I have started my PhD three month ago in UK. I am a biologist, but my project lies more on the synthetic chemistry field and all the experiments I have to do are completely new for me.

My problem is that at the moment, I am alone in my group because everyone else finished his PhD/Masters/Postdoc and left and I have no one to ask when I am stuck with something. My supervisor tells me to do experiments that I have never heard about, gives me a very general and brief description and that’s it! No protocols, no one to show me at least for the first time. In the labs where I have worked in the past it was completely different-PhD students have someone to show them (a Postdoc or a technician) and they don’t feel lost searching on the internet for the right protocol or method to follow.

I want to ask you if this is normal for a PhD? Or is it how PhDs are in the UK? I know that we have to work with minimal supervision, but is this normal? How am I supposed to start a new protocol involving sensitive instrument usage (like HPLC) with noone to show me?

Thank you in advance for your answers!

This is not my directly personal situation, but that of a family member who is to start a Master’s program (natural science), in Canada. You are, as a rule of thumb, admitted with your advisors specified on the offer of admission.

Their primary advisor (with whom I happen to have professional ties) has abruptly resigned from the university to take an administrative position elsewhere. For them, it is a great career move. However, this advisor is contractually unable to start new projects in January, so they have dropped the family member as a student. The secondary advisor appears to have done the same because they lack expertise in half of the project area. The primary advisor further says that the project is cancelled; the project was in collaboration with a government body which would have provided funding.

From what I’ve gathered so far, it might be possible to get the collaboration going if another prof would be supervising but it looks like a Hail Mary option. The department that Master’s was to be done in is very small and the profs have fairly different areas of expertise. Going with a different advisor and project would mean (a) finding funding in three weeks (b) a radical shift in research area and (c) finding a prof who can take on an extra student.

This opportunity arose slightly in part from my ties to the original primary advisor. I would be able to advise my family member during the Master’s based on my expertise in the field (this is the field of expertise that the original secondary adviser lacks, whereas I have a Ph.D. in the broad topic) but a formal supervision, aside from my not having any formal link to the university, is completely out of the question! So, if a prof could be found that would be comfortable with such an arrangement where I informally assist my family member with the parts that the adviser (original secondary or otherwise) is shaky on, that could be an option. And precisely for this reason everything seems like a Hail Mary!

As it stands so right now, my family member is being completely screwed over by the original primary advisor out of the money and an education. I have in addition advised my family member to go see the university’s ombudsman to see what they think or advise. Otherwise, I myself am out of ideas, because the options I can think of so far are long-shot Hail Marys.

What else can be done here?

I was recently accepted for a PhD position after going through the application process of submitting the usual documents (CV, motivation letter,…) as well as an interview.

I have heard, from my now colleagues, that during the application process, my supervisor had mentioned that I had come across as very motivated.

I am curious however, if there is ever a good time (say after one has established a rapport with one’s supervisor) to ask about the other candidates who fell short? Or is it something quite taboo?

I’m a PhD student and a full-time researcher in my uni. This year I was assigned with supervising of one Bachelor’s thesis. My PhD supervisor invented a topic, which is really interesting, but a really difficult one for this level (combination of quantum chemistry and neural networks).

Student, who assigned for that, has a programming background, so he doesn’t have much experience in mathematics or a theoretical computer science. Nevertheless, I believed he can catch up and I had some literature prepared for him.

At first he didn’t contact me for the first several weeks, which made me pretty nervous and I wrote him a polite reminding e-mail with a consultation suggestion. He came and we agreed on some plan. Several weeks later, on our second consultation he showed just a little real progress, but I still considered it ok, believing, that he’s studying the underlying theory beforehand.

The problem is now, that he didn’t show up since and I had to contact him again, only to find out, that he was too occupied by his job and that he will be writing e-mails with his progress.

So, I’m afraid, based on his behaviour, that he tries to appear independent and to develop the software for the thesis on his own. That could be a real problem as he will progress too slow without any guidance (he has NO previous experience with his topic, except programming skills).

So, my question is – how can I politely persuade him to communicate with me more often? I really want him to successfully finish his thesis, both because of my “score” during PhD and because I would otherwise feel guilty of ruining someone else’s career.

I am doing msc in one of the worlds’ renowned university
I had very difficult relationship with my supervisor; literally he was enslaving me
I got to the lab every single day from 9 to 9, sometimes until midnight, couldn’t had enough lunch time, or break time, always had to present in the lab otherwise hearing he wants to stop funding me or don’t want to sign off my thesis dissertation in the future.
From the first day, my supervisor told me that teaching me is spoon feeding knowledge did not tell me what my research is going to be; all he told me is that he gave me a research title and told me I have to design and bring up the result anyhow and that’s how he would judge if he’s student is qualified to stay in his lab
So I googled everything own my own, reading articles and try to design what to do with my research, based on the ‘title’ he gave to me
Every week, we have lab meeting, I had to present what I was doing for past week. If there is no fruitful data or the quantity of lab work is less than what my supervisor thinks, he would savage me and threatens me with money and degree, always yells at me to leave, but NEVER helps me on my project, keep telling me its my responsibility to finish that, he won’t going to babysit me
I came there with passion and was highly motivated but after staying there about one year, I deeply realized that I can’t survive with this prof. I am not depressed because I really did my best and got some fruitful results as well in the end, but somewhat sad and frustrated to admit that I cannot suck with this guy anymore anyhow.
I will going to submit drop out form soon but would like to hear about some opinions or other possible options
Thanks.

I am a midway PhD candidate, finished all the the coursework and the qualifying exam. This my fifth semester (i.e. I’m starting my 3rd year now). Actually I have started my research from the last semester (end of the 2nd year). Now I feel that, the topic I’ve selected to work on is not the right one for me. As both me and my adviser are a away from that area. I thought things will go fine gradually, but it looks no. So far I managed to write a manuscript for review paper (almost ready for submission) but I only got very simple preliminary results. I really not feeling comfortable to continue in this topic, because none is going to help me. I know, in PhD I have to do almost everything on my own; but definitely help is needed, otherwise, we wouldn’t have adviser(s) at all. I tried to contact someone in the field from another school, but my advisor is not helping me in that regard (somehow discouraging). I don’t know, how am I going to make a contribution, if I’m struggling to reproduce some results from the literature (that might look basic for the people in the field).
Last week I told my adviser I’m thinking of changing my topic;

he told me either I have to continue on the same (current) topic or I need to find a new adviser, he claim that, he might leave the school, and so don’t like to open new topic that may take time..

Changing my adviser at this stage, might look negative in the department, specially I struggled a lot to be allowed to work with my current adviser, I’m trying to avoid that option.

Now, is it okay continue working on some topic that I’m not comfortable with and my adviser may not help me on it, at all; or I’ve to change my adviser, regardless of the consequence.

Any suggestion how to convince my adviser to change my topic and work on something that is in our field both.

I am a midway PhD candidate, finished all the the coursework and the qualifying exam. This my fifth semester (i.e. I’m starting my 3rd year now). Actually I have started my research from the last semester (end of the 2nd year). Now I feel that, the topic I’ve selected to work on is not the right one for me. As both me and my adviser are a away from that area. I thought things will go fine gradually, but it looks no. So far I managed to write a manuscript for review paper (almost ready for submission) but I only got very simple preliminary results. I really not feeling comfortable to continue in this topic, because none is going to help me. I know, in PhD I have to do almost everything on my own; but definitely help is needed, otherwise, we wouldn’t have adviser(s) at all. I tried to contact someone in the field from another school, but my advisor is not helping me in that regard (somehow discouraging). I don’t know, how am I going to make a contribution, if I’m struggling to reproduce some results from the literature (that might look basic for the people in the field).
Last week I told my adviser I’m thinking of changing my topic;

he told me either I have to continue on the same (current) topic or I need to find a new adviser, he claim that, he might leave the school, and so don’t like to open new topic that may take time..

Changing my adviser at this stage, might look negative in the department, specially I struggled a lot to be allowed to work with my current adviser, I’m trying to avoid that option.

Now, is it okay continue working on some topic that I’m not comfortable with and my adviser may not help me on it, at all; or I’ve to change my adviser, regardless of the consequence.

Any suggestion how to convince my adviser to change my topic and work on something that is in our field both.

I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the topic my supervisor was then doing research into. He now has a paper on that topic under review, which I had read and commented on while working on my thesis.

I am now in a graduate programme on another university, and for some course I needed a small project to write a paper on. After consulting with my old supervisor, I took a research question that is relevant in the light of his work, but also readable separate from it, because the teacher supervising this new project has -of course- not read the paper under review.

While working on the project I found new data that leads me to question a minor section of the article under review. I (think I) can’t expect my old supervisor to go into much discussion on the topic – after all, he is not supervising my current project.

I want to stay on good terms with him, first of all because I hold him in high esteem but also because his research group is a serious option for a PhD position later. But should I inform him of the things I found out? On the one hand, I suppose it would be appreciated – on the other hand, the article is already under review. Also, the work is never finished, so finding new insights is part of life and we have to accept that publications are never perfect.

I have seen Should I email old supervisor about my progress?, but this is a more delicate situation.

If the supervisor does not actually write anything or contribute in the paper, can a PhD student write as a single Author?

Would this be a faux pas and cause a strained relationship with the supervisor? I know they expect their name to be on all papers related to the PhD.

Also, does using their lab mean they have a right to have their name on the paper?