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of the paper must be registered and at least that person must present it at the conference or else the paper will not be published.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 am a fourth year graduate student at a tier 1 research university in the US. I had lot of hiccups in getting started with my research. Our program is rotation bases where you rotate with your potential PIs for a semester (or more). I decided to rotate with Prof. A and continued it for another semester. However, in the summer of the year I was transitioning into my second year, I went to Prof. B to do my last rotation. Prof. B had a more concrete project that I worked on and I was super productive under him so I decided to join Prof. B’s lab permanently. However, Prof. A was not happy about this since I had done two rotations with him.

In my third semester Prof. B decided to leave academia and moved to industry. I was given an option of quitting with a Masters or joining another PI. I chose to find a new PI. My research focus was in a particular area that only Prof. A and Prof. B studied. Our department is anyway too small with only 6 faculty who work on completely different areas. So, after being without a PI for almost a semester I decided to approach Prof. A to see if I could join his lab. He was not convinced initially. I had to provide detailed account of things I had worked on with Prof. B. In one of such early meetings, he told me “I don’t have to do this. sufficient number of students have graduated from my lab and I have a tenure now.”. But eventually, he decided to let me in his lab. Since we both didn’t have a concrete project in mind, he suggested I write a review article on the project I had previously been working on. That did not go well. I wasted a semester studying that area in depth, but went in a tangential direction and couldn’t finish the review. However, a new project came up through a collaborator and I was assigned to finish it. However, there were very limited questions that could be answered and my progress left him dissatisfied. I was told I could do ‘cool things’ with the data, without ever being told what these ‘cool’ things could be given the limited nature of data. In this process, I got another project to work on which I saw as being my main contribution to my field. However my PI has always found my methods to be ‘too complicated’.

In this entire process, my equations with my PI has always been deteriorating. I have been told “I am smarter than you”, “I am not interested in your sloppy work”, “Don’t waste my time with your bullshit”. My requests to talk about our method have lately been ignored.

I wanted to work in academia and I want to finish my PhD. However when I think about the equation I share with my PI has forced me to wonder if I even finish my PhD, his letter of recommendation will be a negative one, probably killing my career anyway. My post sounds toxic, but so has been my relation to my PI. I had to seek professional counselling a year back. With the equation we share currently, I don’t let it affect my work. However, I am also not at peace with it in my mind.

Hence, I am considering quitting and applying elsewhere. However, I will need letters of recommendation from him to do that. How do I present my case? I have a decent GPA in undergrad/grad schools. In these four years, I was also able to enrol for a Masters in a related field in the same school.

I have become increasingly dissatisfied with my PhD/project in chemistry, and over the past few months have contemplating leaving with a Masters and going on to a different field altogether (physics). Here is what gets at me:

• I am not motivated by my project because a lot of requires boring bench work that I was not told I’d be doing/nor am I good at doing; I was told my project would be one thing (spectroscopy-oriented), but it is becoming something else that I don’t really care for nor am I good at.

• The post-docs in my lab have a favourite and constantly help him and provide me with little insight and put my project constantly on the backburner for our system

• My supervisor is never around, and despite mentioning I want to focus on becoming a physicist, he constantly forgets and pushes more dull chemistry stuff that I am not good at nor interested in

• I don’t like my department at all, the lack of direction in my project, and the city I live in

• I don’t get to actually do anything by myself, I’m always having to watch somebody else or help a little here or there. I don’t understand why my groupmates are like this and it is infuriating to no end. I feel like I have no role in the group/no real purpose

My parents tell me I look miserable all of the time. My friends say the same. I realize that I am not happy at all, mostly because I’m doing something that doesn’t make me feel passionate. I have my passions in a different branch of chemistry and physics altogether, and now I know I need to pursue those because I can’t see myself sustaining myself in this state for an additional 3 years.

My plan is to ask my supervisor kindly to change to a Masters. I even have a plan for what I can do for that thesis that I came up with and could probably get a paper out of it so it should appease him. Furthermore, I want to express to him that is not him, but rather my lack of passion for this project, and that I wish to pursue a PhD in a physics department elsewhere. My plan is then to apply for PhD positions in Northern Europe (dual citizenship, EU passport, but born in Canada). I can then focus on doing a PhD I am genuinely interested in, not a project that I sort of half-assed an interest with just because I was so stoked to do a PhD (I applied for a Masters but was offered a PhD instead and jumped at it without thinking). I applied to one school because I didn’t think I’d be serious about it. I was not too smart 3 years ago.

I have good grades, lots of research experience, and skills in optics/optical engineering. How do you think my chances of getting a PhD position in physics in either Germany, Denmark, Norway, or Sweden?

Thank you!

First of all, I need to apologize for another PhD quitting tread. I’ve been reading tons and tons of similar posts over the past few months but nevertheless my story is quite different and not just another 2nd year blues. I’d very appreciate your suggestions and opinions. It is not going to be short but you might find it interesting anyway 🙂

Unlike many other people who go very straight up with their education, my path was very curvy and unpredictable: I am from a eastern European (non-EU) country where I began studying medicine at the age of 16 (right after 10 years of school). 6 years later I graduated with an MD in Preventive Medicine and Public Health. This was followed by a year of professional specialization in Epidemiology that I did in the same medical school. My diploma project was related to some specific infectious diseaseses. After I finished and became a Doctor of Epidemiology, I was still unsure if I really want to stay in epidemiology but I knew I want to continue with infectious diseases. At the same time I felt a huge urge to get out of the country and experience something new as well as challenge myself. That actual feeling of proving myself was the engine that drove me further and further later on. So, I set to find an internship somewhere working with those infectious diseases. It happened that I found a place in the prestigious university of one of the Middle Eastern countries. This internship was a lab-based research.. It was new and exciting. I saved some money, got a small scholarship and went for this adventure. I jumped into unknown world of biomedical research and academic lifestyle. It was not easy but I needed to prove myself that I can do it. I worked hard and was very interested to study everything I could in that lab. Initially planned 5 months became more that 1.5 years of at some point paid internship. I worked on the applied projects and I liked it as it was clear to me why I am doing it and what’s the goal of it. My PI appreciated my courage and dedication and as I was involved in many projects – I became a co-author of several papers. That experience convinced me that molecular biology and science are the things I want to do as it was interesting to discover so many things medical students are never taught. So, I decided to study molecular biology and I needed a new challenge. Europe seemed like a next step.

I applied for several universities and got accepted for MSc in molecular biology in a old and well known university of a rich European country. That was super hard-core and unexpected experience. The program was international and very very competitive. The work load was super high and things were extremely difficult. I was sitting on the lectures and panicking, as I could not understand what they are about. There was no language barrier. There were years of BSc in biology that I did not have… Nevertheless, I locked myself in the library and managed to stick to it despite enormous stress and anxiety. I passed all the exams with good grades and got very confident and proud of myself. I was very interested and really liked most of what I studied, so I guess it was the driving force. For my Msc thesis, I wanted to stay in the same area of infectious diseases, but there were no such labs in that university. I was searching for a lab worldwide doing this kind of research, sending lots and lots of emails and eventually I found a place in a lab in a good University of another even richer and more prestigious European country. More importantly the proposed project was in line with experiences in the Middle Eastern University so I was happy to continue doing applied research in that area. I had to arrange all the formalities and organize that external Msc thesis. Did that. Went on- spent 9 months working on the MSc thesis. Really liked that subject and technology I worked with. This work got even published and I am co-first author there. I wanted to stay in that area and do more applied projects and grow in that narrow field that would allow me to become an expert in that applied area of that disease. Asked the PI in that lab to stay as a PhD and told him that I want to continue working on the same applied topic. He agreed. However, when I started the PhD he convinced me that it’s not gonna be a good topic and talked me to accept a very vagus idea of a basic research that I was supposed to develop into something. I was not very sure, confused, very reluctant, but decided to try doing basic reasearch as I trusted my adviser and….. That was a beginning of a big mistake.

I am now 2 years into my PhD. The project got stuck and I have very little data on it. I tried hard to make some progress but faced tons of failed experiments. Than one day my PI came to me and said “ok, this stuff is not working, try that one” and gave another vague topic that I was not interested at all. It was so random, even more random that the initial idea. This together with the toxic environment in the lab led to a complete burn out. I have never felt that bad in my life. Anxiety and panic attacks and also realization that during last 7 years I was chasing a career dream I do not want to do anymore. I lost all the confidence and literally hate going to the lab and doing experiments. And because of that- I procrastinate a lot and do very little and even these things do not work. My PI is a very nice guy and he is trying to help but I am so mad at myself that I bought his argument in the beginning of my Phd and did not search for other options. I’ve lost all the motivation to continue doing this and realized that it is not he right path for me and I do not want to do research anymore at all. Moreover I see that those who finish struggle to find a job outside of academia anf those who manage – mostly go into pharma. I could’ve gone there 7 years ago, right after the medical school. In fact some of my friends did that and now have progressed in their carriers very high and they do not have a Phd.

All these years I was driven by the idea to prove myself I can go up higher and higher. And I know that I can- I just don’t see the point anymore. I feel like wasting another 2 years of doing something I do not like would be even more hurtful that quitting after 2years of PhD. I do not regret the master I did but regret starting the PhD without giving it a good thought (well, as many I suppose). My adviser will retire in 2 years, so I need to come up with a thesis on the subject I am not interested in almost no time. Moreover the environment in the lab became very toxic. All the people who were there during my MSc thesis left and the new ones are busy playing politics and fighting. I’m turning 30 in 6 months. If I quit it now- I would regret, if I do not quit- I will be miserable and extremely unhappy. And then finish (if) at 32 to start a new career again… This alone makes me extremely stressed.

On a good site – I realized that I’m quite good at presenting and teaching and I enjoy solving logical problems and thinking as well as talking about science and communicating with people in general. Lab work can be very isolating and depressing. So, I am trying to see if I can apply for some position in pharma, such as medical affairs but of course unfinished PhD is a shitty stain on my quite interesting and overall successful CV. I know that dropping out would ruin it but I feel completely drained and out of energy to continue doing this as this PhD has became something I never wanted to do and now I am stuck thinking what to do with it and with my life. I did not mention all the high expectations of my family and friends and that they would be disappointed. It is also ruining my relationship and I need to change something not to go crazy again. All these years I needed to challenge myself and prove that I CAN go one step higher. Now I know that I probably can do it, it is just so pointless and unpleasant.

I am sorry for such a long text. My question is: Shall I stay and do what my adviser pushes me to do without any passion and desire but hoping to get the title? I am not sure that I really need it as I will be MD, MSc and PhD with various backgrounds but almost no real work experience. Or shall I drop now and start searching for a new role (most likely in medical affairs of pharma or science communication). In the later case I’d be forced to leave EU. Thank you for your answers.

I planning to drop out of a PhD program after one semester because of my encounter with a professor with little experience.

This professor is also very intervening, non-perceptable, unapproachable, and worst of all, willing to go to any extent to sabotage my career.

The advisor altered credits of some courses to make sure that even though I got As in those courses, they will have a tiny efect on my cumulative average grade.
Obviously, when I apply for another university, the fact that I’ve quit and my average grade will raise some questions.

So, what can I say in my statement of purpose that will put my quitting in the best possible light?

I planning to drop out of a PhD program after one semester and apply to another top university for a PhD program. This is because of my encounter with a professor with little experience and who is very intervening, non-perceptable, unapproachable and worst of all willing to go to any extent to sabotage your career. The advisor meddled with credits to make sure that I cannot be in good academic standing even though I got A’s in courses. Obviously, I have to submit my transcripts from all universities, and my quitting and grade will raise some questions. So, what can I say in my statement of purpose (or anywhere, I suppose) that will put my quitting in the best possible light?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

I have recently started a PhD program but already have a good idea for a research path that could have culminated in a thesis if not for the fact that I will possibly soon be no longer registered as a PhD student. I will not be able to continue working on this direct topic, but there is a chance that I will be able to contribute to very similar research topics in an auxiliary function, so I will not entirely be “out” of the field. How possible is it, then, to use what research I’ve already done to contribute to a new attempt at a thesis at a later date?

Circumstantial information

  • The field is related to technology, so am I correct in assuming that this is likely to be riskier than in fields which are less volatile? — If my contributions are no longer “new”, I suppose they will not be able to be used towards a thesis.
  • Likewise, if I work on similar topics albeit in supporting roles, is it not possible to incorporate knowledge from these roles formally in a thesis assuming I have publications to support my contributions to said work?
  • Finally, there are administrative issues to address which I have very little experience with such as passing exams and such; Could e.g. coursework already taken be applied to the new stint as a PhD student? Is there even perhaps a “minimum time” required for working on one’s thesis, preventing them from e.g. in the most extreme case writing a thesis before even starting an academic program and then handing it in after finishing the last exam? I suppose that this is handled on a case-by-case basis, but I’d be very grateful even for anecdotal evidence.

There are a number of questions on this site about lacking (good) references from people who know your work, but none seem to address a situation where you lack references because there never were any people who know your work: Due to the nature of the department and especially the projects my supervisor is responsible for, I work entirely alone. This means that after one year I have no one whom I can say “knows” what I can do. Whom do I turn to for references in the case that I work entirely alone and I’m too new for anyone to be familiar with me?

On a given job application site, for example, I have to provide not just one but three references. In my case, even getting one is uncertain because my relationship with my supervisor has deteriorated. Even so, he is only aware of my work on a superficial level. My previous degree was finished 5 years ago, so I doubt that my supervisor from back then could provide much of a reference, either. The job I held before starting was also for only a very short period, as was the one before that…

Addendum 29/10/2017: I am leaving the PhD program, so I do not have much time to cultivate any possible sources of recommendation letters; I have to make due with the relationships I currently have, which are very few.

My field is extremely competitive for TT jobs that I:

  1. will most likely be unable to land after graduation
  2. don’t even really desire anymore.

In comparison to my classmates, my research productivity is absolutely pitiful. It is stymied by an apathy for my subfield and academia in general that has developed over my 2 year tenure in the program.

Problem is, I can’t get the industry jobs I want right now due to underdeveloped programming skills and inadequate networking. My best bet is to stick around and beef these up until I see an opportunity to leave.

If I drop out now with my master’s, I will have to start out at square one and get entry level work that uses none of the skills I have developed (we’re talking competition w/ HS grads).

However, I have already told my advisor about my doubts for a future in academia. They approved an academic leave request due to some issues in my personal life. At the end of my leave period, I have to tell my advisor that I wish to complete the program and stay in academia.

On one hand, my situation is not so different from any other PhD student forced to go alt-ac due to disinterest or poor performance, but on the other hand, I will have to mislead my advisor to return.

I only want to continue at this point for job prospects, and my advisor won’t be inclined to take me back if I tell them this.

I am willing to pick up the pace with my research and get the PhD, so it won’t be a complete waste for my advisor, but it will still be largely a waste of their resources.

A similar question by another PhD student can be found here – When is the right time to tell my advisor that I plan on leaving my PhD program?

My field has extreme competition for TT jobs that I 1) will most likely be unable to land after graduation 2) don’t even really desire anymore. In comparison to my classmates, my research productivity is absolutely pitiful. It is stymied by an apathy for my subfield and academia in general that has developed over my 2 year tenure in the program.

Problem is, I can’t get the industry jobs I want right now due to underdeveloped programming skills and inadequate networking. My best bet is to stick around and beef these up until I see an opportunity to leave. If I drop out now with my master’s, I will have to start out at square one and get entry level work that uses none of the skills I have developed (we’re talking competition w/ HS grads).

However, I have already told my advisor about my doubts for a future in academia. They approved an academic leave request due to some issues in my person life. At the end of my leave period, I have to tell my advisor that I wish to complete the program and stay in academia.

On the one hand, my situation is not so different from any other PhD student forced to go alt-ac due to disinterest or poor performance, but on the other hand, I will have to mislead my advisor to return. I only want to continue at this point for job prospects, and my advisor won’t be inclined to take me back if I tell them this.

A similar question by another PhD student can be found here – When is the right time to tell my advisor that I plan on leaving my PhD program?