grad student connections

Mandy Johnstone udbl119 at
Tue Apr 4 13:30:22 EST 1995

In article <13876652 at dancer.Dartmouth.EDU> Julia.A.Keith at DARTMOUTH.EDU (Julia A. Keith) writes:
>Subject: Re: grad student connections
>From: Julia.A.Keith at DARTMOUTH.EDU (Julia A. Keith)
>Date: 2 Apr 1995 11:32:18 -0700

>--- Mandy Johnstone wrote:
> it makes generally lab life which sometimes as a Ph.D student 
>is lets face it almost all of your life for 3 years (in UK) much more happier. 
>--- end of quoted material ---

>This really suprised me-our program here has a minimum of 5 years (even if you
>come in with a masters already) and I know of programs (Harvard comes to mind)
>where the average grad student stay is 8-10 years.  How come the US demands so
>much more time?  It can't be that our theses are better.  Thoughts?

>Julie Keith

Hi Julie,

Believe me I was shocked when I heard that the average Ph.D in the US is 6-7 
years. In the UK most of us on studentships get funded for 3 years lab work 
and then we are EXPECTED to have submitted our thesis and had the viva within 
4 years in total. If you are a research assistant the time can stretch to 6 
years. I think one major difference in the UK is that we have 3 years 
intensive lab work. Personally when I finished my BSc I had done a fair bit of 
lab work in the summer holidays and knew exactly what project I wanted to do 
for my Ph.D. We are expected to attend seminars in the department and at other 
colleges in the University of London but we do not have designated teaching 
periods such as compulsory lectures to attend in our 3 years of lab work. I 
was surprised recently when I visited a US institute and realised that many of 
the Ph.D students were attending en mass lectures on neurobiology etc. I did a 
neurobiology course as an undergrad and that I think has stood me in good 
stead. It was like the first 2 years of the program in the US was an extension 
of a UK undergrad program.

As for the quality of theses I would not like to say one way or another.This 
is entirely dependent I think on the lab you are in and the individual. It 
also varies with departments here. I think there are pros and cons to both 
systems. Here you can expect to finish your Ph.D by 25 years old (although I 
must say this is stretching and becoming the exception rather than the rule) 
but in the US because the program lasts so long you have more time to learn 
many techniques, even if you are maybe 30 before you finish. 

As it is I hope to finish by 25. It has been a slog but I don't think I 
would change it.I think it's long enough!

Hope this fills you in.


Mandy Johnstone
(M.Johnstone at

King's College, London.

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