I need your help please to suggest solutions to a problem I am facing during my PhD. My story is detailed below with the important events that are related to the story:

I just finished my first year PhD at the university. It has been a difficult year for me because I had a supervisor who left and another supervisor who left again. My wife had home sickness and financially I had my scholarship fund cut by 30%.

Now, I came across another obstacle in my PhD. During our first year, we have to attend a generic research course and complete tasks to confirm our candidature. Although I attended all lectures and completed all tasks, the course lecturer who turned out to be also the associate dean of research at the university decided that I have not done them. Her proof is that there is an electronic feedback that I have never completed after each lecture which she used to confirm our attendance. She mentioned this rule at the start of her first lecture. Because I didn’t know about this rule and because also sometimes my phone was without battery, I was not able to complete many of these feedback. I may have completed two or three out of eight.

Later, I went to the make-up class and tried to talk to her to convince her that I have done them all but because of all the stress I had from my other PhD issues, I may have become angry in defending myself which I regret now. At the end, she decided that it is OK to leave and I can send her an email stating my story which I did. Later, she sent me an email telling that not only that I still have to retake all classes but also I have to re- do all tasks. I thought it was not fair because I have proof at least that I have done the tasks. So, I did not fulfil her request because at that time 1) I was partly not thinking straight , 2) I was also still hoping to convince her that I have completed the tasks , 3) I was thinking of switching universities and thought I do not need to do them

Later and after I got admissions from a couple of other universities, I found that my wife is pregnant and the doctor told us it is difficult for her to move to another city. So we took the decision to stay at my current university. So, I went back to the lecturer and sent her an email to inform me about any remaining requirements but she still insists that I have not completed them. In fact, she talked to my supervisor after my email and suggested to terminate my PhD. She told him that one day I came to class, ticked my name and left straight away. This happened when I tried to convince her once at the beginning of a class but I was not able to so I left the class in anger.

Now, I have to stay at the university and she said I will not accept you just retaking the class. She told my supervisor that I have to come up with creative solutions to convince her that I deserve the PhD candidature. So, I need your help please to suggest some solutions to her so she can be convinced. She is meeting me in two days to listen to my proposal.

P.S. , I really enjoyed her classes and learned a lot from them. I thought they are really helpful. In fact, she taught us how to file a patent and because of her I got inspired and filed one. She also taught us how to write a proper paper and now I am writing my 5th journal paper. I also learned how to do a better presentation at her class which got me to present at conferences where I won two awards. However. she is still not acknowledging my attendance at the lectures.

I talked to other colleagues who attended the lecture with me and they all were happy to testify that I attended the lectures. Also, one time she brought three lecturers from the university in class to ask them about any problems we have with our PhD. So I told them my supervisor’s change story. I am thinking to talk to them to see if they would remember my question. I also have an email to one presenter after he finished his lecture to commend on him on his presentation which I can show her to prove my attendance.

I am sorry for my long post. Appreciate all the advice I can get.

closed as off-topic by Roland, MJeffryes, user3209815, Scientist, D.W. Nov 26 at 18:46

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  • 7
    (1) Your story is very long. I tried three times before I read it through. Please consider shortening it. (2) My creative solution is a conventional one: apology. My whole impression after I read your story is simple, you disrespected her although you admitted that she is a great advisor ( I was able to tell that in the P.S. section). It's your choice to walk away from a good advisor or keep your own ego. This is my opinion and your choice. – scaaahu Nov 26 at 11:29
  • 1
    Good suggestion thanks. Yes, I think I have to apologize but I also think she might want other solutions. – Jason Maine Nov 26 at 11:50
  • 4
    One of the most important things is to learn to compress your research ideas into very short form so they fit page restrictions of a paper but still are clear enough to understand. You can practice this by trying to write shorter questions. – mathreadler Nov 26 at 17:13
  • The word that the other commenters are trying to use - is "concise". Using bullet points rather than pros would help. – UKMonkey Nov 26 at 17:25

I think you are focusing on the wrong part of the issue here. Trying to prove your attendance is not going to help you at this stage anymore. Bringing in others like the guest lecturers is only going to make matters worse.

Instead, here is the three main steps I suggest (plus a very important bonus step):

1) Apologize.

As you report having to leave a lecture due to anger after talking to her, I would almost take it for granted that your behaviour was problematic. Apologize. Do not attempt to justify your anger.

2) Express gratitude.

You mention that you feel it. Express it, and be sincere.

3) Detail (maybe in writing) how you have applied the lessons you learned from her.

While Steps 1) and 2) are just plainly proper behaviour, and will hopefully make her want less to fail you, this step is about showing that you actually learned what you were supposed to learn. Really go in depth here. This is the base for your case to be advanced to candidature. Be specific over what you learned and how you used it.

Bonus step: Given the overall dynamics of your story, it is completely unsurprising that the lecturer is female and you are male (that is making an assumption from having a wife that got pregnant). Examine whether you have an issue with female authority (the answer is probably yes), and search for ways to mitigate this. This will probably take you way longer than the two days that you have, but it is going to be a worthwhile endeavour.

  • 5
    Absolutely this. From the Dean's perspective the OP was very disrespectful, and it sounds like their behaviour was unprofessional and unacceptable. On several occasions, it looks like the dean gave the OP chances and they didn't follow through, so I think all that is left is to suck it up, apologise and hope not to be kicked off the PhD. – n00dle Nov 26 at 14:21
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    I think step 3 should be done in writing, and should be written to the same standards of thinking, structure, grammar etc. as a good journal paper. That turns it into a practical demonstration of the OP's abilities, and shows effort. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 26 at 14:53
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    While the answer is excellent and to the point (+1), the last paragraph is very speculative. I can imagine someone being (wrongly) mad at someone else and sex has nothing to do with the fact. As a matter of fact all the cases I witnessed were [someone] angry at [their boss or a figure of authority] for [something "unfair"], full stop. Instead of "issues with female authority", I would find it better if you speculated over "issues with authority" – WoJ Nov 26 at 15:30
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    @WoJ Given that the actors are gendered as they are, and given that this takes place in our society, there is no way that gender does not enter the equation. – Arno Nov 26 at 16:54
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    @Amo While gender may (often) play a role in such situations, there is no guarantee that it does in this particular situation. – JAB Nov 26 at 18:00

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