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I have just started a thesis-based masters degree.

My supervisor has asked me to help with another student's project. So I am working with another student of my supervisor. We work together and send him a report weekly. We send reports on time.

One time our report had a mistake, the professor got mad at me (at that time I sent the report to him). He told me unpleasant things and I got really disappointed at that moment and it happened two times. It was weird because firstly he was very good with me and this behaviour was very unlikely. Secondly, he was not mad at my colleague (another student) we were working together.

Both of us wrote and sent that report and both of us made that mistake. Why he was not mad at him? did he tell any bad thing about me to the supervisor? What should I tell to my professor? I feel very bad. He made me feel that I am useless.

I heard that my colleague has a bad reputation of gossiping about others to the supervisor.

I should add that my colleague, thinks that he is the boss in the lab and he sometimes bullies me and tries to correct me in everything even when we are filling a form which is not related to the project.

How can I handle this situation?

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    Greetings I cleaned up the English a bit... but I'm not entirely sure I understand the question here. – virmaior Oct 21 '18 at 4:53
  • @virmaior, thanks. I also edited, you changed part of it to another thing. please, read it again you will understand the question this time. – nikki Oct 21 '18 at 5:21
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    What kind of mistake did you make? Like, are we talking about something as trivial as a typo, or a bit more of a substantial mistake like a miscalculation, or something extreme like apparent academic dishonesty? Also, you may want to include the country that this happened in - cultural stuff can vary pretty significantly. – Nat Oct 21 '18 at 7:23
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    Does he respect your work more than that of your co-student? Some profs believe in "tough love", and will chastise the better student more on a similarly weak result. Not that I support this, but this may be behind this. If the other student pulls you down (which may be the case), you may want to suggest detaching yourself from the other, as "it affects your performance". The prof has now unwittingly given you the material for this. – Captain Emacs Oct 21 '18 at 10:06
  • @Nat, North America. It was a misunderstanding, but it was not me only. – nikki Oct 21 '18 at 16:57
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It sounds like an unpleasant environment to me. But still, this is one incident, right? So it might make sense to wait a little longer and see if this was a one-off or fits into a pattern.

If this turns out to be a pattern, you shouldn't stay in this lab beyond your Masters degree. If you really need a publication from your Masters degree (something that's not at all required in my field, for example), you should actually consider going to a different lab. If you feel like your supervisors anger, or your colleague's backstabbing, is too much, go to another lab as well.

While you are in this lab, there is surprisingly little to 'handle' about the situation. Just do your work, as separate from your colleague as possible, ignore your supervisor's anger but do try to get as specific feedback from them as possible, finish your Masters on time, get your recommendation letter and leave.

This answer sounds incredibly jaded and that's because it is quite self-centered: this is just a way for you to get through your Masters as painless as possible.

  • To add on that. Since OP is the one who send the report, it could be that the supervisor mistakenly assumed that OP wrote it and made the error, even though the responsibility is actually shared. In this case, the incident should not repeat itself. – Alexis Nov 21 '18 at 19:31
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Writing your Masters on a supervision, is a higher level thing than your previous studies, it is like as if you would be a professional member of the faculty. Of course you aren't, but with the eyes of the people working there is it some similar. This is why you are in deep water now, and this is why you are surprised by the suddenly hardened expectations.

First, you can't be sure, if your partner is gossiping. Even if he does, what could he say to the prof? The contact between the prof and your partner should be surely very fragile. He likely doesn't have anything what the prof would really need, but both of you need something very strongly, to which the prof is the gateway: your Masters degree. No, his position isn't better even a little bit, than yours, even if he is gossiping.

Second, doing masters' supervision is a higher thing in the eyes of the prof as leading the ordinary lectures, but not too much. You are not important. You are part of his daily work, and surely not a super-important component of his wannabe Nobel medal.

Furthermore, you are doing Masters in the first time in your life, while this prof is working with students since years, or decades. He is surely a much stronger player as you could imagine.

On these reason, I think it is improbable that the partner is gossiping. He has simply nothing what the higher levels would need.

However, the critics of the Prof have probably a factual part: what he said, what his problem is with your work. You also suspect an unsaid part. You have no way to know, what is it, even if it exists.

The rational thing to do: fulfill everything what the prof said. Fix the problems of the said part. Doing that, you might likely induce him to revalue his thinkings about the unsaid one, too. In any organization, if you are working well for it, it should provide a protection for you. If you do your task well, there won't be important any more, what your partner did (or not).

P.s. It might be a personal matter of taste, but I was always surprised, what could be useful in doing papers in pairs or in groups, even in the rare cases if it is allowed. It will be your note, your degree, so it should be your work. Maybe if there is something, what no one can do alone, it is okay, but there should be very clear distinction, what are you doing and what the others.

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    For your P.S. part, in some engineering research, the project might really require more than one people as there are many things to consider simultaneously, in laboratory works for instance. And at the end, they only write the paper with the person who took the project and thesis; and completely disregard the other contributor's time and intelligence, so it is still as you said in writing the paper part. – user91300 Oct 21 '18 at 14:12
  • @GürayHatipoğlu, what you mentioned is happening for me right now. this project is that student's master thesis and I think they are taking advantage of me and disregarding me. the professor also want to disregard me. who will be the first name in the paper? – nikki Oct 21 '18 at 16:36
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    @nikki play it safe. I had gone through the same situation and in addition to simply forget the authorship, I have lost my "right" to get a recommendation letter, in Turkey at a respectable university. Another research group, being cautious about not making any communication/misunderstanding rooted problems is a good idea. Rather than feeling bad and fighting over what you will eventually lose more, learn new things/tools and contribute science. Never blame anyone and be open with your relationships. Then you will have a paper as a first author, late but good. – user91300 Oct 22 '18 at 11:53
  • @GürayHatipoğlu, could you pls explain this part more? " being cautious about not making any communication/misunderstanding rooted problems is a good idea. " – nikki Oct 22 '18 at 17:29

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