Why pursuing a PhD is not monotonous or lonely

During the past four years, I pursued a PhD in Environmental Economics. From day one, as a member of the “EnvEcon” research group, I was immersed in a close-knit group of international researchers. During the four years that I worked on my thesis, I was never bored. Overall, I believe enrolling in the PhD program, has been one of my best decisions.

A PhD…monotonous?

A while ago, someone interested to enroll in a PhD program, asked me if my work was not too monotonous. After all, pursuing a PhD means “doing the same thing” – read: focusing on one research question – for several years. In my opinion, there is a world of a difference between “doing the same thing” and focusing on one research question only.  

Yes, it true, I focused on the same research question for four years. However, I didn’t do “the same thing”, not even twice the same thing, during these four years. The beauty of research is that you either read or solve problems. Whenever you read, you learn. I find it satisfying to go to work and know I will learn something new during the day. Therefore, I wouldn’t say reading is monotonous. As an author, you decide on the setup of your problem. Afterwards, you start looking for a solution, that process might take some time and you might get stuck. During this process, you follow different pathways which might lead to a solution. Therefore, whilst working on the same problem and looking for a solution, every day is different.

Is it a lonely job?

Before I enrolled in the PhD program, I asked an outside employed professor for his advice. When I asked him whether he would recommend me to enroll, he told me to consider that the job of a PhD candidate is lonely and that in some way I would become an “einzelgänger” in the four years to come.

Well… nothing’s less true. From day one, as a member of the “EnvEcon” research group, I was immersed in a close-knit group of international researchers. Together we had great discussions, we shared lunch, and had nice coffee breaks. In fact, some of the former PhD candidates have become very close friends of mine. We went on a trip to Jordan together at the time we were still all employed by the faculty. Afterwards, I have visited several of my friends abroad and experienced the privilege of having free local guides.

In short, a PhD is not monotonous at all and you will meet great and interesting people.

Loïc De Weerdt is part of the Department of Engineering Management

Hide comments

Leave a Reply