• October 31, 2014
October 31, 2014, 1:15:22 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with your Chronicle username and password
News: For all you tweeters, follow The Chronicle on Twitter.
 
Pages: [1] 2
  Print  
Author Topic: my terrible phd experience  (Read 3246 times)
joshuageol
New member
*
Posts: 15


« on: February 09, 2013, 3:02:03 PM »

I started my PhD program 2005 and was supposed to finish in 2010. The first two years my advisor didn't have any project for me to do. The project I worked on for my PhD dissertation started 2007. I got samples from the project and started analyses 2008. I worked very hard and was quite productive within the last 2.5 years. I was the only one research assistant working for him.

Summer of 2009, he told me to stay one more year to help him because he would retire in two years. And he also told that my main job was working as a postdoc in the next two years to summarize data and write manuscripts. Within the two years I finished three manuscripts. As I discussed with him about my graduation January 2011, he told that 1) I needed to give him dissertation draft six months before graduation; 2) my work was not enough and I needed to make up one part. So I had to postphone my study one semester to the end of 2011. I gave him my first several parts January 2011. I gave him my last part June 2011. But he didn't give me any feedback until August 2011. Finally I pushed him several times and finished my defense November 2011. But he still didn't give me any feedback about the last part I made up. So I couldn't get his signature to submit my dissertation. I had to postphone my study one more semester to spring of 2012.

Finally he gave me his feedback about the last part after the spring break of 2012. I only had one month to revise it to submit before the due date of that semester.

In my view, he is not a qualified advisor with high responsibility to advise students. He didn't have enthusiasm about meeting with students. As I had questions to ask his advice, he seemed likely not happy to answer my questions. He is a cheater. He asked me to help him one more year. But as I should graduate, he broke his promise and held me to keep working for him. He didn't retire, either. He used my results to do presentation in conferences. But as I asked "may I have your ppt to look at?" he showed me nothing.

So far I am still struggling with finding a job. He's not supportive as I looking for a job. Every time, I asked him to write a letter, he told me "your background doesn't fit that job very well". Some schools told me they were very interested my application. After requesting letters, I never heard anything again from those schools.

I don't know what I should do next and when I can get out of his shadow completely.
Logged
helpful
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 10,368


« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2013, 3:29:06 PM »

Didn't you have a committee?
Didn't you enter the program with an idea of something you wanted to research?

Your story makes me think you don't have much independent thought, nor any idea of what phd research is?

Why did you hang on so long with someone you couldn't work with? Are there no other people in your university you could have worked with?
Logged
joshuageol
New member
*
Posts: 15


« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2013, 6:07:51 PM »

Didn't you have a committee?
Didn't you enter the program with an idea of something you wanted to research?

Your story makes me think you don't have much independent thought, nor any idea of what phd research is?

Why did you hang on so long with someone you couldn't work with? Are there no other people in your university you could have worked with?

I strongly doubt your major is natural science. If you don't know research of natural science, especially my major geology, please don't make such decisions, otherwise, your judge is simply based on bias view.
Logged
helpful
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 10,368


« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2013, 6:49:11 PM »

You might want to answer my questions rather than disparaging them. 
Logged
proftowanda
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 6,946

"Righter of wrongs, queen beyond compare."


« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2013, 7:00:35 PM »

<pull up your lawn chairs and pop your popcorn. . . .>
Logged

"Face it, girls.  I'm older, and I have more insurance."     -- Towanda!
wet_blanket
Some kind of
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 7,025


« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2013, 7:01:45 PM »

You might want to answer my questions rather than disparaging them. 

You were pretty disparaging in your post.  At least one of your questions (entering with an idea of what one plans to research) is based on assumptions that are field specific.  I'm sure the OP made some poor decisions as we all do, and reflecting on them may be useful in the longer term, but asking accusatory questions is not at all helpful, Helpful.

OP, your only option seems to be to use other parts of your network.  Faculty in your PhD department and your committee members would be a good place to start.
Logged

Let us let wet_blanket have the last word.
prof_twocents
Random Academic
Senior member
****
Posts: 607

Did I miss anything important?


« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2013, 7:18:45 PM »

You might want to answer my questions rather than disparaging them. 

You were pretty disparaging in your post.  At least one of your questions (entering with an idea of what one plans to research) is based on assumptions that are field specific.

Is that really how it works in natural science? You show up as a grad student and say to a faculty member: "Hand me my project for my dissertation on a silver platter!"?

To the OP, forget getting letters from your advisor. It seems like it was a bad match, but it is time to get over that and do what you have to. Get letters from other faculty members and look for postdocs or VAP positions in addition to TT. Then you can switch to getting letters from the postdoc or VAP institution.
Logged
yellowtractor
Vice-Provost of the University of the South-East Corner of Donkeyshire (formerly Donkeyshire Polytechnic) (a Post-1992 University) and also a
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 19,592


« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2013, 7:31:50 PM »

OP, do you have a question for us?  Or are you just sharing?

(swipes popcorn bucket from Proftowanda)
Logged

It is, of course, possible that what I remember as terror was only a love too great to bear.
joshuageol
New member
*
Posts: 15


« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2013, 7:32:58 PM »

You might want to answer my questions rather than disparaging them. 

You were pretty disparaging in your post.  At least one of your questions (entering with an idea of what one plans to research) is based on assumptions that are field specific.

Is that really how it works in natural science? You show up as a grad student and say to a faculty member: "Hand me my project for my dissertation on a silver platter!"?

To the OP, forget getting letters from your advisor. It seems like it was a bad match, but it is time to get over that and do what you have to. Get letters from other faculty members and look for postdocs or VAP positions in addition to TT. Then you can switch to getting letters from the postdoc or VAP institution.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. As a geology student, you can have your own research idea for your dissertation. You also can do project from your advisor (student still needs to refine the project to come up with his own research idea) as your dissertation. If you do the research you come up with, you need grant to cover the expenses, i.e., field trip and mapping, sample collection, laboratory analyses, etc. If you do marine geology, you cannot do the basic field work to get samples by yourself. Usually your advisor will not pay for those expenses but pay you for the work you do for his project. So doing the project from advisor is a good choice for student without any other grant.
Logged
joshuageol
New member
*
Posts: 15


« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2013, 7:35:08 PM »

OP, do you have a question for us?  Or are you just sharing?

(swipes popcorn bucket from Proftowanda)

If you can provide any job information (geology), that would be great for me. Thanks.
Logged
helpful
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 10,368


« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2013, 7:37:29 PM »

You might want to answer my questions rather than disparaging them. 

You were pretty disparaging in your post.  At least one of your questions (entering with an idea of what one plans to research) is based on assumptions that are field specific.  I'm sure the OP made some poor decisions as we all do, and reflecting on them may be useful in the longer term, but asking accusatory questions is not at all helpful, Helpful.


Thanks. On reflection, that might have seemed like my intent (to disparage the OP). My apologies OP. I do agree, though, with proftwo cents that it seems odd that someone would get admitted to a Phd program without a research proposal and he just went ahead and did his professor's research for him.

The original email implied that everything was the supervisor's fault; the student would have a supervisory committee and grad program director to talk to during his program. Why wasn't that done?
Logged
infopri
I guess I'm now a VERY
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 23,568

When all else fails, let us agree to disagree.


« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2013, 7:46:38 PM »

Joshuageol, from your posts, it sounds as though English may not be your native language, which makes me wonder whether you came from outside the U.S. to a university within the U.S.  Is that correct?  If so, there may have been a mismatch between your understanding of what was expected of you in a doctoral program, and what actually was expected of you.  That does not excuse your advisor for being unresponsive (no feedback on your work) and so forth, but I do wonder whether you may also have been more passive than you should have been.  I say this not as an accusation, but from many years' experience with and observations of students from other countries, who often take an overly deferential stance toward their faculty.  Some deference, of course, is appropriate, but cultural differences might make it difficult for a student to identify how much deference is too much.

Like yellowtractor, I'm not sure what you're seeking from us.  However, I'm going to guess that this is the primary point of your post (i.e., your immediate problem):

So far I am still struggling with finding a job. He's not supportive as I looking for a job. Every time, I asked him to write a letter, he told me "your background doesn't fit that job very well". Some schools told me they were very interested my application. After requesting letters, I never heard anything again from those schools.

I don't know what I should do next and when I can get out of his shadow completely.

As others here have suggested, I think you need to find other faculty who are familiar with your work who can write letters on your behalf.  While it is difficult to apply for jobs without a letter from your own advisor, it can be done.  My own advisor suffered a devastating stroke a few years ago and will never write another letter for anyone, as he is no longer capable of that task.  Sometimes advisors die.  Sometimes the student and the advisor have a falling out.  First, apply for the jobs you think are a good match for you, with letters from other faculty members, colleagues, anyone you can find who can competently evaluate your work.  Then figure out how you're going to explain the absence of a letter from your advisor--and make sure that your explanation does not in any way complain about or criticize your advisor.  Again, it can be done.  Search committees know how to read between the lines, so actual complaints and criticisms aren't necessary--and they will count against you, as most SCs want someone who is collegial even in the face of difficult people and dysfunctional professional relationships.

I also strongly suggest finding a mentor in your department who can help to guide you in the job hunt (review your letters, etc.) in ways that your advisor is not doing. 

Good luck to you!
Logged

People who do not understand numbers should not be allowed to use them for anything. - DvF

MYOB.  Y enseņen bien a sus hijos.
joshuageol
New member
*
Posts: 15


« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2013, 7:56:42 PM »

You might want to answer my questions rather than disparaging them. 

You were pretty disparaging in your post.  At least one of your questions (entering with an idea of what one plans to research) is based on assumptions that are field specific.  I'm sure the OP made some poor decisions as we all do, and reflecting on them may be useful in the longer term, but asking accusatory questions is not at all helpful, Helpful.


Thanks. On reflection, that might have seemed like my intent (to disparage the OP). My apologies OP. I do agree, though, with proftwo cents that it seems odd that someone would get admitted to a Phd program without a research proposal and he just went ahead and did his professor's research for him.

The original email implied that everything was the supervisor's fault; the student would have a supervisory committee and grad program director to talk to during his program. Why wasn't that done?

Thanks for your comments first. I did have my committee. All the members followed my advisor. One member said "if your advisor sign your dissertation, I will do, too". The graduate director also asked my advisor first for my stuff, i.e., job search reference. As I asked him to be one reference, he agreed. However, after talking to my advisor, he changed his mind (That day I saw he was in my advisor's office). It was useless to argue with my advisor and seek help from the committee members even from the dean of the graduate school. If I did, I would waste my past several years' work and have to start again.
Logged
joshuageol
New member
*
Posts: 15


« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2013, 8:01:05 PM »

Joshuageol, from your posts, it sounds as though English may not be your native language, which makes me wonder whether you came from outside the U.S. to a university within the U.S.  Is that correct?  If so, there may have been a mismatch between your understanding of what was expected of you in a doctoral program, and what actually was expected of you.  That does not excuse your advisor for being unresponsive (no feedback on your work) and so forth, but I do wonder whether you may also have been more passive than you should have been.  I say this not as an accusation, but from many years' experience with and observations of students from other countries, who often take an overly deferential stance toward their faculty.  Some deference, of course, is appropriate, but cultural differences might make it difficult for a student to identify how much deference is too much.

Like yellowtractor, I'm not sure what you're seeking from us.  However, I'm going to guess that this is the primary point of your post (i.e., your immediate problem):

So far I am still struggling with finding a job. He's not supportive as I looking for a job. Every time, I asked him to write a letter, he told me "your background doesn't fit that job very well". Some schools told me they were very interested my application. After requesting letters, I never heard anything again from those schools.

I don't know what I should do next and when I can get out of his shadow completely.

As others here have suggested, I think you need to find other faculty who are familiar with your work who can write letters on your behalf.  While it is difficult to apply for jobs without a letter from your own advisor, it can be done.  My own advisor suffered a devastating stroke a few years ago and will never write another letter for anyone, as he is no longer capable of that task.  Sometimes advisors die.  Sometimes the student and the advisor have a falling out.  First, apply for the jobs you think are a good match for you, with letters from other faculty members, colleagues, anyone you can find who can competently evaluate your work.  Then figure out how you're going to explain the absence of a letter from your advisor--and make sure that your explanation does not in any way complain about or criticize your advisor.  Again, it can be done.  Search committees know how to read between the lines, so actual complaints and criticisms aren't necessary--and they will count against you, as most SCs want someone who is collegial even in the face of difficult people and dysfunctional professional relationships.

I also strongly suggest finding a mentor in your department who can help to guide you in the job hunt (review your letters, etc.) in ways that your advisor is not doing. 

Good luck to you!

Thanks for your valuable suggestions.
Logged
wet_blanket
Some kind of
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 7,025


« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2013, 8:05:42 PM »

OP, if the graduate director changed his/her mind after talking to your advisor, your advisor probably had some serious reservations.   Do you know what these are?

Sorry to hijack, but:

I do agree, though, with proftwo cents that it seems odd that someone would get admitted to a Phd program without a research proposal.

Is that really how it works in natural science? You show up as a grad student and say to a faculty member: "Hand me my project for my dissertation on a silver platter!"?

I'm not a natural scientist so I don't know.  My question wasn't about having someone else give the student ideas, but about entering the program with a research plan already made.  In my program, the programs of several of my friends, and many programs described by forumites, the research proposal happens 2-4 years after matriculation.  My admission essays for my (social science) PhD talked about my interest in the motivations of different groups of basket weavers.  No one gave me my project on a platter, but I certainly didn't enter the program with a dissertatable research project.
Logged

Let us let wet_blanket have the last word.
Pages: [1] 2
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.9 | SMF © 2006-2008, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
  • 1255 Twenty-Third St., N.W.
  • Washington, D.C. 20037
subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.