I began researching for my thesis on subject X several months ago, and the thesis program is starting in a few weeks.

I did not tell the grad student at the old uni about this yet - because originally we were working on different things, his idea seemed cool, and naturally, I want my name on as many papers as possible. However, my adviser told me that my research idea may be enough to be considered a significant contribution in the field. A lot of people in research are interested in how X can be applied to different areas right now, but my idea on how to apply it is completely my own and unique.

I feel I should either only work on my thesis at my new uni, or email the grad student at my old one, let him know I am researching X right now, and that if he involves X in his research, that might not look good for me.

How should I go about this? I feel bad because the grad student invested time into teaching me for the last 4 weeks and getting me caught up, but I also want to do what's best for me - which is 100% pursuing my research idea. The fact that my adviser thinks it is publishable and may make an impact in the field is rare enough in undergrad, while the grad student I am working with is not sure what exactly he's researching yet - and I fear that he will look into using X now, which might cross with my research.

  • 1
    Something confusing: in the earlier part, you say that the other method was/is X, and yours is Y. But then later you seem to indicate that your method is also X. Can you clarify? Sep 19, 2020 at 18:04
  • Unless you made a mistake in writing, you decided to pursue X, which the graduate student was working on, after this presentation and a whole discussion on X, and the interest it receives? But you came up with a different way to apply X? Is that it?
    – dusa
    Sep 19, 2020 at 18:30
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    Surely though, you developed this idea through exchanges with this graduate student. I think the high way to take is to collaborate on a paper, with you as the first author if it is indeed a novel way of applying X.
    – dusa
    Sep 19, 2020 at 18:32
  • I don't think I explained well enough and confused myself generalizing. So I have worked with 2 grad students at my old uni. One asked me to do something for him, while reading papers for that, this inspired a whole new idea. I actually did ask him his opinion but he switched to a different research area and left the school.
    – user129686
    Sep 19, 2020 at 21:09
  • I had my idea on X BEFORE the presentation. Yes, some UG are actually good at coming up with ideas - I know how rare it is, but I am an older student. He didn't even know I was pursuing it for my senior thesis. All of the sudden, it seems like he is interested in this area as well.
    – user129686
    Sep 19, 2020 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


No. One of the criteria for a problematic conflict of interest is that the conflicted person has power. The PhD student does not have any power in this situation.

In general, collaboration is good.

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