There are a long list of stories about the issues with my PhD supervisor here in Academia.SE (see it here but these are not the only ones). So, I'm not going to repeat why I'm leaving my current research group. Last week, I decided to change my research group after almost 5 years. Despite its painful nature to switch after 5 years of work, I'm really hopeful that I can find a new PhD advisor who help me to finish my thesis and get my degree.

I was in the same situation of switching to a new research group in Fall 2019, but at that time, still I was not 100% confident that I will not be able to get my PhD degree with my current advisor. In fact, in Fall 2019, I left my current research group for a couple of months and searched for a new PhD advisor. The problem was that every time I reached to a professor, even in other departments, my current advisor sent an email to them and recommended them to not accept me as their student. At the end, when I realized that nobody wants to take me as his/her student, my current advisor requested to have a meeting with me and he said that we are in a really good shape in terms of research progress and I will be able to get graduated soon, which didn't happen at all.

Long story short, I reached the end of my capability to work with my current PhD advisor and even I don't want to see him or hear his voice again. I talked to our graduate coordinator in the department and he also said that I should change my research group and he supports my decision.

Tomorrow, I'm going to have a meeting with my current advisor as well as the chair of the department and graduate coordinator. Based on my discussion to our graduate coordinator, this meeting is going to be a formal briefing about what would happen when I switch to another research group. For example, who owns the data and intellectual property that are created during these 5 years, which I don't have any claim and I want to just accept their requests and do whatever they want me to do and just move on. My current concern is that my current advisor wants to repeat the same strategy to prevent other professors to take me as their student and after that again try to force me to back to his group, which even I prefer to switch to master degree but do not continue my PhD with him. I want to ask him politely tomorrow in front of chair of the department and graduate coordinator to stop sending email to prospective advisors that I would contact in the future, but I don't know how to do that. I really appreciate any help or suggestion.

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    One comment here which might be relevant directly but it is interesting: I see that I am targeted for a serial downvoting on my previous questions without any downvote on this one which I'm not sure why?!... Mar 1, 2021 at 20:22
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    Taking what you've written at face value, it seems to me that you should be speaking individually to your graduate coordinator about your concerns over your current advisor possibly blacklisting you with other faculty advisors. Also, if I were one of those others who had previously gotten an email about you from your advisor, I'd probably be a little curious as to why your advisor is keeping you, but this is probably because I don't know the nature of what your advisor has said when talking/emailing those others. Mar 1, 2021 at 20:59
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    OP clearly needs some one-on-one discussion with the ombudsperson or Graduate Coordinator. Any particular reason why this never happened? 5 years is a long time. Mar 1, 2021 at 21:09
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    I'm not sure why he insists to keep a unproductive student like me in his research group --- This, by the way, is roughly what I was thinking of regarding the second sentence of my previous comment. However, I think your current concerns are too tied up with the specific personalities involved and with your specific academic situation for anyone here to be of much help, especially given that the meeting is tomorrow, but I'm definitely interested in what happens tomorrow. Mar 1, 2021 at 21:21
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    @AloneProgrammer I am not blaming you. Just trying to understand what keeps you from having the one-to-one. You need somebody to put their foot down and make clear that decisions are going to be made and that the former supervisor's input has limited scope. This will be more difficult in a meeting with everyone involved than in a one-to-one setting. Mar 1, 2021 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


It’s superbly clear: You are being manipulated by a person who possibly has wasted years of your life. At this point, everything they do must be presumed malicious and intentional. Don’t take any other explanations, that’ll be gaslighting. You have to treat your former advisor like a public enemy #1, and his every action must be from now on interpreted as being on a vendetta against you. Look at the last few years. Has that person ever done anything that actually helped you achieve your goals? Don’t think of positive things they said: have they actually been helpful, in the truest sense of the word? Has their helpfulness been of the genuine kind that helps you make progress in the project, or it was only of a kind to put your mind at ease and dismiss the previous horrible things that person has done? My guess: it’s solid NO, they never helped in the last couple of years, and you’re clearly dealing with a manipulator who has no qualms about anything they did so far.

Don’t ever believe any excuses they may offer to recast their abhorrent behavior in a good light. Remember how you felt through this whole ordeal and what a mess it was because of that person. There is no excuse for their behavior. None whatsoever. They are a lost cause in every sense of the word.

Some of the answers to your other related questions seemed to have been slightly equivocal or giving the whole matter some benefit of the doubt. Having had the dubious pleasure of dealing with people like the one you describe early in my life, all your recollections are stereotypical and there's no doubt in my mind that you have been taken advantage of and have been subject of gross mistreatment. The person you speak of is playing a game that takes cards from the same decks that many other such people use. The game they play is so typical and so highly stylized that it may as well be called chess. You see it once and you can't unsee it, pretty much.

  • Well, it seems he does everything to just keep me in limbo. I'm not sure why he is acting like a piece of shit but even he doesn't respond to our graduate coordinator. Mar 8, 2021 at 22:43
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    This isn't an answer. It is just a rant.
    – Buffy
    Mar 8, 2021 at 22:44
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    @Buffy Perhaps, but how else can one recast what the asker is leaving unsaid? Part of "what do I do now" is understanding the position they are in. Any strategy that would lead to any sort of a positive resolution must be founded on a correct interpretation of what has happened thus far. It is not a complete answer for sure, but it's a piece of a puzzle that the OP IMHO needs to hear. Mar 8, 2021 at 22:50

This is seriously abusive behavior and wouldn't be tolerated if this happened in industry: if your former boss reached out to every prospective employer to keep you from getting hired while trying to get you back, they could expect a lawsuit. I understand there are additional considerations in academia--you don't want to make powerful enemies and ruin your academic career. But I still might consider seeing if you can find a lawyer who will work pro bono and talk to them about your situation. A credible threat of legal action may well stop this (and may light a fire under the administration to curb the prof's bad behavior). To be clear I'm not recommending you rush into this action without carefully weighing all sides of the problem, but it may be worth considering.

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    Hi bob, thanks for the answer. It's almost a year that I got out of academia and have much happier life working in the industry. But +1 cause it might help others to consider all the available options and help them to stop these kind of abusive behaviors. Apr 11, 2022 at 17:20

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