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Physics Advice before joining PhD research group, -- personal problems

  1. May 5, 2016 #1
    Advice before joining PhD research group, if I have a personal problem with one of the group members?

    One more student from my cohort wants to join the same research group as me. We will be doing our research rotation together. He has an overbearing attitude and is insolent towards anyone around him. It is a pain to be in the same group as him during discussions.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2016 #2


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    If it's just a case where this student also "wants to join" the same group, I wouldn't worry about it too much, because it's not an actual problem yet. It's just a potential problem that may become an actual one, but may not.

    If this student does get into your group, and you have a hard time working with him, then you'll have to figure out how to work around him. Options include choosing a project that requires you to work independently, or letting your supervisor know that you either don't want to work with this person or would appreciate the opportunity to work with someone else in the group who has more experience. Another option is to have a conversation with this person and let him know how you feel. That's not always easy, but sometimes it can help to stifle small problems before they turn into big ones.

    Unfortunately the world is full of people that are less-than-desirable to work with. Learning how to make these situations work is a good skill to develop early on.
  4. May 7, 2016 #3
    Thanks for your great advice!
    Just a quick question: so I was thinking of letting the supervisor know about it in the worst case scenario in the future (as talking to him is out of question, tried once he had "I don't give a s**t attitude about it). But won't the supervisor interpret this as me being too picky about who I work with and stuff?
  5. May 7, 2016 #4


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    A lot can depend on the personality of the supervisor, but in addition to being a scientist-mentor this person also has certain obligations towards fostering a productive and respectful atmosphere among those he or she supervises. For conversations like this, it can help to have a list of specific issues on hand. Walking into a person's office and saying "I just don't want to work with that guy" is different from making an appointment, closing the office door and articulating the issue. You can tell your supervisor specific problems that you've encountered, issues that make you feel uncomfortable, etc. It's important to tell your supervisor that you have attempted to address the issue with this person on your own (because often this will be the first suggestion). It's also important to be specific with what you want to accomplish. If this guy is a part of the research group, you won't be able to avoid him entirely. But you could request that you be assigned independent work.

    One caveats. First, any actions of your supervisor will depend on the context of your project. In some cases it can be more difficult to assign independent work than others. Don't expect miracles.
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