wonderful data. I really want to quit, but I have some other issues that prevent me from doing that. I am stuck!

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    1. I feel exactly the same way, built into that attending conferences where my interests are so clearly situated in different areas than the one I am studying, and an advisor who I'm pretty sure checked out of his job after he got tenure. Now i'm in an institution/department that doesn't fit my interests nor wants to support me but feel like I've devoted so much time to this that I can't leave. It's honestly heartbreaking.

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  7. Well, I can't speak for everyone out here, but I know that I'm trying to contribute to an "online support group" of sorts with this blog.

    I can totally relate to your frustrations with the theory-centered and purely scientific/abstract research in academia. I can see why it appeals to some people, but for someone like me who wants to do work that actually helps/affects other people, it's immensely frustrating.

    And I can also relate to not knowing how to describe your contributions or why you love what you do to others. I've had the exact same experience. In fact, you may have just given me an idea for a future post.

    I'm sorry you're struggling so badly, but keep in mind that you are not alone in feeling this way. And if you're not able to leave grad school, perhaps try to keep your focus on what you can do afterward. You really are gaining useful skills, and there are a lot of jobs and opportunities out here for those of us who want to leave academia.

    Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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  8. I am working on my Masters in Social Work. The internship hours are the worse part. I will have volunteered almost 1000 hours by the time I am finished! Once you take out loans and begin the program you are too far in debt to drop. I am a slave to this school and this program and just try to suck it up and get it done. When I get finished and get my license I am NEVER going back for my phd....unless its when I am retired and just bored!

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  9. Oh, thanks for reading. Given your comments about feeling like a slave and being in debt ... I think you'll enjoy the post that's set to publish later this afternoon. Let me just say that I completely hear you on this. I wish you well on finishing up with your sanity and bank account intact!

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  10. Thank you for this blog posting and your website in general. I feel so grateful that I'm not alone!

    I, like many students in grad school right now, joined because it was grad school or unemployment. I was miserably unemployed and I had student loans to pay off -- so I went into a lucrative field of study for a masters, the hard science. Even though I was more interested in humanities and social sciences, I couldn't stand the thought of being unemployed, poor, and miserable again. So, now I'm in the second quarter of my second year and I'm not unemployed, but I'm still poor and miserable. The first year I worked so hard and I got some recognition with fellowships, publications, and conferences. But, I finished the school year with an ulcer, losing over 20lbs (I only weigh 110), and dropping all hobbies and interests. I'm getting better -- I'm more aware of my stress and can manage it. But part of the healing process was heightened awareness. I realized that I really don't like what I'm researching at all; I only did it because it funded my schooling. I haven't touched my research in over a month (granted, my adviser/boss approved because it was winter holiday). But now school is back up again and I have a meeting with my adviser/boss in about 8 hours. It's about 3a right now and I haven't done anything and I have no desire to.

    I think my current field of study is interesting, but I hate doing it. Also, I feel like this is not where my strengths lie. I feel like my skills and interests will shine better in a different department, so I have applied for a PhD in a different field of study (social sciences). But, the thing is, I still have a few more classes and a thesis to write. I should be done in 6 months, but I'm absolutely dreading it. I'm dreading it so much, I feel numb. I think I'm depressed, or getting there at least. I have had trouble sleeping, concentrating, even getting up in the morning. I sometimes have trouble getting through daily tasks (like showering). I used to be so motivated and ambitious, but now I feel just constantly tired. I want to go out and do more things, but everything costs money and I need to save money because my funding ends in June of this year. I should apply for internships, jobs, etc., but I'm so emotionally exhausted I can't even bring myself to apply for anything. I went from being a student that's on top of things (clean, hard working, on time) to being quite lazy, messy (my room is a mess), and unreliable.

    I'm going to counseling (I'm struggling with some traumatic childhood experiences). I was able to deal with them through college, but grad school is a different kind of stress. Putting 101% of your energy every day into something that you don't really enjoy is pointless. I wish I went into grad school with more balance .... I was just so eager to not be unemployed.

    Anyways, thanks for posting. I see the light of the end of the road. I'm glad that you posted this. I feel like grad students, although open minded, are very prideful and don't admit to regrets, mistakes, or unhappiness in a given field of research.

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  11. I just started grad school this semester and already I want out. With my area of study, it won't really make a difference in pay to get my master's, but I enjoy the coursework. In fact, taking more college classes was the main reason I accepted this position. Unfortunately, my research project doesn't really interest me as much as I thought it would. I feel guilty because they're paying me a stipend to be here and work, but I just don't enjoy it.

    My advisor has set up a list of classes he wants me to take. Unfortunately he's dictating what classes I won't take as well (ex: I've always wanted to take a simple Latin course; it's incredibly helpful in the scientific field, but wasn't offered during my undergrad). Most of the titles sound interesting, but who knows what to expect. I was initially excited about a class that I'm currently taking, but not anymore. The instructor- beloved by all students and staff alike- cannot teach and makes my area of interest as boring as chalk. (Even more boring since I'm just relearning things from my undergrad.) I just keep thinking that if he's one of the best they've got, what am I in store for?

    I had been looking forward to taking a week off for a vacation at the end of the summer, after completing all of my work (we're busiest during spring and summer). But when I asked my advisor about it, he said I couldn't. Apparently, graduate students in my field are only given one week of vacation for the entire year. He didn't want me to take it all at one time either. It feels like such a let down, because I typically work extra hard to complete my duties before a vacation. It makes the reward seem so much sweeter. To be told that you can work your ars off and get no reward... It seems pointless. After all, we have to work through every break: Christmas, Easter/Spring, Summer, Thanksgiving, etc. What's the harm in taking one week off if I have everything done?

    In the last year, my mother has developed cancer. She's recovering now, but it's made me realize how easily she could be taken, and I rush home every single weekend, no matter how long the drive. Having to toil through a research project and classes I hate just makes me ask myself why I'm being so selfish in this venture. In one way, I feel like I want to better myself, and make myself more desirable to employers. In another way, I hate this place, and my mom needs me. She, of course, is encouraging me not to drop out on her behalf, but says she will support me in whatever decision I make.

    On top of that is the fact that this project will last for 3 years instead of the usual 2, which just delays the beginning of my life even more.

    I was raised with the idea that once you start something, you don't quit it. But I don't know if I'm cut out for grad school. I'm more about common sense, not theories (which is about the only thing they learn here). I could choose to stay or leave.. Either way, it won't make much difference in my future career. I already know I'm not interested in research, but women aren't taken as seriously in the agricultural field. I was hoping a master's degree might lend me some support, but the more I'm around the graduate students here, the more I fear I'll become a disillusioned environmentalist that doesn't seem to realize every action a farmer takes is driven by money, not "good feelings."

    Finding your blog is such a relief. I don't think I can quit for a number of reasons (mainly guilt). But knowing that other people have felt the same way is so comforting. I don't feel like I'm so alone anymore. And that alone may be enough to help me finish.

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    1. This post is nearly my exact situation... I am wondering if we go to the same school or are in the same program in fact because, as you say, I wanted to take a week off at the end of the summer, but apparently that's not okay for grad students in this program. My research is so similar to what I did in undergrad only the method is now based on parametrization which I also despise.

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  12. I am coming towards the end of my doctorate and the closer I get the more I hate it. It's all about scrapping something together under time pressure and under the disapproving eyes of the uberprofessor who was a successful pupil for all his life. I an few months I am supposed to hand in my thesis and I have no clue whether that will work. I have spent 3.5 years on this project by now and I got sick of most of it.

    it is damn hard to try and finish while having only anxiety all the time about this fucking bullshit project. excuse my language. well, just to let you know that you are not alone. thanks for showing me that too.

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    1. I have literally yelled to/at my poor partner similar sentiments about my project - f*cking bs. Yep.

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  13. Started doing research recently but started to hate after working hard for a year. Back of mind , I am thinking why I am doing academic research, which is useless and I do not even want to join academia. PhD is simply shit and wasting of time. Its better to another Master in different area to make wide your field. At present m, I am thinking its better to work in a restaurant than investing useless time for PhD research and earn some quick money and start own business. You will see your self in a good position after 4 years. But after completing PhD, people do not have any money and struggling. We do education for money. I believe up a certain stage people should invest time for education and then go earning money. You can do what ever you want. From my point of view, PhD is bull shit crap and academic research is useless.

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  14. I just started a masters and I am in week five-I hate it. It's so disheartening because I thought it was a real sign that I got in to this amazing school and it was so easy to move to the state and everything just fell into place. But I hate it, and I've had this feeling before so I know what it feels like. I cannot abide spending $90,000 for a one year masters program. Bonus: I am not doing well in my classes and it's been hinted that I could be on academic probation soon. This all comes as a huge shock considering what a great student I used to be. I feel like a complete and total ass. And my fiance left his job, his friends and his family to come with me so add that in there. Anyone know when I might find something I actually enjoy doing?

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    1. You are not alone- I'm there too... and of course my fiance and I have quickly fallen into debt because of what I wanted to do... of course I am currently getting a D in a class my advisor demanded I take. I need to keep at least a 3.4 average for my classes, but what happens if I quit. I have so many things I love to do, I'm sure you do too. I am funded and getting a stipend, but really it doesn't even cover my rent... I am so not happy right now but I am such a happy person. I don't know what to do either, it would just be nice if instead of always being told what we have to do and living in this world where we have to do so much just to exist we could just do the things that make us happy and be encouraged to live our dreams.

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  15. Oh man am I glad I found this site. I just started my PhD in June after finishing Master's in May. I feel like a piece of shit. I really like doing research, but my adviser is up for tenure and seems annoyed whenever I ask her something (I talk to her for about 1 or 2 minutes per day). I despise the school I'm at, it is the snobbiest place I've ever been in my life. While I like my field, I feel like the system I'm working on has been worked to death, and I wish I had never come here. I love the place I'm living, I'm making an OK stipend, and I'm near loved ones, which I wanted more than anything. I knew there would be draw-backs, and there are. I don't like going to school every morning at all, and its been 2 months and its not getting any better. I'm ignored by professors in the hall, they won't even smile or look at me (I've been introduced to all of them a number of times), my adviser is less than what I had anticipated in terms of a mentor, and she doesn't seem interested in my desire to get this done in 4 years (since I already have an MS this isn't an odd request). So, I'm anxious all day and night that I'll never get my real working life started - I have never, ever wanted to be a professor, I can't wait to be around people who aren't self-absorbed, egotistical asswipes who are totally unaware of how little their work really matters (the department is known for absolutely nothing, though the undergraduate school is high ranking). I have to tough it up and learn to deal with what I've chosen. Thanks for letting me rant, I really needed to!

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  16. Cannot relate this enough. I'm almost about to start my third year, my supervisor is a superbitch and my colleagues are exactly as most of you are describing backstabbing sleazy with no actual ambition. my super makes derogatory personal attacks on me, whenever she gets the chance. I'm fairly depressed and am losing all sense of self worth. my project is good, i started off liking it, but I'm beginning to hate my situation and I'm not one to leave something unfinished. it's coming to the point where I'm starting to envy, even actually hate my friends who are happy with what they are doing or those people who are very successful in their lives. I didnt used to be like this. I have wished my superbitch dead on a number of occasions. another one of my colleagues is getting harassment counselling due to the superbitch successfully gettin to her. the craziest thing is the university is aware of the situation, but warn us if we go to file a complaint "are you ready for the repercussions?" which naturally puts us off. and they call it a world renowned institution! all I can say is once I've submitted and passed, the university is in for one hell of a law suit. one more year.

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  17. Um, you just read my mind. I'm supposed to be dissertating right now but instead I'm reading about how I don't want to be dissertating on your blog.

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  18. LOL, I'm in the same situation...two weeks until I defend and cannot bring myself to look at my thesis. At least I have my presentation done, I don't think I have the patience or will to practice it or spend one more iota of time involved in it. I desperately want to leave academia...forever! I wonder if UPS is hiring any drivers?

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  19. i did a masters degree program in social science at a non-name school that got me into a top phd program. i left a lucrative career in which i had been quickly advancing to follow my naive dream of being a scholar. ive somehow managed to kick my own ass through a grueling two years, driven by nothing by perpetual fear of how colleagues perceive me and this implacable and irrational fire to complete this at all costs. i picked up my results for my qual exams and i gotta say that i am in some ways thrilled that i didnt pass because now i have an excuse to get the hell out of this useless program and start being happy again; making money, having a family, etc.

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  20. I just entered a PhD program this year. It is for an applied psychology program, but I simply have no desire to do research. Maybe a thesis, but the thought of completing a dissertation and new research study in our lab every semester makes me cringe. I think finishing the PhD program would alloy me to have all kinds of wonderful career options, but I wonder if I would be better suited to simply complete some type of psychology masters program and work under someone.

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  21. What a relief to find a group of people who have observed that academic institutions and correctional institutions have similar effects on one's well-being!

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  22. Hahaha to the above comment. Excellent. My research itself wasn't bad but my adviser was batshit crazy, which turned me off to academia entirely.

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  23. I wish I would've found this blog earlier. I have been in a Masters program for Biological Sciences for 3 years, yes 3! for a Masters program. I wanted to quit after the first year when I realized my advisor is nuts!! I talked to her today about problems in the lab and her response was "It's like some kind of curse!" What type of bs is that?!? She doesn't help AT ALL!! She doesn't grade my papers so I don't even know if my writing is up to par. This is the worst experience ever. I want to quit sooooo bad but for the money I've spent, I feel like it would be crazy to quit.

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  24. Amen! Amen! Amen!

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  25. "Those real world problems are not seen as worthy of our time. We focus on theory." I could not agree more. I am doing an HNC in Social Sciences and I hate it. Quite frankly, it's boring. (Sorry for anyone who doesn't think so!)

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  26. I personally find scientific research boring full stop. It's all the same and it's monotonous and time-consuming. I'd rather get out there and actually DO something.

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  27. Makes me feel so much better that there are others... I'm just starting my Masters in Molecular Biology and I feel like I shouldn't be there at all. I'm extremely burned out and have not been able to bounce back since finishing my undergrad. I feel extremely stupid, I can't pick things up like I use to, I feel like I forgot everything from my undergrad classes. It feels like everyday I forget more and more. Then I listen to my PI talk about how stupid other students are and it makes me feel like an even more asshole since he has no idea what's going on with me. All I can think about everyday is how I wish I would have gone for something I had a true passion for.

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  28. I wonder if I finish this crap I can start working on the projects I like as a professor... apparently this in not gonna work *sigh*

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  29. That's right. It's really hard to work with a topic you're not interested in where good thesis ideas would seem elusive. When you are forced to work on something you don't really want, it would be burdensome for you. But I hope you were able to pursue and complete it.

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  30. I hate all the little papers I have to write, I am in grad school for social sciences. writing papers leaves me little time to go in depth with the books and theory. I have to sit thru 2.5 hours per class. I like the subject matter, don't like all the assignments and deadlines.

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  31. I'm glad to see others are in the same boat. Well, I'm not glad to see other people hating themselves, but it makes me feel less crazy.

    I'm halfway through my PhD in neuroscience. At first neuroscience research sounded so cool and I was fascinated by figuring out how the brain works. I thought my research would actually help people, my mistake. It's all about obsessing over minute details that have zero real world application and are all about theory.

    The thing is, I get it. Some people love figuring out those details. I am not one of them. I love science, but I hate actually doing it. I hate spending an entire day alone in the lab looking at brain data for a potential paper that a few dozen people will read. It's simply a waste of time.

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    1. I totally agree with you! I love science (in this case Biology) but I don´t like being in a lab, I have no patience for it! Your sentence: "I love science but I hate actually doing it" says it all for me too

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  32. Oh, thank you so much for writing this article.
    I have been struggling to write my thesis for 2 years now, and I'm simply sick and tired! My folks are pushing me to finish (they've spent a considerable amount of cash on this), but I just cannot master any willpower to write this thesis. Glad to know I am not alone.

    Thanks!
    Maggy

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  33. You know the sad thing about bat shit crazies in academia? They're smart, so they can be extra conniving and evil and totally destroy your life, all while looking upstanding. That's one benefit to surrounding yourself with "regular" folk: they'll just beat you up to settle your differences. They're fairly sane and won't try and destroy you.
    I jest, of course (mostly), but I was never tempted to earn a phd...just an MA. After grad school I went into the real world, worked with enough phds to know I will NEVER EVER EVER EVER work for someone with a phd again. Majorly insane - what are they doing to you guys in academia?! I mean, I imagine you go into your programs in a good state of mind, but come out crazy.
    Just drop out now. The most talented/useful people usually just have a BA. And stay sane...I feel badly for you all, but thank you for the super entertaining blogs!

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  34. Hey.... I am stuck in same situation.... I thought doing master's will be fun. I am doing my master's in Computer science. I found it boring and i have discovered that this field is not for me. I am not motivated at all to complete my thesis. What should i Do? I feel like leaving this always?

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  35. Well im considering whether to my masters next year so I can earn more money as a clinical psych but absolutely HATE research. Which is a shame because masters is pretty much your thesis. In fact the idea that im going to spend another two years paying for something I hate actually makes me feel sick. I dont know where im going with this, but to say im freaking out would be an understatement.

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  36. "I hate spending an entire day alone in the lab looking at brain data for a potential paper that a few dozen people will read"--
    this makes me think that perhaps science is for those who have, if not Einstein's genius, at least his type of personality.
    Einstein famously said that an ideal occupation for a scientist would be that of a lighthouse overseer.

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  37. I am so glad I found this sight and I love how two years later, stressed and agitated students are still moaning about their research! I'm doing a MSc here in the UK. I finished my undergraduate degree with a first class hons and I was one of the smartest, most dedicated students there.

    My parents were so proud and excited when I said I was doing a postgraduate degree, I come from a very poor family and I feel like part of the reason I did the MSc was because of this. I would love to someday have a great job (here graduates with a masters earn a average of 40% more than the average population) and be able to support my parents financially. Even in my undergrad I wanted this, I was very strict with myself, I didn't go out very much, I didn't really join any clubs or societies (Although I did have sporting commitments outside of uni) - I worked and worked and worked because I was determined to get the best mark - And I did.

    I would not say I hate my studies, but neither do I like them. I feel stressed all the time and so unhappy. Previously I was a high level athlete and a very active person. Now I spend my time shut up in my room, drinking copious amounts of tea and getting numerous headaches. I also went from a BA to a MSc and I am feeling the effects badly, now I feel really stupid half the time and there are in-class tests and presentations are every week, I am hoping I will not fail any of them.

    My friends and family always say 'Wow! You are so intelligent!' Well actually I am really not. In fact I am naturally stupid in some areas like statistics, I just don't get it. It's just I work damn hard. That's all.

    My classmates for my masters are lovely people, but most of them are from private schools and are riding on the wave of their parents money. It's like a huge 'meh' to them. If they don't finish the degree so what? The money to them is nothing. For me, I simply cannot afford to fail, I don't want to waste all that tuition money. I feel a little awkward sometimes when I do not understand a question in front of them. I never had that feeling in undergrad.

    I keep telling myself this hell is only for one year and it will be over. I simply cannot think of a PHD now. I want to travel after my MSc, be free of work and stupid commitments like academic research, which just seems so pointless half the time. I've had to deal with a lot of crap over the years to get here, and I am really proud of that, but now I am ready to leave...and have a bit of fun (for a change!)

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  38. What if you are interested in one field and your supervisor is pushing you to do another even though they knew that you didn't like it?

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  39. Ahh, I'm glad I found this place! I'm in my third year of PhD and up until now, well, I knew it was useless bullshit, but I kind of didn't care. But during the last days, I really see no point in anything I do. I spend whole days at the lab without doing almost anything. I just hate everything I am asked to do. My adviser thinks that things are solved magically, he just needs to asks for it, and he has really not a clue about doing things himself. He only has intuition for predicting how things should be done, but no idea of how to do them. But that's even ok, I have known him for a long time, and I realized that long ago.
    What I really hate is the scientific community, and how it works. My line of work (physics, nanomagnetism) is full of assholes that produce tons of bullshit a month in the form of articles about which nobody gives a damn. Maybe there is something really new and interesting every 5 years, but the rest of the time people copy each other, slightly varying some details, to publish more crap. And I hate how in conferences, everyone claims that they are really doing something important. "The future of hard drives", they say. Even I myself say it to people that ask me what the things I do are for. Because there is really nothing more. And I don't give a #!"@x¬&!! about hard drives. I mean, they are important, but I don't give a #!"@x¬&!! about them. They are boring, and people know that. I studied physics because I thought at highschool, and during the degree, that it was interesting, but what is done nowadays is bullshit. Probably, no new breakthroughs will happen until I die. Science in the past was interesting, and it gets people interested enough to study it, but the current state of scientific production is boring, pointless, and it only cares about working on unnecessary details. Maybe 1% of what is published is really worth it. The rest is marketing that researchers have to do to convince politicians to give them money to keep doing bullshit. That's the only thing many of them know how to do, but they won't admit it, because they would lose their jobs, and they really have no knwoledge of modern technology outside of the lab, and even there, they think things are still done the way they did it in the 1960's. No idea of working with computers, programming, etc. So their students learn these things by themselves nowadays, because they are very helpful in the research, and since advisers have no idea of how it works, they think it is magic, and then they ask you to do things as if you were the goddamn Harry Potter, like removing the noise of a graph that is basically just that, shitty noise, to get a Nobel prize worth paper. IT'S FUCKING NOISE, ASSHOLE!!!
    If you have read this far, and are considering a PhD in physics, don't do it. Really. I would like to see all these advisers without their slaves doing the work for them. Because, KEEP THIS IN MIND: in science, you don't do YOUR PhD for YOU, you do it for your adviser, so that he has new things to present at conferences in exotic countries, at which you NEVER go (you go to the local shitty ones, or if you are lucky, those that give you a scholarship, so that your adviser doesn't pay for your trip). And when you finish, your adviser will want you to do posdoc stays at other centers, so that you can start a collaboration with him in the future, so that you create new samples for your successor student under his supervision to measure, etc, to keep the ball rolling, and for them to have new shit to present at conferences, where people go to present their shit, while the rest of the audience reads emails on their laptops (no kidding here, people that have gone to science conferences can confirm this).
    Anyway, DON'T do a PhD, get a real job.
    Cheers!

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    1. I totally agree with you. Sigh

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  40. Hiya, pretty much the same issues I'm facing. I loved my MSc, it was actually interesting, fast-paced and, dare I say, fun. So I thought, let's go for a PhD, it could only get better right? Yeah not so much. I'm about 10 months in and I should be handing in the first draft of my panel document in about 9 hours... yet here I am writing this.

    All my colleagues seem to love their research most of the time, but I hate it, or what it's mutated into from my lovely proposal...I've been thinking about quitting for months now, when I first noticed how my advisor was steering me into the direction of her research interests (her references for one of her books are pretty much all I've been told to read so far).

    I've been handing in subpar work for a while now, mostly in spite, but also because I hate it so much I can't bother motivating myself to do any work until a few hours till hand in...

    The only thing keeping me here at this point is my stubbornness...

    But yeah, PhDs are definitely not for everyone (maybe anyone) and even if you really love research, this whole miserable experience might just leech all the joy out of you. sigh

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  41. I know it sounds cliche but everybody should write what they love...

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