As you may know, I was a first-year student and forced to leave and it was a long story, I have posted here. My question is: since I pledged myself to be honest and tell the truth, the interviewers when they hear that they are negatively affected. Recently, I have applied for a position and I was shortlisted to 4, and then when they heard my case they told me we want someone who can commit, I told them my story positively and never mentioned any negativity. I have received an email from ex-PI who forced me to leave asking that he received an email from the interviewer and I saw the email that he is extremely interested, and the ex-PI asked me what I have told them about the lab so that he can be consistent with my words, honestly, I didn't have a good intention from his email, I have been always honest and candid, but the ex-PI used to lie based on multiple situations. I have been rejected. I am struggling as I was blamed and honestly, the reason for leaving is that I am an independent researcher and ex-PI didn't like that. However, I look through interview embarrassed sometimes and a nervous little bit because of their reaction like have a taboo. I don't want to lose any future interviews, I have noticed that students apply elsewhere and don't mention they are a current student in a specific program, however, my situation is awkward as I spent one year and my name is still indexed in their website although my webpage is removed. Please, suggestion, should I hide it, but I tell myself it isn't ethical.

  • This is a related question of mine from my deleted account, however, I didn't help me: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/121003/…
    – user103209
    Jan 23, 2019 at 21:30
  • 3
    How else would you explain that time in your life?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 23, 2019 at 23:20
  • I didnot get you! I am struggling between ethics and how interviewers suspicious because I left after one year ( forced).
    – user103209
    Jan 23, 2019 at 23:30
  • 1
    It is typical in applying for a job, graduate program, etc, to account for how you've spent your past time. If you are an undergraduate student for some years, then maybe a master's student, and then there is a gap in your resume from when you were a PhD student, it will jump out at anyone reviewing your application. It doesn't look good how you've left your program, but it looks worse if you have no answer for how you spent that time.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 23, 2019 at 23:33
  • @Bryan, I think this out of scope as my situation is not like that! I managed to get grants from a top-tier conference and publishing part of my work. I did a lot of work this year, it isn't my problem because I had an asshole and toxic ex-PI, I need candid advice. It is unfair because interviewer always biased to PI and think there is a hidden in my personality because I did publish in three top conferences ( two of the workshops), so the question they ask why you left.
    – user103209
    Jan 23, 2019 at 23:40

4 Answers 4


It is typical in applying for a job, graduate program, etc, to account for how you've spent your past time. If you are an undergraduate student for some years, then maybe a master's student, and then there is a gap in your resume from when you were a PhD student, it will jump out at anyone reviewing your application.

It doesn't look good that you've left your program, but it looks worse if you have no answer for how you spent that time, and worst of all if it becomes clear you intended to mask your time as a previous grad student.

No matter how you go about this, it looks bad that you did not complete a PhD program. Applicants for a PhD are assessed primarily based on their perceived likelihood to be a successful PhD student. As a past unsuccessful PhD student, that perceived likelihood decreases, especially if your past PI says bad things about you and people believe them.

In the short term, you likely need to gather some new references. You need people who can vouch for your ability and potential as a researcher. Depending on your field, the availability of such positions may be limited, but in my own field I would advise taking up employment in an academic lab as a technician. The barrier to entry is much less than for a PhD position where an institution is dedicating themselves to you over several years. Your PI in that lab will be able to recommend you to programs that you subsequently apply to, and confirm to them that your prior experience was a fluke.

You asked for candid advice, and I am doing my best to give it. If I was reviewing your application, and saw that you left a PhD program after a year, I would not want to take you on as a student. Regardless of whose fault it is, there are many many qualified candidates for most PhD programs. If you got grants and publications, that may help, but you still have clearly had a personal conflict with your past PI and have accused them of many bad things. The last thing I would want would be to take you on as a student, bright as you may be, and then be accused of similar things myself. I wouldn't have any objective information to assess whether you are a victim as you claim or not, unless someone else, whose input I trust, gives me information about the situation.

  • I didnot had any kind of personal conflict with this PI, I vouch, he is unstable because he did that to another senior student didnot allow him to defend after spending four years.
    – user103209
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:02
  • I had meeting with HR and head of the school and this conversation I recorded it to have it evidence. They know that he is toxic and the student who didnot defend also published in top-tier conferences. There many cases, not only students, but workers. The head of school told me if I were in your position, I look for another program, I told her that I worked hard and so and there is no reason to stop, she told me I know, but if you stay you may would have the same situation like the other senior student
    – user103209
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:04
  • 3
    @Monkia What you are describing is a personal conflict: your wishes and the wishes of your PI are in conflict, and now they say bad things about you. I'm not blaming you or saying it's your fault, but it doesn't matter what you vouch: a stranger doesn't know if they can trust your vouch or not. If the head of the school will vouch for you, then that's good, you should ask for their reference to support your application.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:05
  • I had a references from a very renowned researcher in our field, but the problem, I dont know why the interviewer go and asked him, this ex-PI is doubled faced and threated me after resignation while presenting my work at workshop in conference, it is shocking. It is unfair!
    – user103209
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:06
  • 4
    Yes, it is unfair. Do you want advice or do you want support? I'm giving you advice. I've seen you post a lot here, so I have some sense of how you are approaching the situation, and I have to say I think it is not good. By repeating over and over how you have been wronged without being able to see the situation from the perspective of your potential future advisor I think you will have a lot of difficulty.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:07

In addition to Bryan's excellent answer, it should be noted that depending on the policies of the school you are applying to, omitting details of attending a previous PhD program from your application can be considered sufficient grounds to revoke offers of admission. Therefore, if you are directly asked about your past experience, you should not attempt to lie about it, either directly or by omission.

  • I see, but still, the problem is the reason I have mentioned that they are a good research group, but I wasn't fit for their research direction. Honestly, I don't know how to formulate the real reason as I don't understand yet. I have an interview next week and if I have been asked directly, I will answer, but I am afraid I would stick in non-positive impression since @Bryan mentioned there are many and many good students, I m really baffled, hopefully, that would change.
    – user103209
    Jan 24, 2019 at 1:00

When evaluating an applicant people look at tangibles and non tangibles. Tangibles would be publications, research attachments, grades, awards etc. Intangibles are things like your personal statement, and more importantly your referees.

If your only reference is from your advisor you may be in trouble. You need to find a good academic figure who’ll vouch for your research potential and explain the situation with your advisor. If you can’t think of one then you may have a problem getting in. If your advisor is actively sabotaging you then it may border on unprofessional conduct but I don’t know for sure. It may be wise to reach out to a department head or student ombudsman who’ll probably just ask the advisor to let you go in peace.

Sorry about your situation, it sucks...


My advice is to not mention a single year of work somewhere else. It gets lost in the noise when you are looking back at your life from many years in the future. Plus Europe can be very fussy and cloistered and cronyish.

Actually maybe you should bail from academia. Go drive trucks in the Permian. Well maybe that is a little much. But get involved in US E&P. It's still America out there. At least for now.

  • 6
    Downvoting because of second paragraph which to me seems nonconstructive advice to OP who appears to greatly desire to continue in academia.
    – mkennedy
    Jan 23, 2019 at 23:25
  • The gelogic time period? Jan 23, 2019 at 23:36
  • @AzorAhai More likely the basin.
    – Anyon
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:17
  • Based on prior posts, OP seems to be in Northern Europe. Jan 24, 2019 at 3:12
  • @anyon Huh, never heard of it Jan 24, 2019 at 5:44

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