Forum:Can bioinformatics Phds be completely or almost completely done remotely?
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3 months ago
tsomakiank ▴ 30

Do you think that a bioinformatics Phd can be done remotely?

PhD • 946 views
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In general, every Ph.D. program is about a lot more than just learning certain subjects - you are also learning how to be a scientist, how to interact with others, and how to become part of a community.

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3 months ago
4galaxy77 2.5k

In theory yes. But I personally wouldn't recommend it. I finished the last ~2 years of my PhD remotely due to the pandemic and found it really tough going. No in person chats with colleagues and people in your department was very detrimental to my development, think. The amount of knowledge you get from simply being around other researchers shouldn't be underestimated. If you get stuck, there's nobody on hand to help you, unlike being in an office environment. You don't get the benefit of getting ideas from others.

You’ll also just miss out on a lot of the fun that goes on with being a PhD student in a university - I had a really great time in the 2 years I was on site.

That’s not to mention the mental toll that kind of isolation takes on you, but different people will deal with that differently. If you have a partner or housemate or something who works at home as well, it can make it a lot more tolerable.

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i would very much like to second this answer (actually, i did, below, before i saw this one). i agree with this, OP.

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12 weeks ago
Vincent Laufer ★ 2.5k

i have a possibly distinct take on this ...

i did my PhD in a lab with no other grad students and no postdocs, at a time when the institution i was at had little to no bioinformatics infrastructure, dedicated faculty, or coursework.

it was for those reasons as close to "remote" as one could get ... despite being at a major academic institution.

there were so many nights when i would have benefited from having colleagues physically present, or just from having met collleagues at similar levels of training.

my mentor was incredibly supportive, but the bottom line is that despite everything he did i probably would have had a better education if i had surrounded myself with other trainees, not to mention post docs.

can you get the work done and make a unique contribution to a field on your own? can that be done? of course. but is it the best option of any available to you? very different question.

VAL

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12 weeks ago
Mensur Dlakic ★ 21k

I don't think any program, in any discipline, can maintain the required rigor and deliver the PhD remotely. Not to mention that it wouldn't be fun, nor would it allow personal interactions that are part of the process.

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12 weeks ago

A very large fraction of it, yes. Presumably, you already have a masters, as most phd programs now demand that, so there aren't a lot of courses to take (maybe 6-8) and many of them will be online. Then if you can get out of the RA/TA duties and pay your own tuition, there's just a dissertation to propose and defend. Most programs won't openly admit this is possible but COVID and the general decline of academia has radically changed how they operate in reality.

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Most programs won't openly admit this is possible but COVID and the general decline of academia has radically changed how they operate in reality.

I'd like to know the basis for this statement.

It can be argued that one can become a superb French chef just by watching YouTube videos. To me that means that someone can do it, but not that anyone can do it. In fact, I think most people can't become good French chefs just by watching videos.

For degree-granting institutions to offer fully online PhD training, the process would have to be such that anyone can do it with a reasonable background in the field and by investing a strong effort, like it is for granting in-person degrees. Just because a rare someone out there can do it without in-person guidance and support does not mean that an online degree should be offered.

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I'd like to know the basis for this statement.

This is the part of your comment I'll address, because the rest seems like you're opposed to the concept of online degrees, which is a fair objection but not really what the OP asked.

The basis is that many schools were already becoming somewhat mercenary in their approach to funding. In my view, this began with the $60k online Berkeley Data Science Masters in 2014, though some would argue this has essentially been the model of business and law schools for decades. It was only a matter of time before these schools realized they could continue to milk those students for even more tuition by offering part-time PhDs to working professionals. The life sciences have been some of the last to exploit this potential but they are starting, beginning with bioinformatics. COVID-19 has merely accelerated this process by forcing schools to bring everything online. Finally, the shrinking of opportunities for a career in academia has meant lower-tier programs need to cater to those already working in industry.

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I still don't know a single example of a fully online PhD program, let alone of your assertion that "most programs won't openly admit this is possible."

I disagree with granting online PhD because I know how difficult it is to do in-person, but that's neither here nor there. My point was that doing a rigorous online PhD program seems like a very difficult proposition for majority of candidates, which is why I don't think we are there yet. The key word is rigorous. I am sure it is possible to grant an online PhD and someone will come up with it sooner rather than later.

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12 weeks ago
Rob 5.6k

At my institution this is not possible. We have substantial clure requirements, and the courses are in person as a matter of university policy. Once you're done with courses, there's a lot more flexibility at the discretion of one's advisor but there are 2 things to consider. First, while many advisors are happy to approve an extended remote period, I'm not aware of any that would allow remote completion for the duration of the degree (additionally, we have requirements that certain exams, like the defense, be in person). Second, depending on where you do the degree and your citizenship etc., there are residency requirements that may require you to reside in a particular region for a certain fraction of time (even if you aren't otherwise required to be on campus). In short, doing there degree partly remote may be possible if you find the right advisor and both agree on this, but at many institutions, fully remote isn't possible, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

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12 weeks ago

Yes

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How exactly did you do this? Earlier I tried entering just "No" but the answer/comment seems to require 10 characters. Did you enter 7 additional space characters?

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I added in many spaces after the yes. The system seemed to accept it.

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