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Author Topic: When your grad student is about to finish  (Read 7518 times)
august_leo
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« on: April 17, 2012, 3:11:48 AM »

Hi Fora Friends!

I've just about found my groove after returning from maternity leave. Though I no longer have the same free fora time I once had, I'm starting to read again on the train (just not posting much because my phone is old).

Last night, August-Lion told me that it is fairly common for grad students to "lash out" at their advisors when they are close to finishing (he even did it--and he's very even-tempered). Is this fairly common? Perhaps for certain personalities? Alternatively, I sure could go for some stories about others to make me feel better about the near name-calling that occurred after I offered what-I-thought was reasonable criticism of some recent work.
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Your environment sounds vaguely toxic.  Or maybe just characteristically British.
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scampster
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2012, 4:03:59 AM »

Hi Fora Friends!

I've just about found my groove after returning from maternity leave. Though I no longer have the same free fora time I once had, I'm starting to read again on the train (just not posting much because my phone is old).

Last night, August-Lion told me that it is fairly common for grad students to "lash out" at their advisors when they are close to finishing (he even did it--and he's very even-tempered). Is this fairly common? Perhaps for certain personalities? Alternatively, I sure could go for some stories about others to make me feel better about the near name-calling that occurred after I offered what-I-thought was reasonable criticism of some recent work.

I absolutely hated my advisor by the end. You do all this work, you send it in for review, they send it back, you send it back, etc. And every time there is a new criticism! Every message you get from them is regarding even more work you need to do, after you feel like you have squeezed out the last drop! And in the end, you get something like "that's probably good enough."

Of course, that's the way it should be - what's my advisor there for but to give me feedback to make my work better? But in the heat of finishing, I hated him. I never vocalized that or called him a name, but my last months were also spent in another state, so I only talked to him by e-mail or phone.

Don't take it personally. I have a great relationship with my graduate advisor and the moments of hatred were all in my head, not anything he did.
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When you are a scientist your opinions and prejudices become facts. Science is like magic that way!
ruralguy
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2012, 1:12:08 PM »

I liked my adviser, but was starting to really despise the other faculty (a number of them, now that I look back, really were contemptable, but others were just normal people falling into occasionally jerkiness). I also just wanted out of that environment.

I had friends (with my same adviser) who hated him, though from my perspective, there wasn't much to hate. One friend was the kind of guy who could get into "the everyone else is an idiot" mode. He was and is exceptionally bright, and though my adviser is as well, he's likely to have been one IQ point notch below this angst-ridden advisee (though, considerabbly more socially savy, etc.).  I think my friend wanted out adviser to tell him what to do next. My adviser would just say "You know more than me about this! I know enough to know you are on the right track, so just keep going" It drove my friend nuts, though it was exactly the right thing to say.

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nocalprof
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2012, 2:23:30 PM »

I had lots of negative feelings about my advisor toward the end too.  After all, after doing my dissertation work for five years, I was clearly much more of an expert, better in the field, better in the lab, a better writer, and probably just smarter in general.  It didn't take long for me to realize I was just going insane.  And my advisor and I have a great long-term collaborative relationship now, 15 years later.  In fact we just coauthored another paper together that was a lot of fun.
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johnr
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2012, 2:38:36 PM »


Last night, August-Lion told me that it is fairly common for grad students to "lash out" at their advisors when they are close to finishing (he even did it--and he's very even-tempered). Is this fairly common?

Let me revise:

"Last night, August-Lion some random parent told me that it is fairly common for grad students  children to "lash out" at their advisors parents when they are close to finishing teenagers and close to moving out of the house.  Is this fairly common?"

I'd say it fits a pattern.




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sprout
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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2012, 4:32:56 PM »

I figured my frustrations with my advisor were a clear sign I was ready to finish and be out of there.  I think it's universal.  But whether that translates to actual lashing out is likely a question of personality.  I just drank and whined incessantly to my friends. 

I agree it's very much like being a teenager.
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southerntransplant
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No recess.


« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2012, 4:46:35 PM »

I despised my advisor when I was finishing up. I was working my a$$ off and he was all like "are you sure this is right?" and "the guy is a member of the National Academy! How could he be wrong?" and "this figure looks like sh!t" and "man you choose the crappiest Greek letters" and "WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HARD DRIVE?!?!?" and "AHHH WHY CAN'T I LOG INTO MY ACCOUNT???" and "WHERE ARE ALL MY FILES!?!?!?"

I mean, like, you know?

All was forgiven after the defense.

My advisee was pretty even-tempered near the end, but I was also supremely accomodating, even debugging his code for him while he was busy writing another chapter to his dissertation.

I will say, however, that when I noted how thin a draft of his dissertation was, he gave me a look like a sign that said "round house kick RIGHT HERE!" had just appeared above my head.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2012, 5:09:13 PM »


Last night, August-Lion told me that it is fairly common for grad students to "lash out" at their advisors when they are close to finishing (he even did it--and he's very even-tempered). Is this fairly common?

Let me revise:

"Last night, August-Lion some random parent told me that it is fairly common for grad students  children to "lash out" at their advisors parents when they are close to finishing teenagers and close to moving out of the house.  Is this fairly common?"

I'd say it fits a pattern.

Yep.  My dissertation went pretty well, but my master's thesis, which had to be done on a deadline so that I could start another job, was a lot of growing pains.
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august_leo
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« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2012, 5:43:06 PM »

Thanks, everyone. This is really helping me to feel better. I still feel crappy, two days later, but I'm feeling a little bit better.  I hadn't thought about the teenager similarities, but those certainly do make sense!
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Your environment sounds vaguely toxic.  Or maybe just characteristically British.
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macaroon
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« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2012, 9:35:58 PM »

August_leo, I first heard of this behavior when I was in college, from a friend of mine that worked at a sleep away summer camp.  She explained that, on the last two days of a kid's stay there, the kid would often start fights with his or her closest camp friend.  I next heard of something called an "exit fight".  People who need to leave a group because of other reasons will randomly start a pointless fight and then leave in a huff. 

And johnr brought up teenagers.

I think your husband is right, and there's something unfortunately normal about this type of behavior. 
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bcohlan1
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« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2012, 10:07:13 PM »

Huh.  This I don't get.  I am finishing, and I'm quite happy with my advisor.  I hate the job market with a passion, and I hate myself right now for choosing this career, but my advisor has been nothing but helpful and supportive.
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"ASSUMING I EXIST, I MAY OR MAY NOT BE DOING OKAY" -T-Rex
skeptical
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2012, 1:25:24 PM »

I've witnessed this phenomenon several times over the course of my career, but I've only seen it between male faculty and male advisees. Maybe it's oedipal?
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yeastie
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2012, 2:05:56 PM »

Thanks, everyone. This is really helping me to feel better. I still feel crappy, two days later, but I'm feeling a little bit better.  I hadn't thought about the teenager similarities, but those certainly do make sense!

My PhD director told me that hating your advisor is the sign that you're ready to graduate! Lol!
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oldfullprof
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Representation is not reproduction!


« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2012, 3:12:28 PM »

It's part of a larger structure, "taking control of the dissertation."  As you approach the defense (or even during or after it,) you need to finish, but if the advisor and committee keep niggling (especially if they are switching back and forth on one or two things,) a burst of temper (or at least firmness) can set them straight.  In my case, one committee member wanted me to change to beta weights during the defense, and I said no-- but my quant guy was yelling at him too. 

In my wife's case, they almost made her switch from MANCOVAs to regressions, but she said no, hung up, and started crying.  They were just speculating and didn't make her do it.

It's kind of like adolesence, where you establish independence against heavy authority. 
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bcohlan1
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2012, 3:44:38 PM »

Maybe this is why I don't resent my chair or committee members.  They've never told me I *had* to do anything, just made suggestions which I sometimes adopt and sometimes don't.
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"ASSUMING I EXIST, I MAY OR MAY NOT BE DOING OKAY" -T-Rex
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