I have graduated last year and I sent my advisor the last manuscripts (In last May, which was actually the fourth revised version) to my advisor to review for journal publishing. She gave me the feedback in August, when I was also busy with finding a job. But still, I tried to give her feedback in around two weeks, by sacrificing my rest time, just because I want to get it done soon so that I don't need to work with her anymore.

But then, she did reply to me after a long time. Actually, I knew at that time she was working on another manuscript (not mine). That's understandable. I obviously won't ask her to put my work as her first priority. Then in November, she suddenly sent me an email (which she also sent to my new email address from my new workplace --- another university where I am a postdoc). At that time, I had just moved from the old place to a new place (different state). I needed to unpack things, buy new stuff, organize the home, and also my new boss asked me to write some proposal. I was crazy busy at that time, so I told her that I am currently busy. I cannot complete it very soon. Then she started sending emails to me every day. In ten-days! to both old and new emails!

I just ignored it and did the revising when I had free time on the Thanksgiving holiday. I finished all the revising (she always has a lot of comments, tons of comments... takes really long time to revise). Then she disappeared again. She did not reply to me in December, January, and February... I asked her when will she be available to review my work. She said she will do that soon. But then no feedback.

Then until now, at the end of June, she finally starts to work on it. She sends me the first part to revise and asked me to revise the figures. There are about 10 comments on one page! And she told me she hopes to submit it at the end of July, which is in three weeks! After six months when I almost forget all the details of my work and I need to reread and re-remember everything!!!

I would be very very very happy to get it done and submit it in July, but I am a human, not a robot! I have also a lot of postdoc work. And I have another two projects in my previous school with other professors, which was also needed to be done in the summer as we planned.

The thing that upsets me most is that she can decide if she wants to work on my paper or not. She never considers if I am busy if I have other schedules or at least asks me what my plans are or targeted reasonable submitting time. She can just ignore my work for six months, but now suddenly she asks me to finish it in 3 weeks without being paid by her???

I was not paid by her actually from the last whole year of my Ph.D.!

Everyone in our lab/department knows that it is hard to work with her as her student. she is kind to other people's students, but not to hers.

I don't know how to reply to her email now. If I just say okay, I will revise them soon. Then she just takes it for granted. Actually, I will need to work 7days a week for the whole month if I have to finish all the things. If I mentioned this to her, she will also be upset. She never feels sorry about asking her students to do things that are unreasonable.

BTW, I am a girl too. I know only one of our masters ( a boy) knows to say no firmly to her. And it still does not work.

  • I think everyone will agree that this situation is not fair to you. However, I don't see a question here, either. What are you asking?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 1, 2021 at 4:43
  • 2
    "she will also be upset." who cares.
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 1, 2021 at 6:46

1 Answer 1


Send a polite, concise, short mail to your former advisor, asking if she agrees in submitting the paper in one month time.

Whatever she answers, submit it as it is, without her if she did not agree, with her if she agreed (but without waiting for further comments).

Do not worry about your professional relation or burning bridges with your former advisors: you are doing a PostDoc, it is unlikely she will end up being a reviewer of a proposal of yours (since you have a past connection) and she will think anyhow you are a pain in the neck because it is taking you so long to finalize the paper from your thesis (do not take it as a moral judgement from my side, I am just reporting how selfish advisors are seeing their PhDs ... it is almost funny. Almost).

So it is the time of playing nice, but with yourself only.

  • Side note: you do not need to take into account all the comments she gave. You are the main author, it is up to you to decide and comment. "I can't include this comment because of lack of time" is a perfectly fine counter-argument, among responsible persons, but with a selfish advisor there are no reasonable counter-argument, just give the less time-consuming argument for you and don't bother about her answer. If her contributions were very important, but she does not want to be a co-author, there is the acknowledgment section.
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 1, 2021 at 7:03
  • And do not even think about keeping her good for reference letters&co: given how much she cares about your time and how much she valued your work (no pay for one year), she will not spend more than 5 minutes writing it, probably hinting at your defects (because she is clearly one of those objective, neutral advisors striving for excellence in science, ignoring the fact that scientists have this defect of being persons, such an unlucky occurence). A reference letter from any of your current colleague would be much more relevant.
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 1, 2021 at 7:08

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