top of page

Ph.D. survival resources for non-Einsteins

Okay. Let us be frank here. Despite how passionate we are about certain topics, earning a Ph.D. has more or less become mainstream today. Some of us do it because they don't get traditional jobs that would allow them to terminate the requirement to study forever, in turn, extending it indefinitely (karma basically), some do it to get a continued experience of college/hostel-life, some to travel abroad and some do it just because 9 to 5 jobs are too mundane (this is me, although there are other top-secret reasons as well)! Without bargaining which way is worse, people like us often end up underestimating the patience and grit required for completing a Ph.D. While there are a plethora of elements that make me excited for a Ph.D., as I prepare for my doctoral journey, I try to remind myself that it is certainly not a bed of roses.

Contrarily, there will be a handful of people who do not come into Ph.D. for any of the above-mentioned reasons but purely because they were simply made to shine in whatever they do. We shall refer to them as Einsteins. If you are one, you may find all this trivial and petty, so just move ahead with or without leaving some suggestions for us non-Einsteins. @non-Einsteins, you are at the right place. Below, I will list the description and the links for a few resources that may/shall be useful for your journey too.

While a lot of what I share here will seem to be suitable for a student of Astrophysics and Astronomy, it will grossly be applicable to any field we do our research in.


A comprehensive resource: Professor Chris Matzner's compilation is by far the best, an all-inclusive, and exhaustive repository that covers all the nitty-gritty of research. Although a little old, it is in the form of a page with links and sub-links to several other documents and pages. There is also a content list which makes way for easy navigation.

Find it here:

The following are just some caveats and suggestions for the years spent in research and also the first link (Cole Miller's guidelines) on Chris' page hyperlinked above. This is just a PDF version of the same.

Download PDF • 943KB

I wish I had known before: If Nature publishes it, it ought to be good, right? There are several articles talking about things, which known a priori, may lead to a smoother doctoral dissertation. However, this one was published in Nature Career Columns, a printing authority that is popular for strict peer reviews.

Here you go:

Supervisor selection: Agreeing to get into a relationship is always hard and therefore, the expectations must be sorted out beforehand. Choosing a partner just because of the one or two attributes of her/his you have fallen for, would be stupidity. A much more comprehensive understanding is required before making a 5-6 year commitment. I find that there are two ways in which the relationship between your supervisor and you is different from any other are that, even white lies are harmful and that you can talk to the exes to figure out compatibility. So, beware and use them to the fullest.

Here is a color-coded checklist to use when you go searching for prospective supervisors:

Big reads/books: As you'll spend a large part of your time reading, it'll only do you good to read any or all of the suggestions made by Dr. Sotayo in his blog post. This kind inclusion to the list was made by my dear old friend Shreya. But, do remember what you are doing a Ph.D. on! XD



I am sure there are several other resources which could benefit people. Please feel free to update me on any.

In the end, you must always remember to not give up. And even if you do, remember to assign the role of Harry to some of your (mandatorily) non-PhD friends who are chilling their lives out in Goa or Hawai so that they force you to go back to the office or maybe take you on a leave with them!

bottom of page