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Quit, persist or change PhD project

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    Hi everyone, I'm 14 months into a project using induced pluripotent stem cells to look at bone biology. For a range of reasons I've decided that the lab I am in really isn't for me.

    I am interested in bone biology but would like to move away from iPSCs.

    Does anyone have experience changing supervisors or projects a year into their PhD. Alternatively, has any moved projects from one university to another? If so, do you have any advice? Thanks.
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    (Original post by talin3)
    Hi everyone, I'm 14 months into a project using induced pluripotent stem cells to look at bone biology. For a range of reasons I've decided that the lab I am in really isn't for me.

    I am interested in bone biology but would like to move away from iPSCs.

    Does anyone have experience changing supervisors or projects a year into their PhD. Alternatively, has any moved projects from one university to another? If so, do you have any advice? Thanks.
    in my experience it can only be done rarely, with the full involvement and agreement of everybody, and if funding is available, and those stars very seldom align. Moving from one uni to another without starting again is usually a non-starter because of academic regulations.

    Who is funding what you are doing now and who will fund what you want to move on to?

    You'd have to have the full support of your current Supervisor - unless you are suggesting you just withdraw and re-apply afresh as if this last year never happened (though you'd have to disclose it had, which would raise questions).
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    It sounds like you're interested in the field in general but not in the specific project. Do you know why this is? A PhD is meant to train you to do research and equip you with a range of skills both lab and soft. It isn't meant to define your career. If you're interested in the general field I suggest sticking with it as you will learn a lot and create networks to help you move away from this specific project later.
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    Are you funded? because that would be your major sticking point. Generally, the funding is attached to the research project and not to you. It's like leaving one job for a different one that you'd enjoy more - your first employer wouldn't carry on paying you.

    I did know someone with ESRC funding who got permission - and an extension to their funding - to change projects about a third of the way in. However that was because an external laboratory had wrecked their core scientific samples during processing and they couldn't be gathered and prepared again within the original project's timetable. Having said that, the new project was still closely related.
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    It's probably best to stick with it. You'll find it difficult to move (most likely your only option would be to quit and start another PhD elsewhere but of course quitting looks bad to prospective supervisors).

    Do you get on with your supervisor? Maybe express your frustrations and try to talk about your options. You may be able to tweak parts of your project so they suit you better.
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    I'm not at a UK uni, so my experiences will vary from what you will have to go through. I had to change my project around 1.5 years in because exposure to a key inducer no longer resulted in high expression of a gene we used as a benchmark for reactivity. Alternative sources for the inducer didn't work either.

    My PI and co-PI both had enough discretionary funding available that I could change projects (local government subsidizes all PhD stipends) from immunology to cancer drug discovery. The immunology project was linked to the tail end of a prior grant, and any data I had could be used for another grant application.


    Changing supervisors - it can happen, but usually only when all supervisors involved sign off on it. The most common one is when a professor retires.

    Moving from university to university - occurs once in a blue moon. The only time I've heard of this happening was when a supervisor moved to another university, and there was no one qualified at the original institution to mentor the candidate due to being in a very niche field.More often than not, when a supervisor moves institutions, the candidate is handed off to another PI and remains behind.
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    As has been said, the funding issue is crucial - unless you're one of the very rare group of students who have a personal award from a research/funding body, the funding stays attached to the project and is not 'portable'.

    As for trying another project at the same institution, this is probably theoretically possible but in reality highly unlikely. You would be working, presumably, in roughly the same field, and it is not very likely that PIs who have a close working relationship are going to happily move an uninterested student from one funded Ph.D project to another in the hope that he might like it better. Also, you say in your question that it's 'for a range of reasons' - I'm guessing that one of these reasons might be some personal/professional relationships between you and other members of your group which would make moving to another group even less practical (forgive me if I've made a wrong assumption here).

    I'm not being harsh, but just trying to be realistic.
 
 
 
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