I started my Ph.D. in September 2019 from University-X under the supervision of Prof-A. The sole reason for me to start a Ph.D. under the supervision of this professor was that I was (still am) very excited to work in this research field.

In August 2019, when I had rejected all the other Ph.D. offers, Prof-A told me that he's planning to leave University-X in June 2020. He said he's not sure if he will leave or not, but he's just planning. He said that even if he leaves University-X, we will find a way to work together. I decided to join University-X because I really wanted to work with this professor, and also I thought maybe Prof-A will not leave this university.

In December 2019, Prof-A went to another university on sabbatical. In March (or April) 2020, he told me that there is a good chance that he will not come back to University-X. He gave me three choices,

  1. I find any other supervisor at University-X
  2. I work with him remotely (Skype/Zoom)
  3. I apply for any other Ph.D. position (including to his new university)

Option (1) is a clear no-go zone for me because there is no one else working on something related to my interests. I didn't choose Option (3) because I didn't want to leave this professor given that I had Option (2). I tried to find funding for a Ph.D. position at his new university but we couldn't find any appropriate source. All in all, Prof-A and I talked with another professor (Prof-B) at University-X and told him to take me as his student in official papers, however, my research supervisor will be Prof-A. Now, I am an official student of Prof-B but I do research under the supervision of Prof-A. (Pretty messed up!)

For the one last year, I am working remotely with Prof-A. We used to have one Skype meeting every 2 weeks until December 2020. Then I went on vacation for one month (yearly leave). Since my return in January 2021, I had only two meetings with Prof-A. The last meeting was on 19 March 2021. My work is completely stopped. I sent him some results but no reply to my emails. I am not able to find any help from any other professor at this university. I feel like I am just wasting my time here.

In my perspective, this guy, Prof-A is a really very nice person but I guess he's just too busy with his own projects and students at his new university. I don't blame him for anything

Now, finally, I am planning to leave this university and this professor, and search for another Ph.D. position. Is it a good plan? If yes, how should I tell everything to Prof-A and Prof-B? Of course, I will need recommendation letters from Prof-A and Prof-B. Also, I will have to give a justification for leaving this Ph.D. to find a new Ph.D. How should I write all this in my motivation letter/SOP for a new Ph.D.? Is it even possible to find a new Ph.D. after leaving one? Is not it a very bad point that the student could not complete what he was offered? I am so much confused.

(I am 27Y old now. My father really wanted me to get my Ph.D. before my 30, but I think now that's not possible.)


After @Lewian answer, I sent another email to Prof-A asking for more time. He said that he's willing to give more time but it's just that he's currently very busy with his kids (due to covid, schools are giving online classes and Prof-A helps his kids), and the new research projects that he started at his new University. It has been two weeks since I got this reply from him. And 3 months since I got any comments about my research update. The more days are passing, the more I am disliking myself and this University-X. I am expected to defend my PhD proposal by the end of this Summer semester (July 2021). I have put everything together, but I am not sure if the things that I am proposing are worth trying or doable.

(my field of study is theoretical/computational condensed matter physics. my focus is on transport properties of exotic magnetic phases)

  • 1
    Did you explicitly tell your Prof-A that you need more meetings and feel stuck? Why is your "work completely stopped"? Don't you have anything reasonable to do without regular input from your professor? Working on a PhD requires some ability to work independently. Commented May 17, 2021 at 9:23
  • @Lewian No. I have not told him explicitly that I need more meetings. However, I have told him that I feel like I'm going very slow and that it works great with me if I get time to time assurance that I am going in the right direction. Yes, I've started a new project all by myself, but I am not sure if I am going in the right direction or not. I am not sure if the idea is worth trying or not, I had plans to discuss it but I don't get more time with Prof-A. Commented May 17, 2021 at 12:06
  • What field is this. In some, option 2 is fine. In others, not so much.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 15:12
  • Regarding your final sentence, what do you want to do?
    – shoover
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 17:38
  • So is there a weekly meeting on the calendar with the professor or not? He said he was willing... did you get it booked? Did you suggest dates/times and ask which is best for him?
    – Dawn
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


I suggest first to ask your Prof-A explicitly for more meetings, particularly also for a time and date for the next one at the end of the previous meeting. Maybe Prof-A doesn't realise that you are in some kind of "crisis". You should also tell them clearly that you feel stuck and that something needs to happen to get you back on track. All else I'd let depend on how that goes.

As a supervisor I'll normally do meetings with students when they ask. If I haven't heard from them for some time I will try to find out what's going on, however professors are usually busy and may not necessarily chase up students who don't care for themselves. Your Prof-A may just believe, somewhat conveniently for them, that all is fine, unless you tell them explicitly otherwise.

  • 1
    I agree with this answer, and I'd even suggest asking Prof. A to set up a regularly scheduled skype/zoom meeting (rather than scheduling everything one meeting at a time). I usually meet with my Ph.D. students once a week unless there's a specific reason not to. You might not need to meet that often, but try to set up regular meetings at a reasonable frequency. Commented May 17, 2021 at 16:37
  • Thank you for your time. I will talk with my professor explicitly and see how things unfold Commented May 18, 2021 at 14:25
  • @Lewian I have written the update of my problem in question. Could you please have a look at it and give your suggestions what should I do? Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 21:06
  • Have you explicitly asked for a meeting (maybe even regular ones as suggested in another comment)? Have you explicitly told him that you feel that you are stuck and need some input and feedback urgently? Obviously sending emails back and forth isn't any good as long as you don't fix a meeting, so you have to write your email in such a way that this happens. You can even propose a meeting time (or better, a range of possible meeting times) and see what he says. Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 8:41

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