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Recently I responded to a postdoc 'advertisement' posted by one of my PhD defense committee members. I still have 2 months to go for my PhD defense. However, I got an offer for a position from the said committee member.

Now, I am in a fix about what would happen if I reject the offer? I am hoping to get a better position in a different university and group soon and I don't want to create any issues with my thesis evaluation due to the rejected offer.

Is it going to create an issue in the future? Can it influence my thesis evaluation?

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  • I don't think it is likely. If he were to fail you out of spite you can always argue he is not being impartial. He afterall offered you a post-doc position. I believe they need to give you real reasons why they are failing you right? Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 7:41
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    @BoatyMcboatface the poster never said that the committee member was a he. Gendered assumptions hurt everyone. Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 9:30
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    I am aware the gender is not indicated. I want to use a pronoun and not call a human being "it". Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 13:41
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    @BoatyMcboatface: While I agree that she would probably not fail the OP, the argument "you can alwaxs argue he is not being impartial" is naive. Yes, you can always argue that -- chances are nobody listens. Presumably, if the prof is impartial, they would just list any reason for failing, not "OP rejected my offer". Students are (in my experience) very unlikely to be believed. (In this forum, I read a question of somebody asking if a phd advisor might schedule a defense because they want to get rid of a student, which might imply that there are countries where you cannot repeat the defense.)
    – user115896
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 12:16
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    @BoatyMcboatface: True, but one can always find a (small) reason. Just imagine somebody posts a question here "My prof failed me because I rejected his offer. who can I complain to?" This person would get immediately downvoted and ridiculed in the comments. People would say there is no perfect thesis and ask what was wrong in the thesis so long until the poor soul finally admits that, say, a comma was missing. Then 3 people would construct some scenario in which a missing comma could lead to someone dying. My point is that one can always find a reason to fail someone if one really wants.
    – user115896
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 18:13

1 Answer 1

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A polite rejection to this post doc offer should neither hurt your thesis evaluation nor cause damage to your relationship with your committee member. The rejection email need not (and should not) be long or detailed, but as long as you make clear that you are honoured by the offer, that you have considered it carefully and seriously, but that you feel it is not quite the right path for you at this juncture, they will understand. I would suggest ending with a line saying that you look forward to finding ways to collaborate in the future.

All told, I think this is a positive sign for how this person will evaluate your thesis. They clearly think you are a worthy researcher or else they would not wish to hire you.

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    Why assume that it should be done in an email? This seems like a personal meeting is a much better option.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 9:39
  • Ah, it was an assumption. I assumed a committee member would not be local to the poster. I'm about 4,600 miles from a student whose committee I am on for example. If the committee member is local, sure, meet in person. That said, if the offer came from the Uni HR (as it would for my University) the poster would have to write to decline the offer. Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 10:55
  • Yes, a formal declination would be in writing, but a meeting to actually discuss the issues ("trying to expand my horizons,...) and put a personal touch on it is superior IMO. I think, in general, that too many people here depend far too much on email as if it were some form of personal communication. With friends and family it is, but in professional relationships it is a bit cold. And the OP here is trying to protect a relationship for the future.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 11:01
  • @Buffy I can certainly see that being your preference. Interestingly I have the opposite preference. I much prefer my family to call or speak to me in person rather than by email, and I much prefer my professional communications to go via email, at least in the first instance. A long, in-person meeting about turning down a post-doc offer seems a bit of a time drain when that could have been done by email. Sure if the student wanted a mentorship discussion, I'd be up for the meeting, but if it was just to turn down a post doc... Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 13:03
  • @Buffy I usually just don't have near enough time for an in-person meeting about everything, especially something so routine. The only reason I have time to post here is I'm on maternity leave and it's nap time :) Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 13:05

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