I am the PhD student of an advisor who is known within my institution as extremely strict, controlling and prone to temper tantrums, making undergrads cry in lecture halls, etc. I am in my final year of writing, 12 months to go with all of my experiments completed and 60% of my writing done.

I have found my own ways of managing our relationship (i.e. to grin and bear it), but now, in my final year of thesis writing, I am finding it increasingly difficult to cope. He is extremely controlling of my personal time: making it clear that he expects me to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week ‘just to keep my head above water’. Though he always cheerfully reminds me that ‘deadlines are flexible’, on the rare occasion that I do try to take him on his word (this has happened twice in 4 years), he completely flips out and makes me work to the deadline (even when this has meant me working 20 hour days). This happens even though the events are out of my control (a problem with an experiment, the death of a friend) and though I have never asked for more than 7 days extension. The death of a friend thing happened recently and is the straw that broke the camel’s back, I just can’t understand how I couldn’t take a week to deal with that (it was over Christmas, when I was still ‘supposed to be working’…).

I would almost understand his behavior if I were a terrible PhD student in need of a kick up the backside, but by all objective accounts I am on track to finish well before schedule. My advisor tends to go through periods of bombarding me with compliments and praise for my work, teaching, etc. until I feel totally great about our relationship, only to completely flip and treat me like a child in need of chastisement. What disturbs me about this is that he will often make me agree that he is in the right, and that he is ‘not a horrible advisor, just has my best intrests in mind’. Two friends of mine have left our research group because of difficulties working with him, telling me personally ‘I don’t know how you are able to work with him, I feel sorry for you.’ A friend’s advisor has said: ‘I hope Anon is OK and has someone to talk to, their advisor is really tough’. I’m including this context because I consistently doubt my own perception of this situation, and need to justify my feelings to myself (and anyone reading this) by remembering that others corroborate my perception of my advisor. I am also extremely paranoid about him finding out about this (hence not using my usual SE account).

Usually, I would make my feelings clear and ask for a mature discussion about our needs, but I think my advisor will take that as confrontation and I don’t want to jeopardize my thesis or my job prospects in these final stages. I am too apprehensive to talk to other staff in the institute about this in case somehow word gets back to him.

At most, I’d like to get a good reference and bounce out. At least, I want to survive with my sanity and happiness in tact (I have self-esteem problems and am feeling increasingly awful about myself – I see a therapist so I’m accountable to someone and don’t plan on hurting myself etc.).

TL;DR: Overbearing advisor, I feel increasingly bad. My strategy at this point of is to continue my mantra of ‘grin and bear it’, keep a low profile and ride out the end of my PhD. Please could you share some strategies for doing so in a non-confrontational way?

I saw a bunch of students today during my office hours (~15-20 out of a class of 96). Then around noon I went downhill quick, and now I’m sporting a fever over 100 F.

I don’t know necessarily what I have, but it seems reasonable to assume it was already there when I had close interaction with the students this morning.

Would you send an email to students notifying them? Would you wait until you went to the doctor (which won’t happen until tomorrow, if I go)? If you would email them, how/what would you say. Note, I also don’t know exactly who all I saw, so I was going to send a class email.

My brother is severely depressed and has absolutely minimal support, in any form, from my family. He’s a very bright guy with no direction and no resources at home. After graduating from high school, he spent 3 years at a dysfunctional relative’s home playing video games, and finally enrolled in college after I badgered him the entire time in-between.

He chose not to enroll for the second year of college. He stayed at home playing games again. He “did not like” school except for one course, where he happened to have a minor friendship with a professor. This professor nominated my brother’s essay for a departmental honor. My brother rarely has good news, and when he does he often does not voluntarily share it. So for him to offer this story up to me makes it stand out.

This professor almost certainly knows my brother has some sort of problems. There are cases when you can just look at someone and know; my brother is one of those cases. But, given that this prof nominated my brother’s essay for a departmental honor, I think that the prof at least somewhat believes my brother is capable of some sort of achievement (I think my brother is even brighter and more capable than me, but I know him differently).

I want to reach out to brother’s professor and ask him to inquire about my brother’s situation. Going to college is the best chance my brother has to break a generational cycle, but he does not know this, and he will not listen to me (I am only 3 years older than him, he may think I’m a similarly clueless peer). This prof, on the other hand, is a person who my brother might listen to. Presumably the professor also agrees with my assessment of what an education can do for a life. I sense that this idea might get backlash – e.g. this is not the prof’s responsibility, that it is rude to even ask, and perhaps if the prof cared he would have reached out on his own already. However, on the other hand, this prof probably went into this business with the hopes of changing the world for the better, and thirty minutes or an hour of his time might change someone’s life. Plus, he has no reason to know just how dire my brother’s situation is (there are plenty of loser-looking people with average to robust support networks – but my brother does not). I plan on contacting the prof, either via email or phone. What I ask you is for advice on how to tactfully and effectively make this ask.

The end goal is to get my brother back in school and to encourage my brother to build his own support network, and to know that it is impossible to succeed without one. I accept that I might get a flat out “no,” but for the sake of this thread let’s assume that he agrees to something small like a phone call or a coffee (I assume he is kind enough to oblige, plus he seems to have liked my brother somewhat). Also, how should I handle the corollary issues that my ask might raise? For example, I don’t want to make this prof feel like I am asking him to be a mentor to my brother or that this will create some enduring obligation. Moreover, I can’t expect this prof to know how to deal with people the same way a therapist would. Is it appropriate to suggest that the professor suggest therapy (which is what’s truly needed here) to my brother? There are more things that may come up, but for the sake of ending this post, I’ll end it here. Many thanks to you all.

I teach engineering at a community college in the US. I currently have a student with very poor hygiene. He stinks pretty badly, has obviously greasy hair, doesn’t change his clothes frequently, and I usually seat him in the back of the room (during exams and labs, when I have power over seating arrangements) so I don’t have to smell his (relatively strong) body odor.

This student has also spoke with a colleague of mine about his low self-esteem. He’s worried that he isn’t making friends, and doesn’t know if the people he hangs out with are hanging out with him because they want something from him (help with classwork) or because they are truly friends.

In my opinion, this student follows me around like a puppy, and he tries too hard to impress people (students and faculty alike). I am a young-ish female faculty member and I try to create very large boundaries especially with my male students. As an example, he frequently finds the need to explain to me (in way too much detail) why he gets questions wrong on exams (I don’t care, and I don’t need to know, which I’ve told him several times to no success).

So, I would like to mention to this student that his hygiene is off-putting and isn’t helping him out in the friends department. However, because he already follows me around like a puppy dog, I don’t want to encourage any more interaction from him. Additionally, it frankly embarrasses me to have to bring up hygiene issues with somebody in their late teens / early twenties. How can I bring this issue up while still maintaining my boundary as a female faculty member who doesn’t want her male students following her around and asking her for advice all the time?

I was hoping that I would be finished up with this student by now, but I am the only professor who teaches Electrical Engineering courses, so I can’t recommend him to take classes with someone else, or ask another colleague to discuss this with him. He will be taking another of my courses next semester and I don’t personally know any of his other intended professors next semester to ask them to bring it up.

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.

I am in the fourth year of my PhD and I am due to complete in four years. My advisor wants 5 journal papers. I have:

  • One published article.
  • Two articles under review with two different journals, one of the articles has previously been rejected 3 times.
  • One manuscript being checked by my advisor.
  • Two more works-in-progress, but I seem to have reached a limbo with these works.

Can someone tell me if my progress is bad, average or good?

When I started my PhD, I would give a lot of effort to the work. I
would keep track of how many hours I am giving to my work, would try
to make up if the amount of hours dedicated to my work is less.

Recently, for the past 3-4 months, I am unable to feel that
dedication that I felt earlier. I can see I am working way less, but
I can’t find a way to make myself motivated to work faster and work

I am feeling helpless. I am feeling very guilty that I am wasting my time. But when I sit with my work, things go blunt, my brain seems to stop working. I really don’t know how should I get out of this phase.

I am failing to get myself motivated to work harder. The interest is dwindling. I wish I worked more hours but I am failing to do so. I want to work harder which I am not able to do now.

Please help me out here if possible.

Advisor info: I do all the work, he just checks the grammar. I do not get any technical input from him. If I talk about how low I feel he would just say, ” PhD is like this, don’t lose hope”. The repetition of these lines does not do any good to me.

I’m very interested in machine learning and its application to the healthcare field. I am also interested in the Robotics program at Hopkins because of its wide array of research in the medical field. They research many things like medical imaging, uses machine learning for surgical robots, analyzing EMR data, etc. Does anyone know of other universities that have similar medical focus? The ranking is not important. I am just looking for a little bit of a curriculum overlap. Thank you!

A little context

I had to withdraw from my previous Master’s of Science in Computer Science program due to health issues (Insomnia leading to depression) and consequently, failing grades.

The first semester went good, the second was terrible. I was put on antidepressants and sleep meds by the end of the second semester, which helped me in the third semester a lot, but, when I had to retake the subjects of my failed semester, unfortunately, my meds were not as effective.

I had to withdraw from the course after much discussion with my doctor, professors, and advisor. I was also given failing grades in my last semester as the professors dismissed my request of giving me a withdrawal grade, ‘W’.

After much back and forth I found a fit with my treatment. I have been on new meds and have taken my time since May to return to my home country and recuperate. My sleep, as well as health, is back in ship shape. I have weaned off my meds. I have been doing some freelancing building apps and blogging since withdrawing from my study.

I’m applying for MSCS again this year to try and complete my Master’s wherever I can get a second try (while getting my completed units transferred).


  1. Should I mention my previous health issue leading to poor grades and
    withdrawal from an MS program in my SOP? If yes, how do I go about

  2. Will I need to include doctor’s documentation or will I be asked for
    one later on? [I have my entire medical profile and doctor’s letter
    from when I withdrew from my program. I might need a new one from a
    doctor here.]

  3. What should I add to my SOP and overall profile to show my fit to an
    MSCS program?

  4. Should I mention the units I have covered and my changing interests
    from Data Visualization to HCI? [I’m sure I’d do that, but how do I
    go about it in my SOP?]

  5. I have decided on asking for the required Letter’s of Recommendation from
    my professor’s of subjects I had completed in my previous grad-school.
    Should I get LOR from them or my undergraduate professor’s, but I have
    been out of undergraduate school for 4+years now.

Any and all advice is appreciated.