What you should read before starting your PhD

July 17th, 2008 by jose

Here is one of the best summaries of how things can go wrong when one chooses to follow the academic path. I got this from Hacker news. The author of this well-written piece came from the industry, and compares the world he knows with what he encountered at the academia.

Things he finds:

  1. Doing a PhD is lonely
  2. Your picking the right advisor will determine your happiness level more than anything else
  3. The way you code within the academic world has nothing to do with the way people code in the

But maybe we already know this.

What I’d like to see is someone writing a similar piece on life after your PhD. I had this silly idea that things would be easier and I’d have more time after my PhD Thesis for… you know, hobbies and other stuff normal people do. Nothing farther from reality.

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4 Responses to “What you should read before starting your PhD”

  1. Mike PNo Gravatar Says:

    As long as you’re suggesting good reading pre/early in your Phd, I have to recommend: Advice for a Young Investigator by Santiago Ramon y Cajal.

    Its written in the late 19th century by one of the founders of modern neuroscience, but it still seems incredibly relevant today. Even as a non-neuroscientist, I found it incredibly insightful. There are a few anachronisms – but I think that just adds to the experience.

    Highly recommended.

  2. the devil is in the details . . . and a PhD is hell « Ben Byerly’s Blog Says:

    [...] I learnt during, and about, my PhD [You may want to read his disclaimer first.] Happy laughs. (HT: Jose) . . . . This post represents the advice I wish I could have given to myself when I was thinking [...]

  3. Academic Productivity » More pre-PhD advice: give yourself homework Says:

    [...] Jose posted an article last week about one person’s PhD experience, highlighting many of the common difficulties [...]

  4. umbertoNo Gravatar Says:


    for the moment I can suggest the following reference: Peter J. Feibelman “A PhD is not enough”. It might discourage somebody to undertake a PhD or research in general as it gives, together with good considerations regarding why doing research is a great thing, also a discussion on many undesired side-effects in a lucid and disenchanted way. Highly recommented.

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