I'm a Master's student that has recently been persuaded into transitioning into the PhD program.

I have been at this lab for a year and enjoyed the work I'm doing. I was scared of the pressure of trying to get an academia job and thought I'd work for a few years after Master's and have an idea of how real life is like before considering doing a PhD. I also felt like I could aim for a "better" lab at a more prestigious school than my own (50-150 on world rankings) and possibly a more hands-on supervisor as I feel like I'm on my own sometimes.

My supervisor is a nice guy and very hands-off. We have weekly group meetings where we tell him what we did and he makes comments and suggests things to try for next step. I could just tell him I didn't do much that week too if I had to. We had two PhDs & a part-time post doc where I was going to frequently for help. Both the PhDs graduated and left the lab recently.

Above was the background. My supervisor asked me late last year if I wanted to do a direct PhD instead of finishing my Master's. I said no because I wanted to try working in another country after graduating. He came back after a while saying he could support me on an internship at the country for 9 months if I did a PhD, so I took the offer because I can both do research (which I enjoy) and live in the said country with the option of moving back to my current country stay opened.

I was happy with this decision until a recent talk with some previous/recent graduates from my lab. While nobody said anything bad about my supervisor, their experiences confirmed that he's very forgetful and does not really lookout for the students because he's too busy. The students had to plan for themselves and sometimes push the supervisor in a certain direction that helps themselves. He seems more concerned with grants and his work than what the student wants to do. He is open to negotiations and does help whenever I ask for it.

I still stand with my decision to do a PhD because nothing is perfect and I don't get the internship opportunity with every professor. But I'd like to get some outside opinion on this, with the question being - how much am I missing out by staying with a supervisor that is more concerned with his success than mine but still provides assistance when I ask for it (given that I wouldn't always know exactly what to ask for)? He feels more like a senior colleague than a mentor, which I don't know if it's a bad thing.

  • 3
    There are many types of supervisors, but what you write about yours seems pretty normal to me and for sure not particularly bad. In many places PhD students are expected to work quite independently. I'd even think if you look at higher ranked schools that on average they expect more independence and have more supervisors that don't have much time (as high ranks are achieved by other things than using much of your time for your PhD students). May 21 at 21:17
  • "staying with a supervisor that is more concerned with his success than mine " you are incredibly lucky, you will have a supervisor that is not only concerned with his success. Even setting up PhDs for a professorship in highly ranked university is a goal for many supervisors, with the only goal being that they can say "I put my students in a chair in a highly ranked uni". Never understimate how selfish is the human nature, especially if "hardened" after a couple of grants/academic panel review ...
    – EarlGrey
    May 21 at 23:20
  • If you are second guessing, do not do it. It is a very hard job,
    – markvs
    May 22 at 5:53


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .