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How do I stop my Master's Project Crashing to the Ground?

  1. Nov 23, 2015 #1

    I'm having a big problem with my master's (MSci) project, in the sense that there isn't one! My supervisor doesn't actually know what he's going to arrange as a project yet and its been a month into it, and he doesn't seem to offer any helpful insight. He keeps asking if I have any ideas on what could be interesting to look at, I mention one arbitrary physics word and then he says go do that, without thought, but I literally am completely new to the field and I have all of my lectures this term and group project work too, so no time but to do work, I can't read the entire backlog of current work. It's like I'm being expected to know an entire research area (Topological Insulators) and know exactly what has and hasn't been looked at. I've worked as hard as I can and have been coding Haldane/Kane-Mele models, at the same time as learning what I can, and experimenting around with models and adding various perturbations and then I wrote a full report on it, but the work has no context! I don't know where this project is going and I'm worried I'm not going to have anything to write about in my final dissertation at the end of the year! I'm usually really good at project work but I can't be if there's nothing to progress in. It could mean I fail my final year after 4 years of work. This has really put me off research and going further with Physics.

    Is there anything I can do? Help appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2015 #2


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    I was in the exact position as you are about a year ago. Not even kidding! I spoke with a few of my adviser's graduate students, not gossiping but just asking questions about his research style and how they found thesis topics. I ultimately decided I was not a great fit with this professor, so I changed. Another professor took me on, and I just defended my thesis 2 weeks ago.

    You're in a tough spot, just as I was, but you'll get out of it!
  4. Nov 23, 2015 #3
    Thanks man, How far into your project were you?
    Who did you speak to (what position in admin) to change?
    It just feels like Ive wasted so much effort on what will in the end be for nothing.
  5. Nov 23, 2015 #4


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    About 3 months deep. I had started a paper and code development for a topic. For me, the topic was uninteresting, and while my adviser recommended it to me, he didn't have a lot of knowledge and direction for me. I spent countless hours reading journals and texts on the topic, but I still couldn't see the big picture of what I was doing. I simply couldn't see any application.

    I had already identified another professor who I thought I would work well with. I spoke with him about changing into his group before speaking with my adviser. Turns out he was happy to take me. He did ask me how much support (money) my current adviser had put into me and how much time. Very little time was put into me, and I was funded through an external fellowship, so he didn't have to use any grant money on me, which eased the transition.

    After speaking with the new professor, he directed me to first talk to the department chair before speaking with my current adviser about the change. The department chair supported my decision, and within the week I changed advisers. It was awkward for a while, but there was no drama or hard-feelings.

    I literally felt the same way. It's shocking to me how similar your situation is to mine. To reiterate, my steps were as follows

    1) Speak with other graduate student's of my old adviser and ask them how they began research.
    2) Identify a new adviser who you would be a good fit with and ask if they have any research ideas that you could take on for a thesis.
    3) Follow the new adviser's directions for how to proceed (in my case that was to first speak with department chair and then tell my old adviser the news that I would be leaving)

    Careful though, if you change advisers you will have to stay put. If you start moving from adviser to adviser faculty may not want to work with you, so make sure you've done your research.

    As an addendum, I did A LOT of research before changing. I knew I didn't want to continue with my old adviser, and I can honestly say this was the single, best decision I have ever made in my academic career.
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