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dinker

Is A Ph.d Of Any Actual Use?

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I have recently got to know a bunch of foreign PH.D students studying Engineering.. Their Governments pay all their fees and living expenses so I assume this is some sort of attempt to bootstrap their countries into the first world and our Universities are simply making money from it.

The problem is that none of them have any problem solving ability or understanding of Science outside of their own very specialised area. They have got where they are simply by memorising stuff.

So what use is a Ph.D?

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So what use is a Ph.D?

Use to the guy doing it, or of use to society?

Like most education it`ll be wasted on some people, but we need our boffins to mess about discovering new things so we can have new toys :)

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I have recently got to know a bunch of foreign PH.D students studying Engineering.. Their Governments pay all their fees and living expenses so I assume this is some sort of attempt to bootstrap their countries into the first world and our Universities are simply making money from it.

The problem is that none of them have any problem solving ability or understanding of Science outside of their own very specialised area. They have got where they are simply by memorising stuff.

So what use is a Ph.D?

PhD's can be useful for the following :

i) Project management skills. You clearly have to plan and manage your own research. How much really depends on your supervisor. Some are more hands on than others.

ii)Self Motivation. Many places will not beat you up to get out of bed in the morning. Often in fact quite the opposite. It is often down to you to get in and do the work. For many people this is a challenge, from the transition from a structured environment (degree course) to a less enforced way of working. How the student deals with this is often reflected in the time it takes them to complete.

iii) Presentation and writing up skills. You have to write a coherent thesis, which needs to be readable. Also along the way you will probably write up and present several scientific papers. These need to be in the language of science and will be peer reviewed. This teaches you the process of how to write technical papers.

iv) Lecturing, teaching and conference attendence. You will need to present your work. The PhD gives you the opportunity to do this, often at scientific conferences. During most PhDs (but not all) you will perform paid work assisting undergraduate students in laboratory classes. This helps develop your teaching skills. At conferences you will learn to quaff loads of alcohol while remaining coherent and not getting into fights with your peers.

v) You learn about things like the burden of proof, grant applications. You need to contribute to the health and safety monitoring in the lab, and assist in various procedures, for example you may need to write risk assessments for your work, COSH assements for chemicals. You may need to supervise or direct laboratory technicians in their work.

vi) Often there is the possibility to contribute in departmental commitees, for example ones that define computer resources, teaching programs etc.

vii) If you are interested in a career in science, whether that is actually doing the science, or managing a team of scientists doing science, it is helpful to have knowledge of how the scientific development process works. A PhD gives you that.

Otherwise, PhDs are useless. This is especially true if you don't have one.

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iv) Lecturing, teaching and conference attendence. You will need to present your work. The PhD gives you the opportunity to do this, often at scientific conferences. During most PhDs (but not all) you will perform paid work assisting undergraduate students in laboratory classes. This helps develop your teaching skills. At conferences you will learn to quaff loads of alcohol while remaining coherent and not getting into fights with your peers.

Have many conferences descended into drunken brawls?

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Have many conferences descended into drunken brawls?

I have never been to a conference where there has been a mass brawl.

I have seen and witnessed many altercations though that have gone far beyond what most people would term reasonable behaviour.

Scientists have pretty big egos, and the head honchos are often pretty much unchallenged in their home space. This can lead to some pretty interesting behaviour when they all get together,especially at the conference booze up/dinner.

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I have recently got to know a bunch of foreign PH.D students studying Engineering.. Their Governments pay all their fees and living expenses so I assume this is some sort of attempt to bootstrap their countries into the first world and our Universities are simply making money from it.

The problem is that none of them have any problem solving ability or understanding of Science outside of their own very specialised area. They have got where they are simply by memorising stuff.

So what use is a Ph.D?

You get to wear one of those floppy, Henry VII type velvet hats at your graduation. :)

A nephew of Mr B's is doing one in neuroscience, funded by some foundation supporting such research. He did once explain to me what it entailed re workings of the brain, but it was so complicated I had forgotten half an hour later. He is something of a boffin-ish type - I imagine you would need to be.

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I can't comment on these students you met, but in my experience an ability to memorise facts is a much smaller component of success at PhD level than it is for Bachelors or Masters degrees. You don't get a PhD by sitting a written exam and writing the correct answer underneath each question.

A PhD is a research degree, which means somebody asks you a moderately challenging question which nobody knows the answer to, and then you have to go away and come up with an answer to the question which is supported by data of a quality that somebody technically skilled in the field should be capable of producing. You write your answer up in a coherent way (the thesis) and then a couple of people from your field come and scrutinise it.

Doing a PhD is a complex process which draws on and develops a number of skills and talents, including teaching yourself the subject matter rather than relying on somebody else to teach you, troubleshooting, perseverance over a period of years, collaboration, communication of technical information, and a general scientific mindset in which you take a skeptical approach to all claims (both your own and those of others) and assign them a level of belief which is roughly proportional to the quantity and quality of supporting empirical data that is available.

All of these skills can be learned outside of a PhD. Doing a PhD is basically being trained to be a researcher, so there is little point in doing one if your future plans don't involve research.

For me personally, I now have a job in R&D which I consider to be well paid, which I enjoy and which I wouldn't be doing if I didn't have a PhD.

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Surely a degree in common sense would be far more useful...... Given the choice would employ someone with that. ;)

In some ways a PhD is a degree in common sense. You learn to be skeptical of snake oil peddlers and the various memes that people frequently base decisions on instead of seeking out actual information.

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Surely a degree in common sense would be far more useful...... Given the choice would employ someone with that. ;)

I didn't do a PhD to be 'employed', however.

Having got a PhD I now persuade people to fund my work.

Essentially, I get people to pay me to do what I want to do.

More akin to self-employed.

if no one wants my work I am 'out of work', which seems fair to me.

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Use to the guy doing it, or of use to society?

Like most education it`ll be wasted on some people, but we need our boffins to mess about discovering new things so we can have new toys :)

I think it depends entirely on what you do with it. Certainly an engineering PhD could be useful, especially if it allows someone to make some sort breakthrough in science, technology or medicine - quite a lot of science and engineering PhDs do invent something of value.

That said on the other side of the coin, a PhD doesn't really help you to be entrepreneurial and may not massively improve employment prospects over say a Masters Degree, unless you are doing something very specialist.

That said, I'd always rather hire a PhD than someone with an MBA.

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It looks good on the headed paper or under your signature. When I employed a guy with a PhD he signed all the technical letters, even if I'd written them :lol:.

I never use the title outside my work - although some that know me will address me with the title

I just give my name & no title

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I think it depends entirely on what you do with it. Certainly an engineering PhD could be useful, especially if it allows someone to make some sort breakthrough in science, technology or medicine - quite a lot of science and engineering PhDs do invent something of value.

That said on the other side of the coin, a PhD doesn't really help you to be entrepreneurial and may not massively improve employment prospects over say a Masters Degree, unless you are doing something very specialist.

That said, I'd always rather hire a PhD than someone with an MBA.

I'm with you on that!

Does anyone here want to join the "Thick Club" with MrPin, who has neither?

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I didn't do a PhD to be 'employed', however.

Having got a PhD I now persuade people to fund my work.

Essentially, I get people to pay me to do what I want to do.

More akin to self-employed.

if no one wants my work I am 'out of work', which seems fair to me.

Sounds good to me.....sometimes circumstances are beyond your control, nobody in my network of friends or family did further education, most were self-employed or were in a trade......knew very little about it at the time and our teachers never once mentioned it, there was not an option...... ;)

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When they ask if anyone is a Doctor on the aeroplane, you can step forward and say - "yes I am a Doctor, but not THAT sort".

Exactly why I don't use the title :) so it doesn't appear on the passenger list.

Also, real 'Drs' have higher car insurance - or they used to - and you got 'lumped in' with them

Of course, A PhD is more robust in a court of law ;)

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Sounds good to me.....sometimes circumstances are beyond your control, nobody in my network of friends or family did further education, most were self-employed or were in a trade......knew very little about it at the time and our teachers never once mentioned it, there was not an option...... ;)

I was the first in my family and went to University against family intentions - a career in the Navy was what I was born for.

I would encourage anyone to do further education if they have a passion for a subject or it is required by the career they want to follow.

There is no point as a 'natural unthinking progression' from school - especially now with fees - you are better off traveling, being self-employed or 'getting in at the bottom'.

The same goes at any break point - there is no point following a PhD with a Post-doc if you don't know 'why'.

Careers advice at ages 14-16 should be better.

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I can't comment on these students you met, but in my experience an ability to memorise facts is a much smaller component of success at PhD level than it is for Bachelors or Masters degrees. You don't get a PhD by sitting a written exam and writing the correct answer underneath each question.

A PhD is a research degree, which means somebody asks you a moderately challenging question which nobody knows the answer to, and then you have to go away and come up with an answer to the question which is supported by data of a quality that somebody technically skilled in the field should be capable of producing. You write your answer up in a coherent way (the thesis) and then a couple of people from your field come and scrutinise it.

Surely the longer you are in the system the more dependent you are on people telling you stuff rather than working it out for yourself. Regarding the research aspect of a Ph.D doesn`t your Supervisor suggest the question and then guide you to the answer?

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I never use the title outside my work - although some that know me will address me with the title

I just give my name & no title

I moved straight to Germany after getting my PhD, and over there it is expected that you use your Dr title as a matter of course; in fact, the title is seen as part of your name. It also helps that the Germans have a different word for a medical practitioner (Arzt), so there's no confusion in that regard.

After moving back to the UK, I soon realised that it seemed rather pretentious to carry on using it (especially since I no longer work in that field), not to mention the potential for misunderstandings. So I stopped using it (though I am still Dr Snowflux to my bank - must get round to changing that sometime!).

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Surely the longer you are in the system the more dependent you are on people telling you stuff rather than working it out for yourself. Regarding the research aspect of a Ph.D doesn`t your Supervisor suggest the question and then guide you to the answer?

3 main types of PhD in science. Oversimplification, but...

1) Student suggests question - approaches and persuades academic for financial and academic support - student may also write their own grant for funding. Within this category there is also the PhD funded by parents - not necessarily a good idea as the 'question' is not tested.

2) Academic poses question, but knows that research can always lead anywhere. Academic has a light touch. The student is initially focused but allowed / encouraged to go off topic if they come up with their own ideas. Academic keeps an eye out for big blind alleys. Can be a win - win for both parties.

3) Academic poses research project, needs a 'job done' and is a control freak as they want their grant to be a success - student doesn't learn much as you learn most by making your own mistakes - going up blind alleys etc.

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Surely the longer you are in the system the more dependent you are on people telling you stuff rather than working it out for yourself. Regarding the research aspect of a Ph.D doesn`t your Supervisor suggest the question and then guide you to the answer?

Not at all - to a large extent you're on your own with a PhD. After sailing though A levels and degree without too much trouble, it came as something of a shock to me to be working on a problem with no definite answer. There were many times when I despaired of every being able to finish it. Ultimately, I showed that a certain influence on plasma confinement in tokamaks which everyone had assumed was unimportant probably is, indeed, unimportant. :(

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