About two and a half weeks ago, I contacted five potential advisors at a school that I am planning to do my master’s at. Three of them got back to me and said they are not expecting any graduate students next year, but seemed interested in me (they said they would consider me for the future). Two others got back to me, very interested, and I scheduled phone calls with them. I have one phone call next week.

However, I had a phone call with a potential advisor nearly two weeks ago. It was really casual and he seemed very interested. He suggested an area that I could do a project in. We exchanged a few emails after the phone call where we discussed what I could potentially research. He sent me a link that I checked out. He said that he had some students gathering data in the area that I said I was interested in; so we could use some of that data. I responded with “that sounds compelling, I would be interested in doing research in that area”.

That was the end of our email exchanges. I am not really sure where to go from here. He never confirmed that I will be a graduate student, but also seems like he is very interested. Should I expect him to make the next contact or should I contact him? I am not really sure what I would say since I threw the ball over to him in my last email. I have to apply for a scholarship by the end of January though (which includes a research proposal) and he knows this…

I have been working with Professor 1 for a semester. He has been very helpful and we have spent some time together this semester discussing problems. I enjoyed working with him and also find his research interesting.

However, there is also this other Professor 2, whose work I find interesting and he works in related areas. So, I want to work with Professor 2 for a semester before deciding whom to stick with.

Meanwhile, I want to continue the work that I have initiated with Professor 1. I want to convey this message to Professor 1 in a manner that will leave the possibility of working with him after next semester open. So, how should I tell Professor 1 that I want to do a small project with Professor 2 to try out things, without sounding rude?

Currently a undergraduate student planning to apply for PhD programs in a year or less. I have been working with a professor at University of Houston (my current location) for almost a year on machine learning. Everything is great. Our research interests align, relationship is getting stronger. I have some people tell me a university’s ranking does matter a lot but heard quite the opposite from others. It makes sense to choose a PhD program by seeing what advisor wants you and how well you fit, which in my case is great. How would one speak of University of Houston? I am planning to join the industry afterwards preferably a big tech company but things change long way to go. Can and should one’s H-index be a means of quality measure? I have spoken to his past and current students, all of them said positive things which reassures me as a future possible candidate. Please help me out with some advice and facts that I can use to understand and evaluate my situation.

I approached my internship advisor for an LOR while applying to Masters. She said she would not be able to provide a strong one but a good one based on an internship that lasted for two months. I approached her because she holds a PhD from a good university in the USA and she’s published papers in top-tier conferences and journals. Will it adversely affect my application? Will it hold as much weight as a strong one because it’s she who’s recommending it?

For quite some time I’m doing research in a topic chosen by my advisor. The problem we are studying is difficult and important, with no good solutions available so far. I am currently unhappy about doing that. There are several issues here:

  1. I feel that we are not making any real progress. Still, our advisor wants to continue with the project and write papers.

  2. I think that the approach we are pursuing (invented by my advisor) is not useful at all. So far it has produced numerous difficulties, but no solutions in any nontrivial cases.

  3. At the moment I’m writing a thesis about the subject. I am to describe my contributions to develop further the earlier work by my advisor. Due to lack of real progress, it will only contain complicated solutions to trivial problems. I think it’s worthless. To be honest I’m embarassed by it and don’t want to show it to anyone.

  4. I feel bad about the fact that I never had any say in choosing the research and thesis topic.

I think these points make strong case for changing the research team after having finished the thesis. However

  1. In general I do want to stay in the field in which my advisor is working in.

  2. I feel changing would have a negative impact on my career.

  3. I already changed once (after finishing bachelor’s). I feel that doing it again after finishing master’s would look unprofessional. I fear the impact on my status in the department would be negative.

  4. Moving to different city seems like the best choice profesionally, but it is impossible due to family reasons.

Do you have any advice what should I do in this situation?

I have been in the lab for more than a year and my mental health has been damaged seriously due to the harassment of my PI. I felt lack of interest in my research and I confessed to my PI that I was thinking of leaving my group. Even though I do not require it, I expect that my PI would understand the problem should be kept confidentially. However, he raised the problem in a group meeting and all my labmates know. Based on the attitude of some people in my department, I think he even brought the problem to department.

I have thought about joining other groups and if I am lucky to have a good supervisor, then I can continue my PhD. However, I realized my academic progress has been delayed due to the mental health problem and I would need time to recover. I am afraid of jumping into another lab. Also, I do not find any other professors in my department whose research interests me, perhaps because my mind is currently occupied with all the negative experience with my PI and that clouds my thinking?

I want to change university and start totally fresh but obviously I would not get a good LOR from my PI.

I am thinking of talking with my chairman and asking if I can stop with a master. But I am not sure my chairman will allow me to.

I want a career in academia but I really need sometimes to recover. How should I proceed?


(Edit: adding update posted as answer) Thank you very much for all the suggestions. I avoid talking all the problems with my family since they are not in academia and I do not want they worry about me. Writing all my thoughts here helps me to release everything I’ve tried to keep inside myself. I think my mental health seems to not as serious as I thought because after reading all the comment, I feel more positively now.

This is not my directly personal situation, but that of a family member who is to start a Master’s program (natural science), in Canada. You are, as a rule of thumb, admitted with your advisors specified on the offer of admission.

Their primary advisor (with whom I happen to have professional ties) has abruptly resigned from the university to take an administrative position elsewhere. For them, it is a great career move. However, this advisor is contractually unable to start new projects in January, so they have dropped the family member as a student. The secondary advisor appears to have done the same because they lack expertise in half of the project area. The primary advisor further says that the project is cancelled; the project was in collaboration with a government body which would have provided funding.

From what I’ve gathered so far, it might be possible to get the collaboration going if another prof would be supervising but it looks like a Hail Mary option. The department that Master’s was to be done in is very small and the profs have fairly different areas of expertise. Going with a different advisor and project would mean (a) finding funding in three weeks (b) a radical shift in research area and (c) finding a prof who can take on an extra student.

This opportunity arose slightly in part from my ties to the original primary advisor. I would be able to advise my family member during the Master’s based on my expertise in the field (this is the field of expertise that the original secondary adviser lacks, whereas I have a Ph.D. in the broad topic) but a formal supervision, aside from my not having any formal link to the university, is completely out of the question! So, if a prof could be found that would be comfortable with such an arrangement where I informally assist my family member with the parts that the adviser (original secondary or otherwise) is shaky on, that could be an option. And precisely for this reason everything seems like a Hail Mary!

As it stands so right now, my family member is being completely screwed over by the original primary advisor out of the money and an education. I have in addition advised my family member to go see the university’s ombudsman to see what they think or advise. Otherwise, I myself am out of ideas, because the options I can think of so far are long-shot Hail Marys.

What else can be done here?

I had my M.A. degree in a public university in the States. After working in media for two years in China, I want to pursue research and teaching career so I started to plan for PhD in media psychology (under communication).

I had my GRE tested (the last one has expired) in Sept and got good scores. But due to my heavy workloads and procrastination, I hesitated to contact two professors who instructed my thesis and know me relatively well until I finished SOP in November. After a week, with my follow-up letter, both of them refused to write me strong LOR.

My thesis advisor said “as the Director of PhD studies I am unable to write letters this year.”And he suggested me to ask the other instructor.

But the other one replied: “It is good to hear from you and nice to hear that you are applying to doctoral programs. Part of the reason that I was so delayed in my response is that I am a bit overwhelmed with work right now. Given all of my existing demands, unfortunately I do not think I am in a position to give the time and effort to write you a strong recommendation. I am sorry about this.”I discussed about possibility of pursuing PhD with him when I took his seminar, but he was not very encouraging.

But reading between the lines (especially “part of the reason”), I feel like they are not confident that I will succeed as a researcher. I asked my thesis advisor for more feedbacks like whether he thought I am less than qualified and where to improve and if I should take another M.A in Psychology. But he did not reply. :(

I know to a large degree it’s my ill plan to blame. But I am not certain if they are making excuses and whether to ask them for LOR next year. Is it often for faculty to refuse LOR because they don’t see your potential with other excuses?

So I have studied philosophy : BA, MA (UK). Both my BA & MA dissertations are on 18th & 19th century German Philosophy. Nothing political. During my MA, however, I noticed that I would much prefer to continue with political philosophy (PhD). I attended a great seminar with a superb professor that made me realise this.

However, I feel kind of stuck now. I am worried it will look very unstable and immature to say that after the MA, I now want to not do anything with German Philosophy at all anymore.

Should I maybe aim to do a second MA (or 1 year MPhil in the UK) and then focus more on philosophy? Or is this silly? I only had one class in political philosophy during my MA, which I got a A+ for, but apart from that not much.

I would also like to contact that professor and possibly discuss working with him, but I don’t yet have a good idea for a topic, I am worried I will sound super undecided with this story, and I am also reluctant to tell him that his seminar inspired me, because it can easily sound super cheesy.

Any advice?

PS: I am only considering applying to PhDs in the UK. This makes a difference I guess, because in the US it’s not that important to not know what exactly one wants to tackle when applying for a PhD, whereas in the UK PhDs are 3-4 years and people expect you to know your topic.