3

I am a 3rd year physics PhD doing high energy theory.

This field has two large communities -- phenomenology and formal theory. I am interested in formal theories.

Faculties hired with either background join the theory direction of the department. Not until I had already fixed my advisor, I found out he mainly does phenomenology, which requires simulation more than derivation and math.

My advisor asked me to join some projects, without asking me if I am interested. Most recently, even though he asked me if I am interested, he did not understand my tactful refusal.

We talk every several months about my career. He believes that doing simulation for phenomenology is the only path to success (that is being hired eventually). However, I am extremely not interested in this path, and would rather quit academia if I would have to do simulation.

As I said, my advisor mainly does phenomenology, but not completely. He is able to give me theory projects, but not willing to do so. When I tell him I wish to do a certain theory topic, he asks me to look for questions myself and eventually discourages me out of it.

I am extremely discouraged and spend most of my time arguing with him virtually in my head.

Should I explicitly tell him I don't like the future he plans for me? I tried several times with tactful wording. He couldn't get my point and ended up persuading me harder and harsher.

6

You should clearly and explicitly state to your supervisor what you want to work on, and realise that this may not be possible in their team.

Once your supervisor knows what you want, they may be able to help you find a different supervisor to collaborate with during the remainder of your PhD, if the proposed research is not possible in your current group.

Of course, there is the possibility that your supervisor is right: maybe the theoretical problems you are proposing to work on are not publishable, or too difficult to complete during the time you have. This is something you can talk about with them. Maybe it is possible to work on your topic of interest, if you can convince them that it can be completed in time, that it is publishable, and preferably related to the current research topics of the team.

1
  • Thank you for the suggestions!
    – ParlorPink
    May 20 at 16:55
3

I think you have three options. Any of these might work for you as they have for others, though they aren't equal in effect.

The first is to go along with your advisor's advice. I can't judge it, but whether it is good or bad, it might get you to your degree quickly and you could then move in a more theoretical direction later, once you have established yourself.

The second is to tell him directly of your desires. Perhaps they will support you, but maybe not and, worst case, they might drop you. Bad, but not the end of the world if you can find a different advisor, even at a different institution. Loss of time, perhaps.

Third, you could just drop the advisor proactively and find someone else, perhaps at a different institution. Hard, but do-able.

But what should not be an option is to silently try to subvert them and just stumble between worlds. That will probably lead to no good result. You need to get to a stable position, whatever it is.

1
  • Thank you for the suggestions!
    – ParlorPink
    May 20 at 16:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.