I am in the USA, admitted to thesis based graduate degree (PhD), but my supervisor has no research paper experience in the area on the research he wants me to do. He did his PhD in something related, then for the last 20 years worked in other areas, and is now coming back to the area of his PhD degree. I am in Electrical Engineering.

Is this advisable to do this? Is this a red flag? Is this like working with a company that is working outside their core competence?

His research is sponsored by companies who will mentor me in these areas as they are paying for the research costs.

  • It is a PhD. Thesis is the purpose of the degree.
    – user4434
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 0:00
  • I don't have a good answer for you, but if you search around this site you will find some other questions/stories about industry based dissertations. Some of them are pretty unhappy, but that is partly the nature of this site.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 0:12
  • I am not so concerned about the industry aspect - most research I find at PhD level and Masters level is sponsored by industry - but more so the professors lack of research papers in this area for the last 20 years as I want to publish in this area.
    – user4434
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


It could be that the advisor remembers the area of research he studied while in graduate school. Then the fact that he has not have a paper in that area for the last 20 years is actually a plus. He might have ideas he has not implemented himself and wants you to implement.

  • 1
    Seems very unlikely.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 0:55
  • @Buffy: Why so? I switched areas 28 years ago, but still can supervise a thesis in the area of my PhD. I know many such people in mathematics. I am pretty sure the situation in EE is the same. In fact I co-supervised an Engineering thesis (about control) while not having an engineering paper at all,
    – markvs
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 1:09
  • Would it be different if it was a Masters vs a PhD ?
    – user4434
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 1:21
  • Supervising a Masters student in.math is much easier. I do not know about EE.
    – markvs
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 1:38
  • I think he came across new funding in this area that was not available before and wanted to make a change.
    – user4434
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 3:28

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