Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
foofighter

PhD question

Recommended Posts

i was just wondering, besides lab experience, working with professors, an original research project as well as the right to publish and teach and the respect of the academic community, wat does one learn through acquiring a PhD in terms of subject mastery that a self-motivated bright layman with the right textbooks can't teach himself from the ground-up, all the way to the most advanced concepts? is there any advantage a PhD holder has that is purely knowledge-of-subject-material-based, besides all the other things that one with a PhD would have that i already listed, or can a bright and motivated layman equal him in this one aspect, namely, cold knowledge of subject material? thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An academic mentor, a source of motivation, a student library card, getting to be around lots of other academics and the support they can offer, a sense of achievement, a deeper understanding obtained from discovery than can be obtained merely by reading... there's lots to be gained from a PhD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All degrees are just a way of having a list of names of people that believe you know enough knowledge for a specific subject. The list of names being of course the university you received the degree(s) from and the faculty that you received passing grades in.

 

A B.S., M.S. or PhD in NO way means that you are smarter or know more than someone without them. Someone can learn just as much or more on their own accord but wont earn the slip of paper that gives corporations and other universities the warm fuzzy they need.

 

Of course id feel much better about having my brain or heart worked on by someone with that slip of paper rather than someone who assures you they studied all the same stuff!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A B.S., M.S. or PhD in NO way means that you are smarter or know more than someone without them. Someone can learn just as much or more on their own accord but wont earn the slip of paper that gives corporations and other universities the warm fuzzy they need.

 

Having the paper means that your knowledge and experience met the qualifications of (usually) high standards of an institution. Yeah, you can study by yourself, but then there's no standard for your education.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With a phd you'll probably be the world expert on your research area... Considering your thesis to be the area...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

so is the research of a PhD candidate very narrow in scope compared with the breadth studied during undergrad years, or are there also tons of gigantic textbooks loaded with broad material that u read during ur PhD course of study?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
is there any advantage a PhD holder has that is purely knowledge-of-subject-material-based, besides all the other things that one with a PhD would have that i already listed, or can a bright and motivated layman equal him in this one aspect, namely, cold knowledge of subject material? thanks

 

Yes, a bright and motivated lay person can read the literature and learn a subject to the same level that a Ph.D. does. Getting a Ph.D. is also about jumping thru the hoops to get the degree that equals the work/thinking that you are capable of.

 

As a Ph.D. research associate at UC Davis, I knew a research assistant (BS) that was doing lab research for the clinical guys. He was functioning as a Ph.D. -- thinking up projects on his own, stating hypotheses (or often re-stating the vague ideas the clinicians came up with), designing the experiments, conducting them, writing up the results for publication. I was so very happy to hear that he had finally gone back to grad school and gotten his Ph.D. so that he could be paid commensurate with the work he was doing.

 

so is the research of a PhD candidate very narrow in scope compared with the breadth studied during undergrad years, or are there also tons of gigantic textbooks loaded with broad material that u read during ur PhD course of study?

 

Yes, both. Ph.Ds in the experimental sciences spend a good portion of the first 2 years doing classwork. The breadth of that classwork depends on the area you are getting the Ph.D. in. At NYMC where the degree is in "biomedical science", the classwork is VERY broad, including biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, immunology, and neuroscience.

 

Once you join your mentor's lab, then the focus narrows quite a bit -- to the mentor's area and then to your own research. At that point you aren't reading gigantic textbooks but literally hundreds of 4-6 page primary papers in the literature.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Having the paper means that your knowledge and experience met the qualifications of (usually) high standards of an institution. Yeah, you can study by yourself, but then there's no standard for your education.

 

Absolutely, hence my brain surgeon example, I would much rather have someone with the official papers working on me.

 

However, the notion that a PhD makes you smarter or the leading expert in a field is false and exaggerated.

 

If anything a PhD measures your drive/perseverance.

 

And depending upon your field a PhD can harm you. Specifically, for engineers if you have a PhD you are limiting your job possibilities, whereas other fields it is almost a necessity to have a PhD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ph.Ds in the experimental sciences spend a good portion of the first 2 years doing classwork.

 

Interesting, not so true by a long way in the UK... At most institutions, some will force a year on a masters program which will be more classworky, but many do not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Something I'll add that I haven't read here yet...

If you are going to teach yourself a subject, it would have to be in your spare time (i.e., after work and on weekends).

 

That's one advantage a Ph.D. has - while they're getting the degree, that is their fulltime job.

 

So I guess the learning process is a bit more efficient for the Ph.D. student.

 

Cheers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
why would a PhD limit an engineers job possibilities?

 

Not many corporations are willing to hire PhDs when they can hire a B.S. or M.S. with just as much smarts and know how and at a much lower cost.

 

A PhD is an EXTREME specialization....meaning you pick your topic and spend years researching just ONE specific topic.....that doesn't benefit corporations much unless you just happend to research the exact topic that that company is developing a new product in.

 

As an engineer a M.S. leaves the most job oppurtunity.

 

 

Other fields however are the exact opposite. I can't think of too many jobs that look for people with a B.S. in philosophy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Interesting, not so true by a long way in the UK... At most institutions, some will force a year on a masters program which will be more classworky, but many do not.

 

I take it that, in the UK, you are required to get a master's before you go for a Ph.D.?

 

Yes, Europe generally has more of an "apprenticeship" approach to getting a doctorate. You pick a mentor, and then you are very dependent on that mentor. Basically, the mentor is God. US graduate schools take a different approach. The mentor is still important, but the graduate school wants some documentation that you have studied much of the discipline: whether that is biochemistry (my Ph.D.), microbiology, cell biology, etc.

 

However, the notion that a PhD makes you smarter or the leading expert in a field is false and exaggerated.

 

:) On my first postdoctoral fellowship one of the other labs down the hall had this saying posted on their tissue culture hood for all to read:

 

"Wizard of Oz to the Scarecrow: 'I can't give you a brain but I can give you a degree."

 

Something I've always kept in mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
;347329']Something I'll add that I haven't read here yet...

If you are going to teach yourself a subject' date=' it would have to be in your spare time (i.e., after work and on weekends).

 

That's one advantage a Ph.D. has - while they're getting the degree, that [i']is[/i] their fulltime job.

 

So I guess the learning process is a bit more efficient for the Ph.D. student.

 

And the difference in pay between the two scenarios can be quite small.

 

 

One thing you miss studying on your own is having people with whom to discuss things when you get stuck on a concept.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see the whole PhD as a bit of an initiation into the academic world. It is a way of proving that you are capable of original research and can make new discoveries. The PhD course is all about setting up the environment so that you can go on and do research. This includes the supervisors, other members of staff, postdocs, other students, computer and library access as well as the financial support.

 

There is defiantly a sense of comradeship between myself and the fellow PhD students in my school. We try to help and encourage each other as well as discuss research. As swansont said, you would lose this working in complete isolation.

 

At the end of it I hope to have proved my worth, publish a few papers and have made some discoveries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
so is the research of a PhD candidate very narrow in scope compared with the breadth studied during undergrad years, or are there also tons of gigantic textbooks loaded with broad material that u read during ur PhD course of study?

 

The amount our PhD students learn in their first year is ten times more than everything they have learned in their entire undergraduate studies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
i was just wondering, besides lab experience

 

I wouldn't disregard lab experience as simply as that. By actual doing the stuff you do learn much more than you would just by reading the text books. Also, for the interpretation of many papers it is necessary to be familiar with the techniques used in the studies. Just knowing the protocols is often not enough as the pitfalls of certain especially newer techniques are hardly documented anywhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ph.Ds in the experimental sciences spend a good portion of the first 2 years doing classwork. The breadth of that classwork depends on the area you are getting the Ph.D. in. At NYMC where the degree is in "biomedical science", the classwork is VERY broad, including biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, immunology, and neuroscience.

 

Once you join your mentor's lab, then the focus narrows quite a bit -- to the mentor's area and then to your own research. At that point you aren't reading gigantic textbooks but literally hundreds of 4-6 page primary papers in the literature.

 

That is an excellent description, I just finished my second year in a Neuroscience PhD program and the didactic portion had classes that included molecular and cell biology, neuroanatomy, membrane and endocrine physiology, medical pharmacology, immunology, genetics, biochemistry, Advanced Laboratory techniques, and Research Lab rotations (we select our PI and lab after the third rotation). I hope to qualify into candidacy officially on Thursday as I will be taking my oral examination (written was successful). So I gotta say nice description from a current PhD student.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
i was just wondering, besides lab experience, working with professors, an original research project as well as the right to publish and teach and the respect of the academic community, wat does one learn through acquiring a PhD in terms of subject mastery that a self-motivated bright layman with the right textbooks can't teach himself from the ground-up, all the way to the most advanced concepts? is there any advantage a PhD holder has that is purely knowledge-of-subject-material-based, besides all the other things that one with a PhD would have that i already listed, or can a bright and motivated layman equal him in this one aspect, namely, cold knowledge of subject material? thanks

 

One thing universities have that a typically person might not have is equipment, such as a lab for instance. Many physics programs and chemistry programs at state universities can even have more top end stuff for research. Another aspect with say a biology program at a university is they can be affiliated with many local state and federal agencies that manage wildlife for instance. Its not that self motivation is an issue, obviously Einstein did not figure out relativity solely from attending college, but none the less if you are interested in chemistry per say its nice to work with the equipment in the labs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That is an excellent description, I just finished my second year in a Neuroscience PhD program ... So I gotta say nice description from a current PhD student.

 

Thank you.

 

However, in the thread "So Much for John Edward's Take on Terrorism" you made a point of telling me you've just been in Iraq as a soldier! If you've spent the last 2 years as a graduate student and in classes, how is that possible?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The amount our PhD students learn in their first year is ten times more than everything they have learned in their entire undergraduate studies.

 

Wow....I find that hard to believe if solely for the fact that the brain has retention limits.

 

What major/field of study is this and is the undergraduate curriculum accredited?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would assume that this is true for almost any field.

During undergrad one almost exclusively learns from text books for the next exam. There is hardly any hands-on experience (a few weeks practical courses do not count). Depending on the course one usually starts getting a feeling for the topic during the master/diploma thesis. Even then most are still struggling with getting into serious lab/science work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you.

 

However, in the thread "So Much for John Edward's Take on Terrorism" you made a point of telling me you've just been in Iraq as a soldier! If you've spent the last 2 years as a graduate student and in classes, how is that possible?

We have been in Iraq for how long? I was deployed during the initial assault during OIF1. I deployed in 2003 for 9 months and returned, then started my program in 2005 (see how its possible yet?)

 

Again, I give you a compliment and you call me a liar, you are just foolish and pathetic. BTW I am almost 40 years old and have been around and done many things, goto http://www.usuhs.mil and you will see how it is possible to get a Neuroscience PhD while on ACTIVE DUTY, don't start waving your hands and doubting people before you have researched the issue, you know better, again you are foolish and pathetic in this capacity by thinking someone is untruthful without having a clue about background.

 

Do you know what I just realized???? You didn't even look at my webpage that is part of my user profile and still called me a liar......I mean its right there plain as day, my CV is on it......talk about rushing to judgment..................

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a broad question since you can obtain a Ph.D in so many fields.

 

One thing obtaining a Ph.D. can get you is practical experience. For anyone who has done it, reading a paper and saying "okay, I understand the concept" is a much different thing than actually doing the experiments that produce the paper. This is important because while you are doing experiments, you will often come across situations or problems that need to be solved. It forces you to think in ways you wouldn't if you only read the paper (e.g. "final product")

 

ANother thing a Ph.D. can provide is resources. Often times, Universities have equipment and resources you cannot obtain on your own. For instance, my thesis looked at the mechanisms of action of abusive drugs. Were I to try doing something like this on my own, I'd be breaking the law.

 

Now that I'm in my post-doc, I am doing human research. The resources involved are tremendous (nurses, physicians, equipemtn etc.). It would be impossible to do something like that privately.

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
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.