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Programs Different Views on Thesis Work with PHD Advisor

  1. Oct 5, 2011 #1


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    Hi, Everyone:
    I recently passed my oral exams for my Math PHD, and I am going on into the actual thesis prep.

    My problem is that I (wrongly) believed that the topic I worked on for the 2nd exam
    -- call it T--,was supposed to be an "entry" into the general area I was interested in, and that topic T would not be the one I would be using to work for the actual thesis, as I was intead hoping/interested in working on a somewhat-related topic , call it T'. It turns out my advisor is dead-set on my working on topic T instead.

    I had repeatedly told my advisor, while working on T, for the second exam, in many different ways that I did not find topic T appealing, and that I had the right background, training and disposition for T'. I believed ( wrongly, I now realize), from some comments he made in this respect, that he was aware of my wanting to change from T into T', and that he was seriosuly considering looking for some work for me to do on T'.( I am not saying the advisor lied to me; I don't have grounds to say this.)

    Now, I don't want to spend a couple of years working on something I don't find interesting. I don't know if it would sit well with my advisor if I were to go around now,
    after passing the 2nd exam, looking for someone who would work with me on T'. The chair of the department is a mostly-conservative guy who wants people to stick with the standard approach of sticking to an advisor and a topic.

    I am just hoping to get some comments, insights, suggestions on your part.

    Thanks in Advance.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2011 #2
    Does your adviser have a very good reason you should not switch. Is T' an area with active research or is it unusual?
  4. Oct 6, 2011 #3


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    Thanks for your comment:
    He said a while back that results in T' are too advanced at this point for meto work in, but I have seen some papers on T' that, though difficult, I believe are within my reach. Recently, he has brushed off any comments in this respect on my part, and the subject has become an implicit taboo. I get the impression that he is more at ease with the area of T than with T', and wants to make his life easier--unfortunately, at my expense. Still, if I have a chance to work on something more interesting, I will bolt out, without a second thought.
  5. Oct 6, 2011 #4
    Your thesis is a very important time, make sure you do it in something that you legitimately find interesting. If you are really interested in T' you'll likely want to switch into it after you finish your thesis (if you stay with T), so it would be better to start researching T' right now instead.

    Unless there is honestly some major conflict that will result, don't be afraid to stand up for the type of research that you want to do! Unless it is an extremely disparate subfield (say switching from category theory to convex geometry or something like that) then it should be acceptable and not taboo academic politics.

    By the way, I'm dying to know what T and T' are!
  6. Oct 6, 2011 #5


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    T ---> T' is my guess.
  7. Oct 6, 2011 #6
    What are T and T' ????

    Maybe your advisor is right and T' is really a difficult topic. In any case, if your advisor doesn't have the background to work in T', then he can't really be your advisor.
    You and your advisor must work on the same thing and find the same thing interesting. Otherwise it has no point. If you don't want to work in T, then you shouldn't. You should honestly state this to your advisor and perhaps seek a new one. Otherwise, you will hate your research (and you do not want this).
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