After so many incidents happen that my advisor trying to bad mouthing to my committee, sobstege my publication, secretly removing me from my PhD projects I feel I cannot trust my advisor anymore. Now, I feel everything he said was insincere and full of lie. My advisor always says positive thing but all end up negative. He is not consistent of what he said and what he actually does which disgust me. I don't want to let him handle my manuscript or assign me project because I always fear that he will do something underhanded. If I really grant a PhD from my advisor, I would be ashamed of such lineage. All I want now is live in bubble space undisturbed focusing on my own topics. I want to be myself as a phd student and one day as a professor. What should I do? Please help!


2 Answers 2


Switch advisors. There is really not much else you can do*.

*If the person does something truly unethical and you have definitive proof you can try to bring it up with someone who has more authority.

You say that that isn't an option, and it sounds like you're planning to stick it with this advisor until you get your PhD. Things to think about:

  • Do you think it's realistic to get a PhD at all with this advisor?
  • Are all of his grad students just as miserable, or just you? What are the successful students in his group doing?
  • Who are your letters of recommendation (you need 3, typically) going to be from when you apply for postdocs/jobs after you graduate?

Nuclear options (purely for completeness, I don't recommend them):

  • Apply to a PhD program somewhere else (you don't have to finish this one, you can apply while you're still in this one, actually, and only quit the program if you get accepted somewhere else).
  • Quit academia. (Warning: it's hard to get back in once you're out.)

I am not sure how you define "successful" (fellowship, publication, support)? I know there are people who were quite supported by my advisor because they know what my advisor like, and it's their way to get ahead. That's fine and that should be the norm but I'm not the norm.

Successful means publications (well, that depends on the field), research that is progressing in a clear direction, completion of milestones towards the degree. The advisor having successful students ultimately is measured by how good the jobs the students he graduated got are.

It sounds like he has students that are content to have him as an advisor. It also sounds, from your other question and the comments there that you think that your advisor is incompetent, which means that you don't take him seriously. This creates at least half the problem, because if you don't take him seriously, he won't take you seriously, which, among other things, includes telling his colleagues about how terrible you are, and not trusting you to write a manuscript for submission.

If you're staying in this PhD program with this advisor, you will make your own life a lot easier if you at least imagine that your advisor might not be incompetent. When he gives you an idea for an approach, make an honest effort. If it doesn't work, try to figure out why. If you figure out why, don't look happy about it: look concerned about it. If you have an idea that you think will work, propose it as a solution to this problem you just found. And by "propose" I mean actually ask him for what he thinks about it, and be interested in what he has to say.

This is what "taking him seriously" means. If you start doing that, he might start taking you seriously for a change.

Also try to have insightful research-related conversations with some other faculty (preferably the rest of your committee), maybe even have one or more of them meet with you and your advisor when you discuss research ideas (make sure to plan meetings so that everyone is in the loop, don't try to surprise anyone). Build those professional relationships for some good recommendations.

  • I am too late to switch but I hate where I'm now. If I really get a PhD from my advisor, I will hide my credential and get another one. Now I'm seriously considering getting another phd after this one.
    – user10694
    Feb 22, 2014 at 7:49
  • 1
    "Too late" how? How would switching (and maybe losing a couple of years because you have to re-start the dissertation phase of your PhD with a new advisor) be any better for you than spending more time with this advisor and then spending four or more years at another PhD program? Feb 22, 2014 at 7:53
  • I already talk to higher up and guess what they all sided with my advisor and think I'm ungrateful for his money. I don't want a dime to let my advisor control my thoughts or how I want to do my research because I 'm suppose to be trained to be an independent thinker not a thought follower.
    – user10694
    Feb 22, 2014 at 7:57
  • My advisor have some connection so it's pretty hard to switch, most advisor don't want to get caught in line of fire. You know what I mean.
    – user10694
    Feb 22, 2014 at 8:00
  • 2
    @user10694 - Don't be silly about "lineages," "hiding credentials," and going after another PhD. Your doctorate bears the name of your school, not the name of your advisor. If you finish successfully, consider it a learning experience, and resolve to be a better advisor should you get a job as a faculty member sometime down the road.
    – J.R.
    Feb 22, 2014 at 10:52

When I read your question I must take into account that I am hearing one side of a dispute, so it is likely to be biased and incomplete. I don't know who is in the wrong but I can see a few pointers. Firstly you make very few specific complaints about what your advisor has done. You say he is trying to sabotage your publication and remove you from projects. It is the job of your advisor to decide when your publication is ready. He has much more experience of this than you do. He can see better than you what direction you need to go in.

No advisor takes on a student to sabotage them. An advisor can only have a limited number of students and they want them to succeed. You claim that things he says are insincere which means that he is saying positive things that you will not accept. It sounds like most of the anger is on your side. You even indicate that other students are getting along with him.

If there is a personality or culture clash between you and your supervisor it may be possible to talk to your department head about a change, but it is more likely that you are on a slippery slope towards failure and it would be better that you listen to your advisor who seems to be trying to help you. Put your ego aside and consider the possibility that your advisor who has been working in the field for many more years than you may know it better than you. If you still genuinely think that your ideas are better and you want more independence then you need to discuss this calmly with your advisor. He may agree to let you take that route but that is only likely if you are exceptionaly talented. If he doesn't he should explain why and you need to listen and find a compromise.

One last thing, your English grammar is not very good. I dont know if you are an English speaking native, studying in an English speaking country or writing papers in English, but if any of these are the case then you need to improve your English. It will have a bearing on your ability to communicate with people including your advisor.

  • No advisor takes on a student to sabotage them. I think that's probably true; however, I've known of cases where advisors didn't seem to have a very strong interest in seeing a student succeed after things got underway. Reasons vary.
    – J.R.
    Feb 22, 2014 at 11:03
  • Philip: Hello again. You may want to click on the OP's user page and read some of the other questions: among other things your desire to see more specific complaints will certainly be fulfilled! There is a general pattern of this OP's questions on this site: each of his questions documents an extremely distressing relationship with his advisor. When you read any one or two questions you think "Wow, that's terrible. I need to suggest that the OP (i) talk long and seriously with his advisor and/or (ii) find a new advisor." Feb 22, 2014 at 18:28
  • But the OP almost never directly responds to these suggestions: instead the horror stories continue. It gets frustrating after a while. At this point I am not sure what more we can do to help. Finally, I think it is overwhelmingly likely that the OP is not a native English speaker. (Based on past experience I will guess that he comes from Asia.) I had also assumed that he was doing a graduate program in Asia (or wherever he's from), but if he's not then you're quite right: a language barrier may be the ultimate culprit of many of his issues. Thanks for pointing that out. Feb 22, 2014 at 18:32
  • @PeteL.Clark I live in Taiwan and a native Chinese speaker. The OP's English does not look like Chinese English. I am not sure whether he is from Asia. Asians typically dare not complain about their advisors that much on English based network such as us.
    – Nobody
    Feb 23, 2014 at 8:06
  • @scaaahu: OK. Maybe I should not have played "guess the OP's nationality". It is quite clear to me that he is not a native English speaker, and thus if his graduate program is in (e.g.) the US then language issues may apply. Feb 23, 2014 at 16:59

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