I sent a reminder email one day before the due date for a couple of my applications to grad school. It said something along the lines of

“This is just a reminder that first due dates are tomorrow: [list of a couple of schools]. Hope you aren’t too busy to write still. If you haven’t received an email from these schools on instructions let me know.”

I also sent “resends” to this professor’s email via the schools’ application portals. The professor responded with something like

“You’ve already sent a list of deadlines [I did, but this was about a month ago]. It is not helpful to send repeated reminders.”

I thought it was standard to send reminders before deadlines, especially if due dates are tomorrow with no letter sent. I feel that I have said or done something wrong. How can I prevent this from happening in the future?

I am now not only reluctant to send reminders for January schools, but I am now worried about the strength of this professor’s letter. I have four letter writers, and I am tempted to drop his letter on some January schools. The reason for this is that this is not the only time he has been a bit snappy with me, although never like this. But I did tell him a while ago that I did not want his letter if it would not be strong, and yet he still agreed to write for me. So assuming he is honest about that, I feel I should maybe keep his letter.

This is all a little confusing and stressful. Thanks for your time to read.

My friend is on his way to graduate with PharmD (outside US). He wants to apply for PhD program in US, and have asked his professors that he has worked with in the lab for recommendation letters. However, his professors refused to write him a recommendation letter unless he stays in the lab for 1 more year after graduation to work with the current on-going project (2 of them refused, another one has written him a recommendation letter).

The professor also belittled him when he asked for the recommendation letter, saying things along the line of

Am I, or this university not good enough for you? You must be pompous
for wanting to go to another university.

That particular professor has also shared the rumor in the department that he thinks he is too good to be part of this university. In the past, they have offered him PhD program with scholarship, but have later retracted the scholarship so he rejected the offer to stay with them. He needs the recommendation letter to apply for PhD program.

What can he do when professors refuse to write recommendation letter for him unless he works with them longer? He definitely do not want to stay in that toxic environment anymore.

Note before reading: Essential Documents = course outline, course information, criteria and assessment task. (basically, all the legal documents within an assessment)

Background: There is a new lecturer for the unit I am in (not humiliating the lecturer, it’s just good knowledge to have for this event). I did an assessment (exegesis paper) for this unit about two months ago and I received my mark for it just last week. During completion of the assessment I followed the criteria thoroughly and submitted the assessment about a week before the due date, it was also approved by paid tutors/editors so it was a thorough assessment. After receiving my mark just last week I was astonished to see that my mark was less than 40%, which surprised me greatly and would mean an instant fail for my unit. I went on to read through the lectures reasoning behind my assessment’s mark.

Here are the following comments made by the lecturer. Please note that I have searched for hours through all the assessment’s essential documents and absolutely none of the lectures reasoning points are valid to the essential documents/marking criteria. Many of the comments appear to be ‘personal preference’ of the lecturer rather than marking by the assessment’s criteria.

Directed towards the title of the assessment: “It would have been good to indicate the passage you are dealing with in your title.” (little mark down)

Directed to my choice of passage: “The assignment clearly specified a passage of at least 7 verses.” (big mark down)

Background: I could not find this within any of the essential documents so I asked my co-students if they knew anything about the ‘7 verses’ and they all knew about it because the lecturer told them in classes.
However, due to mishaps I was unable to make it to those classes and had to finish the unit in away from classes. I then asked the co-students if they could find where it was stated within the essential documents. Not one of the co-students could find it either. Until one student mentioned a memory of seeing the ‘7 verse’ reference within the course outline…behold, it was then discovered that throughout the whole semester the unit’s outline was outdated and the lecturer forgot to upload the updated one (this year’s) which we were being marked from. (This was later confirmed because the unit outline had last semester’s lecturer within it).

Directed towards my bibliography: “It is a serious weakness that you don’t have a single commentary about your passage.” (big mark down)

Claim to pass Within the assessment’s grading 5 of the 10 criteria are directed towards referencing format, punctuation, spelling, paragraphing, structure etc.. Since the paid tutors approved these areas of my assessment and the lecturer made no negative comments on these areas, it’s obvious that my assessment did rather well in these areas. This means even if the lecturer’s comments were valid, my grade should be at 40% on just those 5 criteria!

What to do?

  • I’d hate for the resolution to turn personal between myself and the lecturing team, how do I go about this event professionally? and who do I go to if it is a personal matter?
  • Should I request my assessments graded criteria? (we don’t receive these)

  • Do I have enough to complain?

  • Who do I complain to?/What should be done?

I have recently submitted a project proposal for the final project of one of my graduate courses.

The unit lecturer who marked my proposal is in his 70s and he has once stated in class that he’s an engineer for so long that he knows everything better than us and there is very little that we can outsmart him. (Maybe not exactly with these words but something very similar.) Although I am not very comfortable with the way he said it, he is not entirely wrong as he is a well-known professor with a lot of experience.

He marked me down in 2 sections and his comments are quite controversial.

The 1st section is the historical background of the product I have proposed. He is the history himself I give him that but my writing was based on a research and I didn’t made up a random historical background. I even cited the books I have used while writing that section. The books that I have used are highly reputable in my field of study.

The 2nd section I got marked down is about the assumptions I made to simplify the design while running computer simulations. Mid/small scaled robot arms often use “servo” motors and these motors are capable of rotating 180 degrees and some can be modified to rotate 360 degrees. I have got several datasheets to verify this information. Yet, the lecturer commented “All servo motors rotate 360 degrees.” which is clearly not the case.

I will email him to respond his comments but I sometimes have trouble with expressing my ideas without being annoying/impolite and hence I need your advice on how to structure my email. I don’t want him to get annoyed and start picking up on me in the upcoming submissions.

I am a person who gets motivated by the marks I receive. At the beginning I was very excited about this project and the way my proposal was marked discouraged me. I don’t think it received the mark I have deserved. Consequently, I don’t feel motivated anymore. Some of the proposal (from other students) are marked by the unit TA and he is a very fair guy. Although both the unit lecturer and the TA mark based on the same marking rubric, I bet I could get 10 more points if TA was marking me.

My professor and I walk to and from for every class I have with her, I am a female senior student and my professor is in her 30’s. I’ve gotten to know her really well, we even had a random dinner together. I go to her office hours everyday and share a coffee or cookie. I go to her for many incidents, including a man who has been harassing her and me. She has a partner who she mentions all the time and she even tells me about her family situations back home. We’ve had several meetings with the University officials and discuss them afterwards. We email constantly, I consider her a friend or a mentor.

I’m curious to know where the boundaries are between my Professor and me (student)? What is the difference between a Mentor and Friend for professors and does it apply to me?

I currently am a sophomore in a US college. I have been accepted into a semester-long undergraduate research group. Officially, we have a faculty advisor as well as graduate student mentors. In practice, we mostly only meet with our graduate student mentors.

The problem is that, from the first day, one of my teammates deliberately ignores me in every group meeting. I do not know why, but they talked to all other teammates except me. Every time I tried to interact with or discuss with them, they skipped me and pretended to that they did not hear what I said.

(I said ‘deliberately ignores’ because there were occasions when only I and the person in question were present, and the person still refused to communicate with me. However, the person engagingly talk to everyone else. )

My other teammates are not talkative at all. In a meeting, they are the only person who casually led the conversation and left me out of the conversation. I feel ostracized and more and more mentally bullied.

The situation makes me feel extremely unhappy right now. I am quite certain I did not do anything inappropriate to them because the issue arose from the first time we met. For now, I feel out of place and think that I might not belong to this place.

What can I do for now, besides quitting?

One option I am thinking is to approach graduate student mentors. However, I am holding back from doing so because it seems that I am the only person who has this problem. Also, since our mentors are also present during the meeting, I have a feeling that they already knew the problem exists.

For clarification, I had an issue with only one teammate and not the others, and the issue is with that person refusing to communicate with me, even when only two of us were present.

I am currently doing research and I know a fellow graduate student who is very intellectually curious. Let’s call him/her C. However, I feel that C has a very consistent habit for not crediting people who have discussed problems with him. We work in the same lab/department, so we cannot avoid each other.

C would (very frequently, may I add) try to get people to discuss his own research problems with him, and after he has been provided tips, references or full-blown solution to his problems, he would simply take credit for them as if it was his own. Present them as if he came up with the idea. Write them and publish them as papers as if he came up with the idea. He would of course laugh about it afterwards, and talk very jovially about his accomplishments, and in the past I would have laughed along with him, because I have adopted the mindset that perhaps it is good to help out my fellow colleague. I shared my ideas generously, and promptly responded to any request.

C’s habit came to my attention several month ago when another graduate student told me, that after spending a significant amount of time discussing a problem with C, C provided a solution to that problem, but nearly all the heavy lifting was done through that discussion.

Then it just happened, C talked to me about a problem a year ago, I provided him with what I thought would be a good way of tackle the problem. I just saw his publication, which was uploaded online last week, in which the paper utilizes some material drawn from what we had discussed.

This incident has left a bitter taste in my mouth, because I feel as if I had been used or exploited. Looking back, outside of accelerating C’s own research career, I feel that C has no real connection with any of his fellow graduate students. While the other students would talk about everyday life topics, current events, family, etc., C would only ask us questions about his own research.

In doing so, C’s behavior in some sense has cheapened my graduate school experience, and left me jaded at the fact that to in order become a top researcher, it seems that you need to exploit other people’s time and intellectual energy as much as possible for your own gain. The more you do it, the more successful you will become.

It reminded me of my undergraduate days, when fellow students would try to pick your brains about everything you knew about a subject, but gives nothing in return. You have any study material out, they line up to see what you are reading. “Nosy”, as some would describe this type of behavior. It just feels that my patience and kindness has being routinely exploited by people who just don’t really care about other people.

How do senior researchers deal with this type of behavior? Of course,
research cannot go on without communication, and we all have taken
credit for things that are not purely our own intellectual
contribution. However, I think the person’s consistent willingness to
exploit other people’s time and intellectual energy has crossed the
line for me. I wonder if I am over-reacting.

I’m a lab assistant at my university and one day some of my coworkers who are underclassmen asked me about my experience with a professor I had taken a couple classes with. I told them that every class that professor teaches is hard and that one specific class, is a “flipped” course in which students have teach themselves the material and come to class ready to just answer questions and do classwork. I also mentioned that in that particular class the professor would get frustrated when students asked her questions during class time (so much so that she would yell at whoever asked her a question and in one instance became so frustrated that she stabbed the white board with her expo marker and could no longer write with the marker because the tip was completely sunken in). I also mentioned that this particular class put me under so much stress that it caused me to develop anxiety. Everything that I told my coworkers was my honest experience with said professor.

It is not the first time I’ve told others at work about my experience while taking classes with this professor as well as with any of my other professors (in fact, on that same day I had talked about many of my previous professors and my time in their classrooms). Somehow one professor who manages some of the labs found out that I was talking about that particular professor (I’m not sure what exactly she heard or how much of what I said she heard) and decided to get right in my face and yell at me to stop talking about said professor because she didn’t like what I said. After having yelled at me she just briskly walked away. When she confronted me, I was standing right next to my coworker and I noticed that even my coworker had to pull her head back because of how loud and close the professor got to me/us. My ears were also ringing for a few moments.

I am not upset at the fact that whatever I said got out because I don’t think I made any personal attacks, I simply talked about my experience in that particular professor’s class. What upsets me is that the way the professor confronted me has really increased my stress levels and anxiety to the point that my blood pressure has risen. I am also experiencing dizzy spells, fatigue, and aches all over my body. I suspect that this is due to my anxiety. I have been stressing over this incident for the past couple of days and I’m not sure what to do.

For now I’ve decided to go speak with a counselor to try and calm down and seek a different perspective on the situation. I’m also going to discuss the situation with one of my superiors at work and ask her for advice as well as get her perspective on the situation. I don’t want to make any rash decisions or actions based on poor judgement and wild emotions. I am not comfortable enough to talk to the professor who confronted me (at least not 1-on-1). Can anyone give me any suggestions on what I should do? Do I contact the Dean? (Is there even enough basis to do this?)

I have a former classmate of mine who wasn’t successful in his/her application to top-tier PhD/MD programs this past application cycle.

Over the phone and through email, I’ve been sympathetic when I learned about his/her disappointment and offered words of encouragement, reminding him/her of their worth ethic (working 2-3 jobs at the same time and maintaining a stellar GPA) and personal aspirations (the kind of aspiration where you think that he/she would be a major force in research, selflessly serving the needs of others, and accomplishing a great deal in their career) during our undergraduate years.

However in recent time, I’ve lost touch with this person for unknown reasons, as I stopped hearing back from them. Distance, time, busy with other stuff. I don’t know.

The question I wanted to pose is, should I try to reach out again?

If they decided to reapply, what little would my words of encouragement offer beyond a smile and good wishes? (I doubt they would have an impact on the actual admissions board)

If they decided to not reapply, wouldn’t my words just pour salt into an otherwise fresh bitter wound in their mind?

Mind you, I am going through the testing phase at the moment myself and am narrowing down my PhD study programs to a handful for application, so I can’t claim that I am in similar waters.

Put yourself in this person’s shoes, how would you react in either scenario?

I am international postdoc and 7 months into my 1 year postdoc. My PI is very young and the lab is relatively new. I chose this lab because after the interview I was convinced that the PI and I had similar research interests. I had also made sure the work would be experimental in nature since that is what I am an expert in.

The research direction proposed seemed interesting and I have enjoyed working on the project. But there is a major mismatch between our attitudes. I do appreciate him taking the time out to listen to my research plan and goals but I just cannot bear the abusive nature of the PI. In my 6 months time he has humiliated me in front of the whole group twice (both for journal clubs), saying my presentations should be much better than what it is. The theoretical aspect of my work is not of my interest and he expects me to know each and everything about it even though it’s a new topic for me. There is zero tolerance for any mistake or unanswered question.

Long story short, I feel under-confident and bullied I am convinced that I need to look for a new position and have already started contacting some potential advisers (no luck yet).

My questions are the following:

  1. How do I survive the remaining 5 months of my postdoc with an
    abusive mentor who has unreasonably high standards?
  2. I have been so stressed since the past month that I feel unfit for
    any position. How do I regain my confidence?
  3. How do I find a position without a reference letter from the current
    adviser?