I am an international PhD student in Industrial Engineering at one of the average university. I have completed one year of my study. I already have an MBA from India. So it made sense to do PhD as I was very enthusiastic about this. I have good GRE scores, good academic history. I got TA position and funding for my first year. So I eagerly joined. But the moment I came here, I see new things each day: favoritism, racism. All the PhD students are made to complete 9 courses (just like MS students except the core courses), which doesn’t make sense as I already had my masters. I got scholarships for 4 courses each semester but was forced to take only 3 courses each semester citing work pressure. Now I have got an RA position, but this doesn’t have anything to do with actual research. I am made to sit in a local company with the workload of a full-time employee. This position is not in anyway related to my research proposal or dissertation topic. For my research, I will have to work concurrently with this RA position.

This is not I wanted. I wanted to work on my PhD in a lab, on the real problems. And not work for a company on shitty stipend and made to work as a regular employee. Moreover, my adviser is short-tempered, humiliates his students, yells, and bully. I have made up my mind to not be trapped in this environment for 4 more years.

What can I do now? I want to at least get a masters as I have a loan back in my country so, can’t go back. I have three more courses left. Whom should I talk to? Can they force me to do PhD? or if I quit with MS, can they ask me for full payment of fees? Can they not allow me to quit with MS?

I can’t go and ask dept. secretary because my advisor will get to know my intentions from her. For MS we need to complete 9 courses plus thesis. I have so far done 6 courses. I plan to take 3 courses this semester. All the PhD students are required to do this coursework even if they already have MS degree from USA. The MS students have to do 9 courses (2 doctoral level) from a certain list. The phd students have to do 9 courses(4 doctoral level). These doctoral level courses have the core subjects as prerequisites. The department head is very shrewd favoring a certain section of students. Even for such MS students, he waived off GRE scores and core courses. I know when he will get to know my intentions, he will try to block my graduation and scare me. I am just worried that after completing all courses, they don’t block my MS.

Thanks in advance!

I accepted a postdoc position after a short interview by Skype and I haven’t had the chance to get to know the people and the city. Anyway, my PI helped me to get my visa (EU – researcher) issued and, currently, I’m already working on the project with some good preliminary results.
BUT
I hate the city, I’m sure it can never be a home. Also, and I’m having some serious problems with another postdoc, which I need to work with because our projects are connected (he’s sexist; gave me a wrong protocol to follow and I have lost time and samples; he doesn’t leave me alone to work, slows my progress and is always criticizing my project and my experimental approach in not a good way).
I know it will cost me my health if I stay the agreed time (1 year, at least) and I have already landed some other postdoc interviews to work on better places (better places, with nicer people) and I believe I have good chances to get the job.
But, with the visa issued and being my current PI a really good researcher and person, I’m afraid it will look pretty bad on my CV and I don’t know how to explain it if someone on the interview asks about it.

  • I don’t have a contract, I never signed anything for the fellowship, it’s a normal procedure to have just a spoken agreement; Also I haven’t received the payment yet because I still don’t have a bank account because of the bureaucracy.

Since I really wish to stay in academia for quite some time what I should do? Tell that I cannot stay till the end of the agreement? Tell about the other possibilities? I’m lost here, the truth is that I never taught it could happend.

I’ve been accepted to a relatively prestigious neuroscience PhD program abroad and will be joining a new lab (2.5 y/o) in a few months. I’ve been in contact with a possible PI a few months before applying and was very excited about their previous and current research plans. From talking to their students (at the time, two postdocs, one PhD and one research assistant), I got the impression everything was going very well and everyone was very satisfied (this was about five months ago).

However, in a recent visit, I discovered both postdocs have decided to leave the lab (and also explicitly regret joining it), mostly due to disagreement about the way the research is conducted. I think it might be important to note that we’re all pretty sure that the PI has some form of Asperger’s, which is evident mostly in communication difficulties. While all of their students stressed that they are a very nice, generous person, who is always willing to help with whatever (and also well-funded), they also claim what was once seen as shyness and introvertness (which can be dealt with) is now being seen as mostly lack of understanding, direction, and general vagueness on part of the PI (i.e., not really having a clear direction of where the lab research should go or a good enough understanding of neuroscience).

The last PhD student and I get along very well, and they claim I shouldn’t be too worried and mostly be prepared to work independently; however, I get the feeling they are also quite worried about the situation.

So I guess my question is: have I made a wrong choice? How worried should I be? I’m torn between moving forward with the program, and in the worst case moving labs after a year, and between giving up on this specific lab right now and trying to find other options. As I mentioned before, this is more complicated by the fact I would be moving abroad for this PhD, which includes quite a lot of pre-planning.

Thanks

Some additional information that may or may not be important:

  • I really like the PI, and we seem to get along well (as much as is possible with them).
  • The PI comes from a background in Physics, while their post-docs was in neuroscience. They don’t have many publications, but those that they do have are in really highly-regarded journals. They are also very open to answering questions, but you need to be very direct in your questions.
  • One postdocs has a background in physics, while the other in psychology and neuroscience.

18 months into my PhD (after I had passed my quals), my advisor became so emotionally abusive and bullying that I had to take a semester off (I was already dealing with diagnosed depression). While I returned for six months, ultimately I was not able to make it work with my advisor (who went from bullying me to ignoring me) and have left the PhD program for industry.

I’ve kept in infrequent contact with my former undergraduate advisor, with whom I conducted about a year of research. She recently ran into a close friend at a conference and asked about me and how my PhD was going. While the friend did not disclose the specifics, he disclosed how my advisor was holding me back by requiring experimental work after withdrawing support/funds, at which point she said that based on my current work, it would be sufficient enough for a PhD with her (and that I should finish my PhD remotely with her).

Once I formally resigned my position (I have not officially “withdrawn” from the program till October), I emailed my former advisor to let her know of my decision. She has seemed eager to reconnect now that we are in the same geographic area (2 hr). I’m planning on meeting with her to catch up, but struggling with how much I should disclose about my departure from my program. She is not a frequent collaborator with my advisor (they wrote a book together some years ago), but they very much travel in the same circles, are on the same committees, etc. Should I tell her what happened? Or will this just lead to gossip that won’t help me personally or professionally? Both advisors are still closely tied to industry, fwiw.

18 months into my PhD (after I had passed my quals), my advisor became so emotionally abusive and bullying that I had to take a semester off (I was already dealing with diagnosed depression). While I returned for six months, ultimately I was not able to make it work with my advisor (who went from bullying me to ignoring me) and have left the PhD program for industry.

I’ve kept in infrequent contact with my former undergraduate advisor, with whom I conducted about a year of research. She recently ran into a close friend at a conference and asked about me and how my PhD was going. While the friend did not disclose the specifics, he disclosed how my advisor was holding me back by requiring experimental work after withdrawing support/funds, at which point she said that based on my current work, it would be sufficient enough for a PhD with her (and that I should finish my PhD remotely with her).

Once I formally resigned my position (I have not officially “withdrawn” from the program till October), I emailed my former advisor to let her know of my decision. She has seemed eager to reconnect now that we are in the same geographic area (2 hr). I’m planning on meeting with her to catch up, but struggling with how much I should disclose about my departure from my program. She is not a frequent collaborator with my advisor (they wrote a book together some years ago), but they very much travel in the same circles, are on the same committees, etc. Should I tell her what happened? Or will this just lead to gossip that won’t help me personally or professionally? Both advisors are still closely tied to industry, fwiw.

I’m on tenure-track and going to go on sabbatical in the fall for one semester. When I return from my sabbatical, I plan on giving a year’s notice and switching to teaching part-time while I take over family business. Research is not for me, but I like and respect my colleagues and I want to do “right by them.” My question is, how little research-related work can I do during my sabbatical and in the following year without jeopardizing my prospects for being hired as an adjunct afterwards and my relations with the department in general. I should mention that I am much liked as a teacher and coordinate a huge part of the undergraduate curriculum, so I trust that the department will want me to stick around…

Within one week I shall leave my present institution, where I felt severely mistreated around salary payment and work conditions for 2 years, as a postdoctoral fellow.

The PI who signed my contract (theoretically my supervisor) has played passive-aggressive “not-here” all my stay while consistently demanding honorary, corresponding authorship status in any piece I happen to publish, from any source. In fact I had never heard of this person prior to signing my contract from abroad, over which I was dealing with another local professor. They had made some kind of agreement.

Soon I will leave, at the official end of my contract. I am wondering whether I should give this person a symbolic departure gift, especially in front of the other lab mates. I am not culturally hierarchy-oriented but displaying respect to hierarchy is seen as a strong moral virtue, where I am, in China.

Relevant: I am not staying in China, but I might keep in touch with one or two current lab mates after I leave. I am afraid that an act of offering him a gift will communicate a wish to continue “guanxi” which is his understanding probably means I will forever offer him credit over my work, favors.

Please, what do others suggest?

I know many of you already post similar questions about quitting before, and I have read many of them. But I actually don’t wanna quit…

And I need some advice how to write a formal drop-off email to the department and my advisor in my situation

Here is My current situation

I have talked to my current advisor, told him I can’t do research in such stress and painful life, he approved. However, the department really unhappy about it.(I have my Ph.D. funding for being TA for the department)

I’ve asked informally and got an answer “They will tell you No, unless, you and your advisor can provide a very good reason. Because you are not the only one quitting your lab”.

From inside, I don’t want to quit. I have passed the qualifying exam with a top grade and have been here for 3 years. But I have made no progress since the beginning of the year. I couldn’t finish my coursework because of a “one-class-one-semester” rule. I finished nothing according to my CV, and I felt all my peer is laughing at me. I’m very stressed, every day, I sat in front of the computer doing nothing.

I don’t think I can switch advisor, because my current advisor will over-thinking things and will end up very bad from my expectation. And I don’t think I am qualified for anything or anyone would accept me.

Here is what lead to my current situation:

I was a bad student:

I am computer science major, I have a GPA of 3.5/4. I have no gift in math and programming was my only strength. I have zero backgrounds in research, so I can’t make a research paper or find a suitable conference myself. I joined the current program only because of a referring letter from my current advisor.

And I got upset easily if I did badly in my class.

My relationship with my advisor:

He a very nice man, but I can’t say he is good at helping me. So the lab has no focus, he allowed everyone attacks any possible directions. He got his Ph.D. in EE but works as a CS advisor in my department

He thought I am smart, but he hates people doing programming because he thinks do programming is kind of wasting time. Our focus should be on math. He doesn’t like me to do any programming before he approved, because he thinks “thinking as a programmer” is toxic to my research. There are several times that he laugh at me in public saying it is bad I can only do programming.

And he cares a lot about our personal lives. And earlier time, when I still trust him, I told him some of my non-academic concern.(It ends badly….)

So I currently have a job in software that I really enjoy, however I’ve always wanted to do research, so I applied to a PhD program in CS to study formal methods and security. I’ve accepted an offer from the school I wanted to go to and met my adviser who seems amazing and I have full funding for 4 years. Its a great situation to be in. I had accepted the offer after weighing all my options, however now that I’ve actually accepted the offer, I’ve been having cold feet. I was given a generous raise & bonus at my current job (that I didn’t quite expect) and I really feel like I’ll be giving up (or at least delaying) so many things in my life (housing, hobbies, traveling, etc.). Also, I’ll be giving up the security that having a good salary affords (for example, I’ve had to take care of my mom a few times when she needed emergency surgery and being able to just fly out on a moments notice is really comforting and something I’ll lose).

I feel like I made a mistake by not just pursuing the PhD after undergrad, but at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to research so I felt it would be inappropriate to go without a clear goal/specific research field in mind.

So I guess, my main question is how should I go about making a career decision when it comes to the PhD? I was so sure I wanted to do this, but its felt wrong ever since I hit the button to accept the offer. I’d love to do research in formal methods, but I feel like I’ve borderline been spoiled by having a well paying job after living extremely frugally as an undergrad (had like 0 money & support structure during that time) and I don’t know if I have the mental stamina to go back to that life. If you guys have gone from industry to a PhD program, how did you make that decision?

I personally see no practical difference between dropping out of a PhD program and quitting a regular job, at least considering the way PhDs work in the US, especially in STEM fields, but I’m sure many people will disagree. Please let me elaborate why I think that way, and let me know if I’m being too naive or missing an important difference. I really want to see a difference, but so far I can’t find any meaningful one.

At least in the US, PhD students are often employees of the university, they hold a research assistant position, get paid a salary and declare it as taxable income. Most people I’ve talked with in academia agree that the main point of doing a PhD is working on your own research rather than taking classes, which should just be a complement. That sounds pretty much like what you do at a regular job than what you do in a master’s or undergrad degree; you have a main project to work on, and maybe some ocasional training sessions that might be useful for your work. Some people like to point out that dropping out of a PhD program has some sort of stigma attached to it because it means that you couldn’t finish something you began. However, I see no difference between that situation and quitting a regular job where you had a long-term project that you realized was going nowhere, had no future or was needlessly stressful, and you decided not to waste your time trying to finish it and find something better. My view is that if you leave a PhD program with no degree, but you worked for some years as a research assistant, you can still write it down in your resume as a research assistant position you had at the university, so it’s pretty much just another job for practical purposes, I don’t understand why the fact that you didn’t get the degree is such a big deal for some people.

Something I should emphasize is that I’m biased in my thinking towards STEM fields and people who enter PhD programs, but have no intention to stay in academia. If one wants to become a professor, dropping out of a PhD program is obviously a big deal, since it’s often a requirement, but I’m talking about people who do PhDs mainly to get better jobs in industry. I know some will point out that that’s probably a bad reason to do a PhD to begin with, but honestly, I’ve met many PhD students who think that way, especially in computer science and other STEM fields. Regardless, many people also begin a PhD because they are really interested in working on a specific area and that area happens to be developed more in academia than in industry at some point in time (machine learning is a good example), but they don’t have any intention of staying in academia and plan to get a job in industry afterwards. Still, they might get disappointed about the area or the environment along the way, the same way one might serious negative aspects of what seemed at first as an interesting job.

I’m especially interested in reading people who disagree with any of the specific points I mentioned before and why they are not valid analogies between dropping out of a PhD program and quitting a job. If this looks more like an open-ended discussion rather than an appropriate question for this site, feel free to put it on hold, but I’d appreciate if you can point me to a more appropriate site where this kind of discussion can take place. This site is the only one I know where well-informed academics congregate.