grad student connections

Mandy Johnstone udbl119 at
Fri Apr 7 11:41:20 EST 1995

In article <35420.emklann at> emklann at MARLIN.BIO.UMASS.EDU ("Ellen M. Klann") writes:
>Subject: Re: grad student connections
>From: emklann at MARLIN.BIO.UMASS.EDU ("Ellen M. Klann")
>Date: 5 Apr 1995 07:31:14 -0700

>> I have not gone through the UK system so these are just my impressions.  I
>am surprised at the number of UK PhDs who have received their degree without
>publishing anything.  These are people from major institutions who come to
>the US for postdocs so I presume that they are well qualified PhDs.  It is
>my impression that in the UK you do lab work for three years, write up and
>your out, regardless of how the research went.  This is quite a contrast to
>the US system where the research must be publishable, and in the better
>institutions where two papers of it are required.  In the US if you work for
>three years at the bench and have many results but nothing that will lead to
>a good paper you can write this up or take a comprehensive test for a MS.
>A MS is a valid way of getting out of a non-productive research situation.  For
>a PhD the research must be successful and this is where the time comes in.
>It is not unusual to spend two years working on varous projects that don't
>pan out.  In my experience it takes 3-4 years on bench work on a steadily
>progressing project to get the data for the thesis.  If you are lucky enough
>to get onto that project first then you can be out in 4 years, however most
>of us are not that lucky.

>One can debate the relative merits of each system.  The UK system gets you
>out and into the job market before the gray hairs start showing.  With the US
>system though when you get out you should have publications, and a PhD
>without publications is worse than no PhD at all!  I am glad I had the
>option of taking a MS from my first graduate school experience because it
>would not have lead to a good thesis and I would be in a very deep doo-doo

>Do others see the two systems like this?  I don't mean to deflate anyone's


I think that this is somewhat of a generalisation of the UK system. Sure you 
do find some very poor theses but on the whole it is not merely a case of 
'doing the time' and then being given a thesis as reward. In my current lab we 
are encouraged indeed it is a requirement for me to publish at least one paper 
in my Ph.D and I have met this requirement and have another 2 in the 
pipeline-all in 3 years which is not too bad a reflection of our system. At 
King's if the Ph.D is not going well after the first year we are presented for 
an MPhil instead which I imagine is comparabile with the US MS, so there is 
also a copout in this system.

Mandy Johnstone
(M.Johnstone at

King's College, London.

More information about the Womenbio mailing list