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Other Change of supervisors

  1. May 18, 2017 #1
    Suppose that a student joins a graduate program with supervisor A. The supervisor has a bad reputation in the research group with a history of not caring for his students, e.g. professor goes to sabbatical on a regular basis and does not skype with his students, replies to emails from students in 5 minutes, does not help students with their coursework, expects students to comment on his research work, expects students to be independent, etc.

    Incidentally, after a few months, the student becomes more interested in the research interests of supervisor B in the same research group.

    In this case, it is standard procedure for the student to be officially co-supervised by both supervisors A and B even though the student's projects are all supervised by supervisor B.

    Now consider an alternative scenario. The student becomes more interested in the research interests of supervisors B and C.

    In this case, is it standard procedure for the student to be officially co-supervised by supervisors B and C? In other words, does the student leave supervisor A completely?

    How common is the second scenario in graduate programs?

    Does the switch leave a bad impression of professors (in the research group) on the student?
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2017 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    People change research groups all the time. Like anything else, it can be done amicably or acrimoniously.

    That said, many of the things you see as "not caring" are very common:

    I don't know what you mean here, since a sabbatical is normally once every seven years

    That's very fast. I am not glued to my terminal. It can be the better part of a day before I even see an email.

    That's not the function of a research supervisor.

    That's a normal expectation for a research supervisor.

    That's also a normal expectation for a research supervisor.

    I expect you will find it difficult to find someone who "cares" by your definition.
     
  4. May 18, 2017 #3
    Say supervisor A goes once every two years!

    I am not talking about you. I am talking about supervisor A. Say his replies come within 2 hours. Sorry for the exaggeration!

    It is, if, say, it a reading course taken with the supervisor.

    Say professor X with 20-30 years of research experience wants a freshly minted undergraduate with a summer's worth of research experience to comment on his work.

    That is a normal expectation for a final year PhD student.

    Based on your comments, I expect your own students do not really like you and bad mouth about you behind your back in the department.
     
  5. May 18, 2017 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Entirely possible. And you know what? I don't really care if they like me. My job is to teach them how to do physics. Not to make them like me.

    Even two hours is not a reasonable expectation for emails to be returned. I may be in a meeting. I may be in a lab. I may be on a plane. I may be in a classroom. As I said, I think your expectations are unrealistic, and you may find B, C, D, E and F all fail to meet them.
     
  6. May 18, 2017 #5

    StatGuy2000

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    To the OP:

    You wrote the following:

    "The supervisor has a bad reputation in the research group with a history of not caring for his students,..."

    and then wrote

    "replies to emails from students in 5 minutes,"

    "I am not talking about you. I am talking about supervisor A. Say his replies come within 2 hours. Sorry for the exaggeration!"

    I don't know about you, but if a professor replies to a student's e-mail question within 5 min to 2 hours, that indicates that the professor cares about his/her students (certainly cares enough to respond to his/her students that quickly). After all, a professor has many responsibilities (research, teaching, administrative tasks, etc.) which can easily eat up time. Normally, if I had a question for my professor, I would usually give him/her at least 24 hours to respond.

    You also wrote the following:

    "does not help students with their coursework, expects students to comment on his research work, expects students to be independent, etc."

    When you say "does not help", are you saying the professor doesn't help when a student asks for help? Because your stating that the professor responds to e-mails within 5 min-2 hours seem to contradict that.

    Also, when you say a student expects to comment on the professor's research work -- that is a normal part of a supervised reading course. The professor doesn't expect you to know everything, but does expect you to review the research and be willing to ask questions, to show that you are willing to learn and have some insights on the material. That's a good thing.

    Finally, expecting students to be independent -- a university student is expected to be independent, at least up to a certain point. I don't see what the problem here is.
     
  7. May 18, 2017 #6
    Thanks for the comments.
     
  8. May 18, 2017 #7

    radium

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    Switching groups happens all the time. As long as you are respectful to the PI it is usually not a problem. Professors know that sometimes students' interests change or they may find their skills are more aligned with something else. However, you want to do it as early as possible as switching groups later will delay your graduation date.

    Regularly responding to emails within two hours is unreasonable. I think you should be satisfied with responses within 24 hours with some exceptions. Professors travel a lot. You shouldn't expect someone to be able to respond that quickly if they are giving a talk 5000 miles away.

    Having a hands off advisor can be quite daunting at first, but it is ultimately good for you if you are very motivated and conscientious. It forces you to develop independence early on and also forces you to make connections and learn from other people (i.e. talk/work with postdocs, others students, maybe even other professors). Professors who advise like this are often mistaken as not caring about there students when they actually do care a lot. They usually will notice and appreciate when the student takes initiative in their own learning and eventually become more involved once the student is further along.
     
  9. May 18, 2017 #8
    I'm confused. You want a professor who does not want you to be independent, does not allow you to voice your input on research work, who never e-mails you back (or e-mails you sooner? I'm confused on this), and who never takes academically motivated leaves of absence? Oh, and you want him to act like a personal tutor, too?
     
  10. May 19, 2017 #9
    I reply to most student emails within 24 hours. That's better than most research advisers.
     
  11. May 19, 2017 #10
    Advisers respond to e-mails?
     
  12. May 20, 2017 #11
    To the OP:

    (1) You have received a number of comments concerning whether your complaints against your supervisor are legitimate. I'll add a further comment. If he is serving as both a supervisor for your research and as an instructor for one of your courses, you need to keep these roles separate. If you feel that he is deficient as an instructor (whether in fact he is or not), that should not reflect on his performance as a supervisor. Do not co-mingle these two roles.

    (2) You need to scrupulously reconsider whether your expectations for a good supervisor are realistic. Otherwise, you'll just end up hopping from A to B to C, never satisfied. [As a side note: I've served as a volunteer mentor for many students, undergrad and grad. I've dealt with some genuinely egregious behavior by supervisors. If what you've listed are the worst of your grievances, you should consider yourself lucky.]

    (3) That said, if you don't like him, you don't like him. In which case ...

    (a) I don't have any statistics, but switching supervisors is not rare, for various reasons (personal, loss of funding, change of interest, ....).
    (b) If you want to switch, do it as early as possible, before you've invested substantial time on a research project for A.
    (c) You mentioned that B is in the same research group as A. You should check the funding situation. Is A the senior member that controls the grant money for the group? Is B dependent on A for grant money? That strongly influences the politics of the group, and whether B will accept you.
    (d) If you leave A for B, will A remain on your thesis committee? If so, tread carefully; be diplomatic.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
  13. May 21, 2017 #12
    Drop this rude, entitled attitude and focus instead on doing the best you can of the situation. If this means changing supervisors or adapting to the current ones, then that is how it is, but don't expect spoon-feeding and constant attention.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  14. May 21, 2017 #13

    Mark44

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    I completely agree with your advice, @Wminus.
     
  15. May 21, 2017 #14

    berkeman

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    Thread closed for Moderation...

    Because of several issues, this thread will remain closed. Thank you to everyone for trying to help the OP.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
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