I am in my 4rth year and finished my candidacy recently. I am very interested in my research and it is going forward at a decent pace. However, my advisor is giving me some trouble.

He is usually absent at the weekly research meetings which along with me includes a post-doc, a graduate student in his 6th year, and an associate professor from a different university. Even in the meetings he attends he hardly gives any suggestions or talks about any new ideas. He even fails to respond to some emails that I send asking him questions or general help.

I previously thought all this might be because he is the head of the experiment that we are working on, so he has little time to spare. But, now that I finished my candidacy I expect him to get more involved in my research. It's been a month since my candidacy and that has not been the case.

I think it is not too late for me to change gears and join a different group in the same field. Is this a fair thing to do? What other things should I consider before I confirm to switch.


No one here can make the decision for you, of course, and we have only a little information on which to give any advice. So, you need to answer the top line question yourself with the knowledge you have and your other desires and constraints.

However, there are some things you should consider. I worry that you will have a set back if you change and it will probably add to your total time. You may consider that worthwhile or not.

But you aren't necessarily alone in your research even if your nominal advisor gives you little help. Some people can do the work with no advice at all and they wind up teaching their advisor in the research at hand. You may be such a student or not. What you need is final approval of your work from your advisor, but that may be enough, provided that you also get good letters of recommendation.

But the other members of your group are probably also available to give you advice if you need it. They are likely in the same position with this advisor/leader that you are and are having to struggle along. Make it a group struggle, perhaps.

But, if you make decisions independent of your advisor, with advice and help from your group, try to get your advisor to agree that you are making good decisions. If you can get at least that much, then you may be able to continue without any setback.

One way to get buy-in from the advisor on joint decisions of the other members is to send, say, weekly updates on decisions made and progress achieved. The advisor is kept in the loop and can redirect as needed. This is most useful if everyone in the group is working on the same task generally.

But the situation is complex. Only you know it best.

  • You gave a good suggestion. I will ask my group, so that we can collectively ask my advisor to get more involved. May 8 '19 at 18:49
  • Yes, you can ask that. Best if your most senior member does the asking. But you can also work together even if the advisor can't comply with your wish.
    – Buffy
    May 8 '19 at 18:50

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