This was the question I was asking myself recently, and so I did arrange a meeting with my supervisor, which I had this week. I was really nervous about it (which is problematic in my opinion) but knew I needed to sit down and talk to him.
The first thing I told him, was that I had ended up involved in a start-up. His only response to that was to “not let it prevent you from finishing.” He did follow that up with a bit more detail, and his main point was that he’d saw people go down this path before and that since they often don’t work out, try not to let it derail everything else along the way.
The second (main) part of the conversation was actually kind of anti-climatic. He started the conversation off by saying “every grad student hits this point when they’re about a year from graduating. I hit it. <grad student> hit it earlier this year. I actually thought you might not hit it, because things were going pretty well this year.” At which point I stated that yes, things were going well up until the point the two experiments returned crappy results. And then we agreed (again) that we had a major flaw in the experiment and that in hindsight we weren’t testing what we wanted to at all (which really doesn’t make me feel any better about it all).
We talked briefly about where we could go from here with my research. But this was really brief. Instead, he focused on the fact that I should be taking this time off. And that I should not work over the next couple of weeks – don’t read papers, don’t stress or think about it. And I replied it’s really hard to turn my brain off (he said he has the same problem). But, in January, he has more time then now, so we’re going to meet more frequently during the beginning so that we can actually come up with a plan and figure out how to proceed. And hopefully in a way that appeals a lot more than our current path.
He also said a couple of times that the does think I’m about a year from finishing. Which was good to hear. I would prefer to be even closer, but a year doesn’t sound quite as bad. I won’t be able to graduate before I’m 30 (original goal) but I should be able to graduate while I’m 30.
To recap, the biggest things for me, coming out of this talk, was that 1) my supervisor doesn’t think things are disastrous at all, 2) my supervisor actually thinks I’m still within a year of graduating, and 3) I would really like to have that PhD after my name (even if I never write it anywhere once I’m done).
So, I think I will proceed forward by trying to heed his advice of not working over the break. And I’ll try to do that by working on the start-up instead. Along with some other projects I had hoped to finish a long time ago. And in January, it’s a new year and a new semester – so a perfect time to re-evaluate how we want to proceed and map out a plan for the rest of my degree.