I am a first year CHEME PhD student and I’d appreciate some feedback on my situation. I recently developed a hypothesis and a concrete potential project. My advisor was also very excited about the possibilities it held. It went to the extent that we reached and got new collaborators to do calculations. We also wrote proposals that granted us free access to a National Lab. As such, I was poised to begin the project and had an extensive experimental plan charted out. (I know these plans are doomed to fail as they often are, but the preliminary results are very encouraging)

However, recently out of nowhere, the advisor has reassigned the project to a new postdoc who only just joined the lab, stating that this work will be his warm up project and that I will no longer be involved in this project. To the best of my knowledge, I have not conducted myself in a way that would offend her personally, nor have I done my recent experiments (I am currently handling one other project besides this and we are wrapping up some final tests on it before publishing) in a way that would convey an impression of being truant or insincere. So, this comes as a big blow to me.

Not only will the time and effort I invested into developing this hypothesis be a waste, all the efforts I put into arranging these proposals and collaborations will also be useless. I will find myself in a situation where I will need to spend more time on a fresh hypothesis while my peers are all sorted and moving forward with their original hypotheses and projects while I stand empty handed.

This is quite embarrassing. Please share your thoughts on this. Am I taking this too personally out of sentiment I have for my potential first work? I will be having a talk with my PI to clear the air about this shortly. Should I take the chance to talk about my grievances or will it potentially sever my professional relationship with her? Really confused as this was done suddenly and I am getting the wind of this. Please help.

  • 1
    Who originated the idea for the project?
    – Buffy
    Aug 7, 2021 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


If your relationship with your supervisor is otherwise good, I suggest waiting a few days until you have calmed down to some extent. Once you have "cooled down", ask for a meeting where you ask for feedback from your advisor.

Ask why you were "relieved" of your duty, explain your investment and that you had expectations that this would develop further; ask whether they had different or higher expectations and what you could have done to avoid it (and what you can do to avoid that in the future).

See how they answer. If they give good reasoning, you now know where you stand and how you can change things going forward. If they don't, it's not too late to switch supervisors and you should seriously contemplate this if you do not get any clear communication/guarantees that this will not happen in the future again.

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    The suggested "cool-down" period could also work against OP. The advisor might say things like "so sorry, the post-doc has now already started the work" and "it looked as if you were OK with it". I would act as soon as possible. Aug 7, 2021 at 15:48
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    @lighthousekeeper OP should go into the conversation with some minimal self-control regained, as in an high-emotion conversation anything could happen. I think that particular project's ship has either sailed completely (in terms of the advisor's decision) or hasn't not gone very far (scientifically) - a few days are unlikely to make much difference. Aug 7, 2021 at 16:03
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    @CaptainEmacs and others, thanks for the thoughts. As per your suggestion, I have regained a modicum of restraint and have requested my PI for a one-on-one meeting at the earliest to discuss my grievances. Aug 7, 2021 at 21:41

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