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Late PhD, idealistic?


kp1010
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Anyone have experience with going into a PhD at age 25?

 

I have a BS/MS from a good ChemEng program. I got accepted into a top MBA program, basically to avoid becoming a peg in industry.

 

Everything makes sense, but I realize that I may miss the science. I have simple life needs, but cannot sacrifice on interest and independence. Hence the PhD is risky unless I go under a good advisor or a great interdisciplinary program (start at 25-26). I have good scores and solid undergrad research but did not do research post graduation. Anyone successful in doing this? Am I crazy for even considering it?

Edited by kp1010
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I haven't done this personally (still an undergraduate), but I have heard many success stories from people who got their PhDs later in life. If you did undergraduate research and can get good recommendations based on that, you have one huge bonus right there.

 

So no, I don't think you're crazy. You just need to begin researching PhD programs, find labs and professors whose interests are similar to yours, and generally start shopping around.

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25 is surely not too old. However, consider what you want to do with a PhD. Independence is not necessarily one of the things you will get. In industry you obviously have a project to manage (or something in that line), whereas in academia you will not reach independence up until you get tenured, which usually happens when you are in your forties (and which only around 20% of all PhDs will manage to get). And even then you have to be in a competitive field that may pull in grants.

Finally, interdisciplinary sounds good, but be aware that it may actually make it harder for you to get a position way later on (I am talking from experience here).

The reason is that most departments are still organized along the common disciplines. An interdisciplinary research often has a worse fit than someone in the traditional area. It is easy to make a postdoc, maybe even assistant prof. But tenure can easily become a massive hurdle.

Also note that some interdisciplinary areas are more established than others. The less established ones are usually even more of a problem. In other words, be wary of the hype. Finally, grades are usually only of interest (in a bad way) if they are abysmal. Lack of research can be countered if you start in the lab as an intern (it depends a bit how desperate a lab is in need for bodies and how fast you can learn your way around the lab).

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Thanks for the quick responses. I realize that it's not too late to get one. However, the problem is positioning myself to get into a top program.

 

My experiences post graduation, albeit three years, have been scattered because I wanted to explore options. I missed a couple of prime chances to continue into it (ie. after undergrad, after MS), so my mentors have known that it wasn't my original intent. In college, I wanted to do it only to go into academia or if I claim some great passion, while some of my classmates went into it with goals of entrepreneurship. The three years of exploring helped me personally, but the risks are greater.

 

The other inconsistency that prevented me from entering PhD earlier was that my interests span into the sciences, it's shown in my undergrad research, so some programs I find too traditional for my taste (I'm perhaps over thinking).

 

Finally, the practical component is that somehow I did well on the job, so I got into the MBA program, which is a more natural step (although I have gut reactions against it sometimes), and which may allow me to move on with life faster. If I pass up the opportunity, it will take me some years to build enough experience to get into a top program again. But if I go the MBA route, I cannot look back. Complicated?

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My experiences post graduation, albeit three years, have been scattered because I wanted to explore options.

 

A similar thing happened to me. I had a gap in between my undergraduate studies and my MSc. Then I went on to do a PhD.

 

I don't think your age is really a problem. If you are enthusiastic, driven and capable then you will be fine.

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Thanks everyone, for the encouragement. I was more or less a teen in college, so I probably experienced a delayed adolescence post graduation. I seem to realize now my original love for why I chose to study science as a kid.

 

Maybe this is a different topic, I'm curious to know what motivated you to do a PhD, either directly or later?

 

I find that scientists and engineers often enter a PhD with different motivations.

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My area of interest in the intersection of modern geometry and the methods & constructions found in theoretical physics. My interest in this really was ignited when I started to do some reading as part of my MPhys project. I must say that I did not understand how my MPhys work was at all related to geometry!

 

I later did an MSc in which the project touched upon geometry, topology and homological algebra as well as how these were of importance in theoretical physics. My MSc project just stopped short of discussing supermanifolds, which now form the basis of much of my work. To me it was a natural progression that I went on to do a PhD in some area related to physics and geometry. Simply, I wanted to know more and hopefully contribute in some small way to this area.

 

In between the MPhys and MSc I did a year as a research student, long story but I left without any formal qualification. However, I did lots of reading into c*-algebras and noncommutative geometry. This I do think was also feed my interest in geometry and physics.

 

I think I decided to do a PhD in something theoretical or mathematical during my undergrad studies. Exactly in what came naturally later.

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Very good, thank you ajb, sounds like we ride similar boats, except I'm more diluted than you are and I've been pushing myself towards the applied, against nature. It may just be a matter of coming to terms with what I feel and finding inspiration, so I can only try, no guarantees. Thanks!

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Kharkov University, USSR, PhD, as on your profile?

 

Well, I finished a post-graduate program at the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow, passed the corresponding qualification exams but I decided not to defend my PhD. At that time it had no meaning because of many reasons. Yes, I have my own publications with quite original results in academic journals, that is why I consider myself as a PhD de facto.

Edited by Bob_for_short
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Well, I did not do a heavy but technical and formal work for my PhD defence (preparation of the manuscript, etc.) because the advantages of being a PhD were canceled in the USSR at that time (1989). I just saved some time for my fundamental researches instead.

 

Before that time the advantages were: increased salary and the freedom to choose your own research direction. This meant independence in researches so it was very attractive for ambitious people.

Edited by Bob_for_short
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