Elisabeth

I need some feedback on my options

16 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I'm being pushed at work (physics phd) into doing numerical computation, which I hate. I means dealing with badly supported software with no up-to-date documentation, where every new task presents me with the "it's not working as it should" kind of problems, which I generally can't solve alone. I don't have very supportive colleagues either, the one who knew the software best is now in Germany, and another one decided not to speak to me. 

My whole life I've been your average windows user. I lack the basics of linux, bash, vim, gnuplot, C++, python, wolfram language, numerical methods & software architecture, that I would need. I lack interest in learning any of that. My physics major didn't prepare me - we had one semester of programming, I learned some LaTeX, used other software a bit, but I didn't have to deal with any complex code. 

I studied because I wanted to do pen-and-paper calculations (which may not have been realistic). 

Problem is, doing the numerics solving the "it's not working as it should" kind of problems is not solely something slightly boring or bothersome for me. Feelings of paralysis, the problems being unsolvable, huge resistance, and even despair come up. I've literally cried out my eyes for hours this week over having to face more numerics and not being the kind of physicist that I wanted to be. 

Any other job I would quit if they asked me do do stuff which I both hate and suck at, but a phd is special. It's basically a four year contract, I'm third year, and if I quit now, I'd have to basically start over or quit physics altogether. 

I might well quit physics altogether, especially if doing physics means the numerical stuff. I almost quit in November. My supervisor convinced me to stay. I negotiated with him back then about not feeling up to the programming tasks that he wanted me to do, and it seemed that he understood, but then I got more numerical tasks, because "someone has to do it". Also, he wants to get me to stay for a month with a very prestigeous group abroad. That's would give my career a networking boost, might also get me to grow personally because of interacting with different people, but guess what - more numerics.

So I have the options of 

1) Try to push through negative emotion and learn skills. This is very hard, especially as I'm not sure that this will put me on a life trajectory that I want. 

2) Quit phd and physics. I don't feel ready to do that. Back in winter I've made a decision to finish it  - although the deciding reason to stay was 'I want to fucking finally get to analytical work', which isn't happening. 

3) Negotiate with my boss (who is currently abroad for two months) to do something else & letting the stay abroad slide. This might feel like betrayal to my boss, and the person abroad, since I already agreed, and we're in the process of applying for money. Quite scary now to disappoint all those people and then try stay at the same job. 

Ugh. Feedback please.  

Edited by Elisabeth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well you have to know if the grind is worth it. Consider how long it takes to get the phd. What would be your options after you have the phd. Where else can you get an phd in analytical phsyics.

Did you start looking for other phd programs? What are your options. Are you willing to move for another phd.

It seems pretty clear to me that you have to quit. But if this is your only way to get your dream job, then you have to do it of course. Keep your eyes open, there might be another way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’d focus on the main goal to get me through it, you’re nearly there, only one more year to go. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to do things that we don’t like doing to get what we want. Every time you get miserable remind yourself that the final result will be so worth it and that it will be over soon. Good luck!


I have an opinion on everything :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My sister had a similar problem during her biochemistry PhD. She took the time to prepare a conversation with her boss really systematically. Then she approached her and it worked quite well. So, I think option 3 might work :)

How many years are you into the PhD ?


Hard times create strong men. 
Strong men create good times. 
Good times create weak men.
Weak men create hard times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Elisabeth Have you tried searching for other libs? Python is expanding really fast and maybe your work can be contemplated by a well documented lib out there. For instance, if you need to work with hypothesis tests, I recommend a lib called Pingouin, which is very user friendly (I have contributed to it with some lines of code thus I've seen how it is from inside).


unborn Truth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Elisabeth Oh well, it's C++.

Did you download their 40 pages manual? Have you tried contacting them to explain your problems? They published the following e-mail on the lib webpage: nrgljubljana@ijs.si. And here's the personal webpage of the creator of the lib: http://auger.ijs.si/nano/

I'm quite hardcore, so I'd just make my own way through the hard times. You may even contribute to the lib by reporting bugs and you may also increase your network by becoming a friend of the lib maintainer. If you watch closely, the last patch is very recent so the lib is still being developed. What if you end up being part of something greater than your own PhD thesis? You never know! ;)

Major mental attitude: where there's difficulty, there's opportunity for expansion, improvement and uniqueness.


unborn Truth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aloha Elisabeth,

Those people on this forum who are leaning toward recommending that you push through and get your PhD, could have a good point. Consider that the result of you getting the PhD in physics could have nothing to do with physics per se, yet it could propel you forward in your life. In the 1980s I absolutely hated my voluntary three-year US Army enlistment, and the content of what I studied and qualified for and did, had nothing to do with my future career (in social services). But having that Army experience of learning to kill in combat and extreme physical gusto, and an extremely "republican" political view, strangely enough, opened the door for me to get into social services. Here I am helping the poor in society and being very "liberal" in my politics and generally being the opposite of what I was in the Army. My Army experience set me up for this.  I was able to start a successful nonprofit in 2007. Consider pushing through, getting the PhD, then being open to the Universe and feeling the power of the Universe and look for your next opportunity. A few years from now, you may find that the PhD in physics is exactly what you needed and was the key to propelling you into the life that you really want and really need. That could be in physics or in something totally different.

Aloha,

Aliman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The first option. Push trough. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"which I hate"

"I lack interest"

"feelings of paralysis, the problems being unsolvable, huge resistance, and even despair"

"I've literally cried out my eyes for hours this week"

This isn't good. Your emotions are clearly telling you something. Any time I've had this in my life, I knew I had to quit, even though my mind was telling me to try and "find a solution". But I knew I had to quit, even tho I was afraid as fuck, but then when I did quit, it always turned out to be the right decision, and the more I've done this, the more I started to connect with my soul and my true self. 

But that's me. I have no idea about your path. But maybe it's really simple: if pushing through another year will take you to a place where you feel good, and quitting would mean giving up that, then push through. 

But it doesn't seem you're too sure about it: 

I might well quit physics altogether

I'm not sure that this will put me on a life trajectory that I want.

If you'll still end up not feeling good, then it makes no sense and you're just rationalizing/making excuses based on fear. 

You shouldn't have to work hard to figure out if it'll feel good afterwards, it should obvious, your intuition knows right away. It either feels good or it doesn't. Working hard means you're trying to use your mind instead of your intuition. 

The best decisions I've made in my life were always based on "is this inspiring, does this feel like this would be endlessly inspiring and exactly what I should be doing in this universe?". And then I knew right away how it felt. Then of course actually making the decision was still hard, but the feeling was always clear, so it was more a matter of trusting that feeling and pushing through the fears and bullshit your mind tells you. 

It helps to contemplate your death, the fact that all fears are ultimately irrelevant, that life is actually a dream. That's the mindset from which to take these decisions. But that's me. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's only one more year. Go for it! :) Ask yourself, do you really want to quit and start working now? If so, working as what?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

19 hours ago, ajasatya said:

@Elisabeth Oh well, it's C++.

Did you download their 40 pages manual? Have you tried contacting them to explain your problems? They published the following e-mail on the lib webpage: nrgljubljana@ijs.si. And here's the personal webpage of the creator of the lib: http://auger.ijs.si/nano/

I'm quite hardcore, so I'd just make my own way through the hard times. You may even contribute to the lib by reporting bugs and you may also increase your network by becoming a friend of the lib maintainer. If you watch closely, the last patch is very recent so the lib is still being developed. What if you end up being part of something greater than your own PhD thesis? You never know! ;)

Major mental attitude: where there's difficulty, there's opportunity for expansion, improvement and uniqueness.

Thanks. It never ever occurred to me, that reporting a bug could feel like "being a part of something greater" :D To me it feels like bothering a professor in Ljubljana, who has a ton of other stuff to do, although I did write him before and he's being kind. Also, I can't tell a bug from my own stupidity. 

I do have the manual, it's just 6 years old. I also have Rok's phd thesis. They help some.  I can - hopefully - find some practical things to do to help me. In fact, I've just travelled 800km to consult the colleague abroad, because I'm so desperate about having to try on my own. 

The problem is really the emotional aspects. I know I likely have the intellectual capacity. But I struggle to make myself do every little bit. I struggle to see meaning in any of this work. (Expansion, improvement, uniqueness? How is me being a bad numerical physicist going in the direction of that? Because I won't be a good one, for that, passion is needed.) Although I do see some meaning in finishing what I started. I struggle with inner conflict. I struggle with feeling like crying all the time and not knowing on which grounds to make a decision.

Btw. the feelings are unclear. It's hard to believe that such deep emotions would be tied to a bit of numerical work. Yet they are. Time to look for a  source of these?

@Aliman @see_on_see  You are expressing some of my conflicting streams of thought with a new twist, thank you. I'll re-read that later. 

17 minutes ago, Key Elements said:

It's only one more year. Go for it! :) Ask yourself, do you really want to quit and start working now? If so, working as what?

I want to work with people, facilitating groups perhaps, but I don't have a specific thing and a specific way to do that in mind yet. We have a
very successful group with my friends, I also started a slightly less successful discussion group for scientists. I'd ideally still use some of my physics knowledge, but it's unclear to me, how to connect it all.

Edited by Elisabeth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, Elisabeth said:

I want to work with people, facilitating groups perhaps, but I don't have a specific thing and a specific way to do that in mind yet. We have a

very successful group with my friends, I also started a slightly less successful discussion group for scientists. I'd ideally still use some of my physics knowledge, but it's unclear to me, how to connect it all.

Great! I think it's just that one more year of hard work that you need to go through. And then, you'll be more free. Keep exploring with your groups. Keep exploring in general. Most importantly, don't forget to understand what is entrepreneurship. Remember, this section of the forum is entrepreneurship too. Let me tell you that most ppl in the world don't even know what it is. They just skip it and miss the opportunity to really understand it. You can start to try to understand how your interests in physics fits in with entrepreneurship. That is for you to explore. Yes, I started to explore with my work. I started a thread below on it. I don't know if you saw that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Elisabeth It's very easy to smell a heavy load of self-limiting beliefs in your words. The simple fact that you're not really open to becoming better at the numerical aspect of physics is a big one. You think of yourself as "done", like "this is it, I suck at math". What a burden! Human beings are never "done".


unborn Truth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've arrived at an option.

I think I'll push through with the stay abroad, try solve the numerical problems we promised to the Spanish person, and improve the necessary skills until then ... but let my boss know that I won't be doing any more NRG after that. I think this is a good strategy and fair enough, because by then I should have enough material to finish phd, and by letting him know I ensure that he's not gonna dump any further tasks on me while I write my thesis, and also, should I stay in the group sometime after my phd or come back after a postdoc, he knows what to expect.

I studied to do analytic calculations, and I'm also willing and able (or able to learn) to write, to teach, to talk publicly, to deal with grant applications and administration, to manage people and collaborations - all those requirements of academic life. It's also fair to expect of me to work with Mathematica or other professional software (I acknowledge a gap in skills that I want to improve there). I'm not willing to work with a program where setting up every basic task means looking into code written in three different languages. 

If this decision costs me my "physics" career, well, I don't want a career like this anyway.

He needs a physicist with the soul of a programmer, or a programmer with the soul of a physicist who will be working with this software longterm, and that's not me.  You bet that these people are around. He needs to do the work to find someone and secure funding to keep them longterm. I think he's been trying to dump the task on me because I was available. I'll give him this responsibility back. 

If he has a person in the group who has numerics as his main occupation, who's able to expand the libraries as @ajasatya suggests, and is willing to help others, if there's someone to consult with, I'm might be willing to work with the software every now and then. I'm not willing to be that person.

Does that sound any reasonable? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Elisabeth said:

I've arrived at an option.

I think I'll push through with the stay abroad, try solve the numerical problems we promised to the Spanish person, and improve the necessary skills until then ... but let my boss know that I won't be doing any more NRG after that. I think this is a good strategy and fair enough, because by then I should have enough material to finish phd, and by letting him know I ensure that he's not gonna dump any further tasks on me while I write my thesis, and also, should I stay in the group sometime after my phd or come back after a postdoc, he knows what to expect.

I studied to do analytic calculations, and I'm also willing and able (or able to learn) to write, to teach, to talk publicly, to deal with grant applications and administration, to manage people and collaborations - all those requirements of academic life. It's also fair to expect of me to work with Mathematica or other professional software (I acknowledge a gap in skills that I want to improve there). I'm not willing to work with a program where setting up every basic task means looking into code written in three different languages. 

If this decision costs me my "physics" career, well, I don't want a career like this anyway.

He needs a physicist with the soul of a programmer, or a programmer with the soul of a physicist who will be working with this software longterm, and that's not me.  You bet that these people are around. He needs to do the work to find someone and secure funding to keep them longterm. I think he's been trying to dump the task on me because I was available. I'll give him this responsibility back. 

If he has a person in the group who has numerics as his main occupation, who's able to expand the libraries as @ajasatya suggests, and is willing to help others, if there's someone to consult with, I'm might be willing to work with the software every now and then. I'm not willing to be that person.

Does that sound any reasonable? 

I love that! 


I have an opinion on everything :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now