I'm an undergraduate researcher working with another undergraduate researcher in a group. I believe the other undergraduate researcher wants to look particularly good between the two of us for a good letter of recommendation, and she has been doing this to my detriment (giving me false or misleading information on our shared project).

The graduate student that's also working on the project now certainly prefers her and sees me as kind of useless. Of course, I'm going to try to just perform well independently now to see if I can demonstrate my value, but I'm wondering if this sort of a thing is appropriate to bring up, and if so how. I'm only here for a Summer.

Edit: As an update for whoever is interested, I found a solution. The other students' only incentive is to look good, though thus far it has been to my detriment. I asked the other student openly if they thought I unfairly got the short end of the stick in our last meeting, and she agreed that I did. So then we agreed that if she actively made clear the work that I was doing in the next meeting, that I would do the same for her. This way all our efforts are acknowledged, so there's no need to employ subterfuge, and so there's no drama involved. The grad student acknowledges both our efforts now. A game-theoretic perspective can be helpful sometimes! I'm happy I can proceed together with the other student on our project.

  • 1
    What's the actual question here? Unless you have actual proof that the other student is purposefully doing harm to your character, then isn't a lot you can do.
    – Eppicurt
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 4:30
  • "I'm wondering if this sort of a thing is appropriate to bring up, and if so how". I'm under the impression this is a valid question for academia stackexchange, given that many questions here seem quite subjective and ask for an opinion on how to handle uncomfortable situations arising in academia. You've given your answer.
    – user42834
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 4:33
  • Going forward, get everything from her in writing. Email is OK. And save it all. For example, don't throw out the stuff that is boring, or not misleading, or that makes her look good. Keep everything. A missing email will be seized on to claim you are cherry picking or something.
    – user94256
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 14:29
  • 1
    Everyone seems to be concerned about winning the political game. Just do your thing and if you can't work with the other undergrad, don't work with them. If the grad student is neglecting you, pester them for more assistance. If they ignore you, go to the professor about them. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 19:36
  • 1
    @ASimpleAlgorithm: As much as I hate to say it, from my perspective academia seems inherently political. There's all sorts of hierarchies within fields - who's a better professor to work with, which research will get more funding, etc.. So as much as I'd like to simply learn about what I love learning about and hopefully make a meaningful contribution to knowledge, I certainly need adequate support, and insufficient support can mean an early end to my career in academia.
    – user42834
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately it happens, not just in undergraduate research.

What you should or could do strongly depends on your evidence and the perceptions of other people involved, here supervisors. However, assume you are right and you have evidence, still then supervisors often do not like to hear you complaining about someone they like or value. You will not change their minds easily.

So my advise would be to follow what you expressed already. Just perform well independently. But also make sure that your work and effort is visible. You may need to step out of your comfort zone and be more extrovert and assertive. If you do not occupy your space, others will.

You can see this as an excellent learning opportunity to improve these skills. Try to park the negative emotion for now if it does not help. Do not deny it but promise yourself to assess it later. Experiment with different behaviour and approaches and consider it as a training in personal leadership. After the summer make a list with behaviour you considered effective and less effective.

Wish you all the best.


If you contemplate taking action, you must document the advice given. Save everything and record conversations if needed.

However, and I think this is more important:

Verify any advice give and take it as very tentative until you do. One way to both verify and make the problem known is to share the advice with a faculty member, stating that you aren't sure it is correct and if the prof can give you guidance. Don't think of this as "blowing the whistle" or "ratting out" the others, just express doubts about it and ask for clarification. You needn't even specify where the advice came from initially, but you can say if asked.

But if you take it as a learning opportunity you might even benefit. If you think its wrong or if you have reason to doubt the source it is good to find the truth. For yourself, not for justice or any other reason. Even misdirection can sometimes lead you to the correct direction if you are skeptical, which you should be in any case.

You must log in to answer this question.