I'm in the middle of a complicated situation, and I'm wondering whether this is commonplace in academia.

Long story short: I'm an international student, and I recently completed my master's degree in CS. I had been working with one adviser (Prof A), I completed my course work in December, but since Prof A couldn't find worthy candidates to fill my place, Prof A told me that if I assist her with her research projects for one more semester, she will help me find a job. Fast forward two months, she told me in a meeting that she tried to help but she can't and that I should look for a job on my own. I recently asked if I could pursue a PhD in her lab. She said no, as she has no funding. I've successfully applied to a different lab (Prof B), only to find out that all professors are provided funding for first-year graduate students. Why would she lie about this? Is this normal?

The situation has since developed that I've been able to play my acceptance to Prof B's lab off of Prof A, and she was very happy to take me on now that I'm working on B's research; she clearly hopes to get research funding out of this new-found collaboration. This seems incredibly callous to me; she clearly has no interest in my situation, and simply wants more grant money. Is this normal behavior for academics? I was on the edge of being deported, and she clearly could not care less about my personal situation, only for her research money. Are all academics this callous?

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    Calm. Even if other people are behaving dishonestly and/or childishly, you should restrain yourself from responding in that fashion. Don't "engage" on those terms. Professors should take care for the scholastic welfare of students, not exploit them, certainly, and if they fail, then there is no dishonor in your taking your own welfare into your own hands. Don't apologize to someone who has proven their disinterest in your welfare. Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 2:39
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    Should i tell my advisor sorry?NO! You have nothing to aoplogize for.
    – JeffE
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 3:32
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    By the way, the existence of departmental funding for first-year graduate students does not indicate that your advisor was lying about funding, since you need a lot more than one year of funding to complete a Ph.D. It would be irresponsible for her to take on another student without a reliable plan for securing funding for the rest of their studies. Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 16:01
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    @eykanal the initial question was basically "this is my situation, what should I do now." What it is now, is "this was my situation, this is the action I took, this is the result, now please explain the psychology behind my advisor's actions." Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 16:35
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    @eykanal I know, I saw the history. I think that instead of letting the edit go through as a moderator you should have educated Boneck35 on proper SE etiquette, e.g. not completely changing a question by editing it a day after it has been asked. When new information turns up and created new related questions, it's ok to post new questions and link to old ones for context. It's up to you and the other mods how to run things here, but it just looked like you encouraged that change, which is unusual to me. Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


So essentially, what you need is someone to take you on as a PhD. It looks like your current advisor just isn't interested in having you be her PhD student. This other professor is interested in having you as a PhD student, but you aren't interested in his research.

It sounds like neither of these is an option for doing a PhD. This means that you need to find someone else to be your advisor. Think about who else is in your department.

Other than that, your only choices are probably to find a job or leave the country.

(I'm not mentioning trying to apply to another university because I think admission season is almost over for most, but there might be some places still accepting applications.)

Post-edit things:

Why would she lie about this? Is this normal?

First of all, you don't know if she lied. You have no idea under what constraints she operates. Yes, you've been told first-years get funding, but a PhD is more than a year, so what is she supposed to do with you after that, if she really doesn't have funding? That would have been worse, spending a year working for her and then being deported, don't you think?

Secondly, if she did lie, she might have done it because she doesn't tell you what's really preventing her from taking you on. What if you're not as good a researcher as you think you are and she doesn't want you working on her project? What if she got funding from a grant that requires the participants to be citizens, and she's trying to get another student, who actually qualified for it, to join her? There are lots of possibilities.

Is it normal? Academics aren't special. People lie. I lie sometimes. I'm sure you lie sometimes. Lying is as normal in academia as it is anywhere else.

Honestly, the above answers the rest of your question too. You assume you know her situation and motivations when the fact is that you don't. You conclude that she's callous---maybe she is, maybe she isn't---again, sometimes you're going to run into a callous person, might even get (un)lucky and stumble upon a sociopath, that's just the risk you run when interacting with people. Nothing special about academia there either.

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    I can't get over the irony of someone named "trutheality" ("truth" + "reality") admitting to lying sometimes. Still, this is a good answer, so +1
    – ArnoldF
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 2:28

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