I got my MSc in physics working on a certain subject with my advisor. I’m now starting my PhD studies under the same advisor.

The problem is, there’s a tacit assumption that I’ll do my PhD on the same subject as before, but I really lost all interest for it, I don’t feel the same about it anymore. I really don’t know what to do instead and how to find my new path, but I don’t want to stay on this subject simply out of inertia.

What’s the best way to tell this to my advisor without giving the (wildly inaccurate!!) impression that I lost all interest for physics? He’s a great guy, btw, and he listens.

… If my advisor is reading this, I guess that’s a way too xD

EDIT: It’s theoretical physics and my advisor’s knowledge is fairly wide and aligned well with my general interests, so doing the PhD under him is definitely something that I still want.

I have recently graduated a M.Sc. I have agreed with my supervisor that I will complete the work required in order to make my project publishable (we have agreed that this does not entail any additional analysis, only revisions of the manuscript, polishing some figures etc.) and another small project.
Despite the fact that I have made it clear to my supervisor that I am not interested in any further projects, he keeps offering my to stay in the lab for various projects.
Last week I have informed my supervisor that I have decided to take up a job unrelated to the lab.
The day after I received from him a text message offering me to stay in the lab and work on extension of my project in collaboration with another PI
I replied to him that I thank him for the offer but I that I prefer the job I have taken for personal reasons.
Today I have received an email from our collaborator, most probably written at the behest of my supervisor offering me a joint position with him and my supervisor on some expansion of my masters’ project.

While this offer is legitimate in itself, I find it disturbing that my supervisor won’t respect my will not do any further work with him.
I have to emphasize that what I have described above was just the latest in a long series of such attempts to persuade me to stay. Typically I say something along the line of “I don’t want to stay in the lab because I won’t to focus on X (X being some topic/method outside our group’s speciality)” to which my supervisor will reply by either trying to persuade me that focusing on X is a bad idea or how can stay with him and still do X.

I also think I have good reasons not to want further work with my supervisor. Namely:

  1. Our areas of interest are fairly different. Based on my experience during my masters’ I don’t think my supervisor has neither the will nor the required background to guide me in the approaches and methods I am interested in and is unlikely to to allow me to pursue these directions on my own.

  2. We appear to have differences in our basic approach to what constitutes a good scientific work.

  3. We do not have a good inter-personal communication which means that our differences leads to a constant conflict between us.

  4. All of the above causes me considerable emotional distress. In fact, I feel that I have extended as much energy during my masters’ on dealing with these emotional issues then on tackling the scientific problem at hand.
    Since I know that other students of my supervisor have a much better communication with him, and since I had a very good experience with another PI I am working with, I think that problem doesn’t lie squarely with neither of us.

I have started attending psychological consultation a few months ago and am trying to work out my emotions from my side, but I do not think staying in an environment that causes me this kind of distress is a good idea.

My goal is to find a way to convey to my supervisor the message that I am not willing to accept any more offers of this kind from him. I do not want to discuss my reasons with him because he will again attempt to persuade me why I’m wrong, and I definitely don’t want to discuss my emotional issue with him.

Any advice on how to do that will be most appreciated.

The deadline to register for a peer-reviewed computer science conference with proceedings is in three days and I cannot attend despite being the main author of a paper there since I am leaving the current institution for non-academic employment. I have discussed this issue with the coauthor for many months, and they kept saying “I’m pretty sure that I can go, but if not we’ll find a solution”. At least one author of the paper must be registered and at least that person must present it at the conference or else the paper will not be published.

There has been still no tangible proof of the coauthor either definitely going to the conference or registering, and I do not know this person well enough to trust them. The publication is critical as it is the only proof of me producing anything in quite a long time, so I cannot afford to lose this publication. I cannot take the stress any more. How do I ensure that someone registers for my paper so that it appears in the proceedings?

I recently have had a discussion about my friend’s tone in his email.

His supervisor asked him whether he wants to attend a summer school in May. He wanted to thank him for his invitation and also wanted to keep the mail short. As a result, that is what he came up with:

Hello Professor,

I have plans during that period. Thanks, but no thanks.


He is getting along well with his supervisor, but I believe that the phrasing is a bit disrespectful nevertheless. It might be the case that I am not a native speaker.

Whether or when should someone use such phrases that we can refer to as “slang”?

I need to graduate this semester, my master’s project is far behind schedule, and I’m not getting the guidance I want from my advisor. How can I work with him to handle this productively?

I have to defend my thesis in two months because my funding will be gone after this semester. I have zero data because my project is computer-based and involves an initial stage of bringing a simulation into equilibrium, after which we can get usable results. I’ve been working on this preliminary phase since June and it’s still far from our “usable” threshold. In the meantime, I’ve been working on everything I can do without final data (practicing trial analyses, writing a literature review and methods section).

I’m getting only vague guidance from my advisor, who is admittedly very busy. He has a large research group, administrative responsibilities and outside collaborations, so I certainly understand that my project can’t be his first priority. He told me that I have to graduate this semester. I’ve kept him updated about the project status and my current steps, and he says that is all “fine” and I’m doing the right things, but that it’s impossible to predict when the simulation might work, and “that’s just how research is.” I’ve expressed my concerns more than once, and he’s typically responded by telling me not to “over-think things” and not to “freak out.” At our most recent meeting, I said that I doubt the simulation will be working in the next few weeks and asked what I should do in that case–he said “you still have two months, we’ll just have to see what happens.”

My advisor is well-established and respected in his field. He has a strong track record of graduating students, and he’s certainly more experienced and knows much more about research than I do. I should trust him when he says everything is fine, but it doesn’t seem fine to me. I can’t realistically expect everything to start working in the next few weeks when I’ve made insufficient progress for eight months so far. I have no backup plan for what to do without the data.

How can I express my concerns so that my advisor will listen? How can I do better at getting specific guidance?

(Disclaimer: While this question pertains to interpersonal issues in a working environment, I feel it is better suited to this SE than Workplace because of it being in the context of a lack of formal responsibility/hierarchy in an academic environment)


The deadline for the camera-ready version of a publication and conference registration is in seven days; In order to finalize the publication, I need to specify information regarding licensing of the primary data (it is literally an HTML field which I have to fill out in order to submit the paper; It is not “just” some legal requirement).

I do not have the experience to decide what licensing is applicable to the type of data I need to license, the hosting setup for the data which will ultimately be in place, and the country/countries involved (I don’t even know what countries would have jurisdiction). However, this would in theory not be a problem, because a tenured member of staff, who also said they would settle the issues regarding hosting, said they would “look into it”. This person is otherwise not related to the publication or project.


The problem now is that I have been regularly asking the person who offered to deal with licensing issues about the status of the issue for two months now, with the frequency and seriousness of the contact increasing (first it was an occasional e-mail, then more e-mails, then physically finding said person and asking them in person). However, now I have almost no time left, and I still have no resolution to the issues described above.

I do not doubt the person’s “trustworthiness” since they are a senior member of faculty in a small department and I know neither this department nor the person very well. Nevertheless, I cannot trust that this person will magically do what I asked of them one hour before the deadline because the stakes are too high. How can I resolve my dependency on this person before the hard deadline, i.e. how can I get them to do what they said they would do when I cannot do it myself and don’t have time to find someone else who can? The person is neither my supervisor nor formally part of any project I am working on, so I have absolutely no way of formally resolving this.

I started working on my master thesis a few weeks ago. When I talk to my supervisor and try to discuss new ideas she always starts to explain very basic material that is only tangentially related. Sometimes even repeating what she said in our last meeting.

This leads me to believe my supervisor assumes I do not know what I am talking about when presenting my ideas. And even worse not knowing some very fundamental stuff even after she explained it to me.

I know it is hard to judge what other people know, but this makes it very hard to discuss my thesis with her.

How can I politely let my supervisor know of the level of my knowledge to have more interesting discussions about my work?

I started my research as a PhD student a few years ago. I was assigned to researcher X’s team and had to assist him in finding a solution as the project got stuck. However, X was not able to implement his approach properly and, after some time, I doubted that the solution’s concept would work out at all. Nevertheless, X demanded that we continue following his approach.

After a few months, there was still no progress and people started getting disappointed. X got into severe and dirty conflicts (on a personal level) with his other team members. Conflicts escalated and finally X (and another guy) were removed from the project and forced to quit.

I continued working on X’s approach for several more weeks. Since my work was not controlled by X, I was looking at the proposed solution more critically. I came across severe conceptual errors and also some implementation errors. I had to discard the current solution and started working on a completely new approach (not related to X’s approach). After several more weeks, I finished the implementation and it was working quite well.

Now I am outlining my PhD thesis. One of the topics is my approach to solving the aforementioned problem. However, my approach is not that straightforward, compared to X’s approach. It is more complex and expensive. Therefore I need to justify in my thesis, why I decided to use MY approach and NOT X’s approach. I can show this his approach does not work. Therefore, I have to describe his approach, show the implementation and present some of the results. Unfortunately, nothing has been published by him. I would be the first to present his approach – this feels uncomfortable. In the department there is a huge fear of retaliation (e.g., accusations of scientific misconduct), since X was forced to quit. We know that he monitors our publications. I need to handle this at low risk without reducing the quality of my thesis.

My options are:

  • Leaving out X’s approach in the thesis completely. I do not like this, since I invested a lot of work/time and, what is even more, my thesis appears to be not comprehensive without it. It’s especially interesting for the reader to know, why X’s approach (the most obvious one) does not work. Leaving it out reduces the quality of the thesis and creates open questions which remain unanswered (e.g., why I am using such a complex approach, could I not simply do X’s method). However, this solution has no risk.
  • Describing X’s approach without mentioning X. One argued that I had done enough work on it so I should just leave his name out. I do not like this at all as this is ethically not correct.
  • Describing X’s approach and clearly attributing it to X (altogether on 2 or 3 pages). I would include an explanation of conceptual issues, leaving out implementation errors (=no personal blaming). That would be my preferred method, however, I am still publishing and discussing his (unpublished) approach. Is this acceptable or does it expose me to some risk?

I would like to use the third option. Is this acceptable or do other/better solutions for such a situation exist?

I recently received an offer for a research award for early-stage scholars producing outstanding research in my field. I have verified the award and the association are genuine and I have colleagues who have won the prize previously.

The problem is two-fold.

The first problem is that I don’t think I deserve the award. Not wishing to blow things out of proportion, the award is good to have but won’t make you famous. Yet, having looked at past winners, some of them are professors and all of them had a higher h-index than me when they were awarded. Comparing our research, I simply think there is no comparison, my research is not as good as past winner’s – although I have an upcoming paper that may have some impact (colleagues seem to think so). Some of the past winners are my colleagues and co-authors.

The second problem is that the award seems to be won by nomination, typically by colleagues, who would have forwarded the nominee’s website and CV. I don’t want my colleagues to look stupid by declining the award, which would, of course, be a strange thing for most people to do.

I feel that I have been misjudged (too positively) and it just would not sit right to accept the award. On the other hand, I do not want to ask colleagues what to do since they have already been quite kind in accommodating my anxiety (I think), in general, and recently they have been quite generous in other regards.

Although the award is not a big deal my question is: will rejecting it harm my colleagues or me in some way?

Minor point: I would also have the option of giving a talk, I’d rather not, but I do have some work to talk about. Wondering if declining the offer to give a talk is a problem too.

Update: Thank you for those replies that answered the question. Kimball’s (“awards are not about deserving”), xleitix’s, and Dan Romik’s (right to decline) answers were the most illuminating. It seems like I should accept. I think perhaps I was unclear since some are replying as if I come from a position of arrogance, my main motivation is to not embarrass myself or others.