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I am a PhD student since 9 years. I am working on medical technology where I need intra-operative surgical data. When I joined, I was told that they will have collaboration with hospitals and other universities around the world so, I can have my experiments there.

After 4 years I got a chance to have my first experiment to acquire my first data with an artificial plastic bone and I presented my results on that data in a conference. After that my supervisor gave me some wrong data (someone else acquired that data for some other research) from a human patient to work on. Within a few months I told my supervisor that this data doesn't fit to my research topic. He forced me to work on it and modify the data so that it fits to my topic. It didn't work. He promised to have an animal experiment or cadaver experiment. But even after 3 years ( total 8 years from start) he didn't arrange any experiment for my research.

Then I forced and fought with him and finally I got chance for an animal experiment. That was also for limited data acquisition, for only one day. As this data was acquired by myself for my research topic, I got good results from it. I have written an article but now my supervisor is forcing me to include the old wrong data. I think he wants to get rid of the obvious accusation against him for wasting my time with the wrong data. He forces me to include the best result I got from that wrong data which I think is unethical and biased.

Even after 9 years he has not allowed my thesis proposal. Now he pressurises me to include that old part in my article and says if not, he won't allow to publish it and without publishing it he won't allow my thesis proposal which actually should have been passed in the first year of my PhD. So I have been waiting for 9 years to submit my thesis proposal too.

Besides, he never allowed me to visit other labs for internships. I had an international full fellowship from the European Union, which allowed me up to 12 months of internships in any EU country. But my supervisor never allowed me to visit any other country or other lab.

After 9 years I am still stuck in the same place, frustrated and psychologically stressed. I lost lots of money living abroad. For the last 3 years I have been living without any scholarship, only with my own money. I can't live with my family and can't bring my family to me as I don't have any money and I am in debt. Moreover, I have no thesis proposal submitted. It's a total ignorance to a PhD student, the poorest supervision. The university ruined my career and life by accepting me as PhD student but not providing the necessary resources for the research.

What can I do in this situation? Any suggestion?

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    Does your University have an ombudsperson? Can you find another supervisor? – henning Jun 22 at 9:46
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    Yes, they have ombudsperson. I don't know how they work but I am worried if I go there I might fall in complete dark as my supervisor may deny my thesis! in this situation after 9 years if he refuses, I don't think I won't find another one!! – Phd Student Jun 22 at 9:58
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    I think you probably should have gone to talk with the ombudsman five or six years ago! You haven’t listed a location tag, but PhDs are typically 3-5 years, depending on whether or not they include 2 years of coursework or if they require you to have already completed a Masters degree and thus complete the coursework separately. – nick012000 Jun 22 at 22:45
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    Get out of this program, soon. – henning Jun 23 at 13:18
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    For the last 3 years I have been living without any scholarship, only with my own money — Translation: Your advisor fired you three years ago. Unfortunately, even if you accommodate your advisor's unreasonable demands, I think the chances of your finishing the PhD and getting a supportive reference letter from your advisor are minimal. Talk to your department chair, talk to the research director, talk to the ombudsman, get as much support as you can, but meanwhile, pack your bags. – JeffE Jun 23 at 20:57
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Imho you are past the point of risking a bad relationship with this supervisor. Your case looks like terrible academic behaviour on their part bordering on psychological abuse. You need external advice on this situation, so you should contact the ombudsman or somebody with this role in your institution. Please note that this first step doesn't involve burning bridges with your supervisor and they don't need to know about it. Once you get their (hopefully useful) advice, you can analyze your options. Some of the possibilities could be:

  • the ombudsman/institution asking the supervisor what is their plan (sometimes a little official pressure is all that's needed to make things move forward)
  • a mediation with the current supervisor leading to a clear plan for you to achieve your PhD as soon as possible.
  • a change of supervisor.
  • Should I go to Rector or the director of research of the university first before going to ombudsman or should I go directly to ombudsman? I am afraid that if I go to ombudsman the situation may go worse!! though I have nothing to loose as I am already in the worst situation. – Phd Student Jun 23 at 17:44
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    in my opinion you should go with whoever you feel confident to talk to, if that's the director of research it's perfectly fine. Just be aware that sometimes it's necessary to escalate one level because academics in the same department might try to avoid conflict with their colleague. – Erwan Jun 23 at 19:04
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    You can certainly ask about funding but I wouldn't be too optimistic (especially about the chances of compensation). You can legitimately expect them to sort you out so that you can finish your PhD, more than that would be welcome but I wouldn't count too much on it. – Erwan Jun 23 at 19:51
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    You would have to ask a lawyer about that, but be careful: imho going down the legal road against the institution is likely to be an uphill battle, and you're not sure to win. I understand your frustration, but I think you should think about what's best for you in the long term: the institution is not going to help you if threaten them with legal action. Of course it's your decision entirely, but my impression is that if they give you a reasonable offer to finish your PhD successfully, you should seriously consider taking it and then move on to a better job. – Erwan Jun 23 at 22:28
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    Also I doubt that the institution itself is responsible for providing the resources, it's probably the supervisor's responsibility. It's quite common for experimental research to face difficulties with obtaining resources, afaik if there's no specific project funding it's up to the supervisor to find a workaround. Usually the institution itself doesn't have a budget for research resources. – Erwan Jun 23 at 22:35
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Since you are feeling stressed, you should visit your university's counseling center, if it has one.

What you should do depends on your goals and the university's rules. We do not know either of those things. Your university's omsbudsperson can help you understand the university's rules.

You should not work on a PhD if you do not have financial support.

  • Thank you very much. I wrote to university psychologist for an appointment twice but its over 1 year they have not provided me any date. – Phd Student Jun 23 at 11:12
  • Visit the university psychologist's office in person, preferably early in the morning. Do not leave without an appointment. – JeffE Jun 23 at 21:02
  • I went, there was no one. A notice was there and it says, "Please contact to this email for an appointment" – Phd Student Jun 23 at 21:23

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