Long story short:

  • Applied for PhD program in 2019
  • Great 2 years
  • Covid happened, post-doc I work under left
  • Had to work under other post doc- didn't get along, work fell behind
  • Tried to switch to another dept PI didn't let me after hearing my issues with the post doc, blamed me for not communicating properly
  • Tried to go behind his back and find another professor to switch to in another dept and well he found out wasn't happy.
  • Now is offering me a masters to get out- don't want to do that I came here for a PhD
  • Trying to find other professor to work under but since my current PI is the dept head no one wants to touch me. Asked vice dean for help- doesn't want to help much either.
  • Thinking about transferring to another PhD program in another school altogether but worried current PI will not agree to this. Do I need his blessings to switch? Will it be difficult to do it without his acceptance? I am also just not interested in the project anymore as well and wanted to go into sleep/pscy studies. And no I do not want to do the masters program here.
  • In the US, nobody can make you stay. Your current institute may well give you the Masters now, particularly if you have passed qualifiers.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 13, 2022 at 13:31
  • Why would a prof have the authority to block another program from accepting you as a student? (if he would write you a nice letter or help you in any way in the process is a different story)
    – xLeitix
    Apr 13, 2022 at 14:55
  • 1
    There is no such thing as "transferring" from one PhD program to another. What you can do is apply to another PhD program and start over again there, though of course what you have learned in your current program will help you make faster progress. Apr 13, 2022 at 16:05
  • 1
    "Now is offering me a masters to get out- don't want to do that I came here for a PhD" - A masters degree is a normal "out" in the US for someone who has completed most of the PhD degree but has not finished a dissertation. As AlexanderWoo mentions, there isn't really a "transfer" process for PhD students outside very special cases; it's not like transferring as an undergrad. You can start a new PhD somewhere else, but why not leave your current one with a masters if that's offered? Otherwise you leave with nothing but an experience.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 13, 2022 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Presumably this is in the US. No one can block you from switching to a different university other than by writing a poor letter of recommendation. Going outside the system to sabotage a student applicant to another university is serious misconduct that few would engage in.

The only issue is whether you can write a good enough application for admission to another program. You probably need letters of recommendation from someone to do that and that may be an issue. But, as you already know, the judgement on admissions is broad based and if you have some research behind you it might be ok.

And the first postdoc might be a source of a LoR.

But getting out (quickly) with a masters as you apply elsewhere might not be a bad thing. It might even make a transfer more possible. If it takes more time to achieve then you might not want to bother, but you could do that and apply elsewhere in parallel.

And, in applying elsewhere, don't focus on (or even mention) the problems you've had. Focus on your skills and likelihood of success in a new program.

  • Thank you for you reply.
    – SaSo
    Apr 13, 2022 at 13:48
  • The thing is they want me to officially sign off on transferring to a master program within their dept and I don't want to do that as it will decrease my chances of transferring (i think). Plus, there seems to be issues with the research because apparently i cant reproduce them??? but someone last year was able to? I just don't wont to get caught in an issue in the future where my data looked fishy. Thats also the reason I also want to leave.
    – SaSo
    Apr 13, 2022 at 13:51
  • 3
    I don't see how it could reduce your chances of transferring. Transferring isn't an admin process, but a new application to a different university.
    – Buffy
    Apr 13, 2022 at 13:52

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