I'm currently enrolled in an MS/PhD integrated program in a school in Korea. I was originally planning to study in the US, but I wasn't confident that I'd get funding and the lab/advisor that I'd met at my home school fit with me well.

After having a meet up session with the advisor, things were great for the past year or so. I was able to study and do research (mainly help PhD's with their projects while thinking about what I want to do). All was good but recently the professor has become more of a businessman than a researcher. He's hardly at school and is always attending meetings or networking events. There is barely any supervision or guidance. I read this Quora answer and it reminded me of my advisor.

I'm not here to judge another person's personal life choices, but I feel like I need some insight into what to do in these situations because it's been quite distressful as myself and many others in the lab are being forced to work on projects that bring in funding, which are usually irrelevant to our own interests.

Many of my peers have brought up how they're thinking of changing advisors to other professors within the same department, some have outright said they're thinking of dropping out and looking for a job. It was manageable before, because we would just be able to take care of tasks and do our own thing. However, the funding situation of the lab has recently become a bit more dire and hence the desperation on the professor's side.

I don't want to quit, I love the environment of a lab and school. How should a graduate student approach his advisor regarding conflicting research interests? I've tried to talk to him about it before, but it didn't go too well (he was mostly reluctant to let me do my own research). Is there any particular way that I should be approaching this issue? Thanks in advance.

Just for some background information, I'm enrolled in computer science and do research on machine learning/deep learning.

1 Answer 1


The desirability of such a situation varies from person to person. Some people, but I doubt many, would love the independence. But others (most?) need more guidance, especially at the start and possibly near the end.

But if you need more guidance then you need to find a way to get it. A co-advisor? A different advisor? Something.

But just going along as you are is probably counterproductive.

An outside possibility is that, provided the advisors "business" interest has research potential, that you could get involved with that as a source of ideas and research opportunities. I don't know if this is actually possible or desirable, of course.

  • Thanks for the answer. That's actually my professor's selling point to get kids to jump on board. His interests lie in using AI for drug discovery. He always emphasizes that it's not completely unrelated because the methods used are of potential research value, which I agree with. However, when I say he's a bit "businessman-like," I mean that he doesn't exactly show traits that I look for in a research advisor. It's more like "try this and if it works great, but I'm not interested in analyzing why as long as it works." The attitude leaves little room for asking the important questions.
    – Sean
    Jan 16, 2020 at 15:23
  • Hence, there's not a lot of "independence" as the professor's always asking about results of "using this model that was recently released by (enter big name like Google or Facebook)." I mean, yeah I get it. Someone has to keep the lab running. I suppose that's what's making the situation even trickier.
    – Sean
    Jan 16, 2020 at 15:28

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