I'm new to the research scene. I asked my advisor questions about the suggestions he gave in a couple of meetings. From then on, he insulted me a few times whenever he has to provide feedback on my work in our project meetings and he responds in an aggressive way when I ask him doubts as well. One time, he questioned my degree and skills for the feedback of 'bolding a boundary in a visual illustration' and we had a poster deadline then in a few days. I'm not sure if he did this in spite, but he asked us to send him a final draft, which we did before the poster deadline. And he did not provide us any feedback or response on the draft or us submitting the deadline. Earlier it was fine, he responded politely more or less. How do I fix this now?


1 Answer 1


I've supervised many undergraduate research students. Fortunately, I've never done things to them like this OP describes, but sometimes there are mismatches in terms of what I expect students to be able to do, meeting deadlines, the nature of feedback, etc. Of course, communication is key.

From the OP's perspective it's worth remembering:

  • The advisor is human, and there might be things going on in his life that you're unaware of. Try to have a little grace.
  • Many professors do not view undergrad research as a good use of time. It's basically a service to the student/department. Anything I can teach an undergrad how to do, I could have done much faster myself.
  • Probably the professor would also like a better working relationship.

My advice would be to give it a few days to cool off, then ask to meet up for general advice, rather than specific to the research. At that meeting, you could explain that you worry that you might not be meeting his expectations, but it's really important to you to do a good job, and you'd like his advice on how to be a better research student for him. Try to come off as earnest. I don't know why, but reading the OP, I got the sense that part of the issue might have been tone from the OP during earlier meetings about the suggestions the advisor was giving. So I'd advise any reader in a situation like this to think about tone and how you come off to the advisor.

Faced with an earnest student who just wants to do better, hopefully the advisor would give specific pointers (or might even apologize himself, if he realizes he's been taking his stress out on you a bit). No matter what he says: don't push back or get defensive! Just write down what he says, say thanks, and say you'll work to get better. Later, you can decide if you feel the situation is mismatched and if you might do better with a different undergrad research mentor. Or, you might feel the advisor has a point and you really can do better. But I think a meeting like I described would help repair the relationship and hopefully lead to a less aggressive stance in the future, once the advisor realizes you really are trying to meet his expectations.

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