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By realistic I mean - has no funding for suggested research, has no equipment for said research and because of all of this your program turns out to be 2x longer than the university advertises it to be. I just wonder - is this normal?

Also please consider their side of the story as well; maybe they thought they would receive funding, maybe they thought equipment would arrive faster, or that there would be other options available, etc.

Does this make them a poor advisor? Is this normal to hire students like this?

Edit: I’ll try to provide a bit of context but I’ll try to keep it short. My supervisor forced me out of his lab 4 months ago . It was such a traumatic experience for me that I’m going through therapy right now and knowing it wasn’t 100% my fault helps me deal with my feelings and trauma. Looking for someone to just say: hey maybe this wasn’t exactly how PhD studies should go. trust me it will help me in my heeling process . That’s all I’m looking for.

He hired me as a student but had no funded projects at the time. He proposed some project which he said he intended on applying for funding some months after I started. Well long story short he didn’t. Never communicated anything with me either, I ended up presenting this said project to the university, my committee , pretty much everyone who was part of my training. It wasn’t possible to work on this project without the funding. Almost 2 semesters after I started he changed it and gave me a different project, one which we didn’t have any equipment for. He constantly had excuses as to why he couldn’t order the equipment: he didn’t have time, he thought there were options available, not having the equipment wasn’t a big issue (but we needed it for the project to run), not high enough on his priority list, etc, etc. Eventually 5 semesters into the program we started collecting data, but by this time he had lied to me multiple times (for example he said equipment was ordered when it wasn’t),he lied to my committee what I was working on (his said that he had intended on having me work on the stuff he told my committee but he just didn’t have time to explain to me what exactly the work entailed), I have many other examples of other things that he too intentionally or not lied about.

I have been told I’m prone to easily being gaslit. I genuinely still don’t know if all stuff he told me is just one bad coincidence after another or whether he just didn’t care for getting me through the PhD program.

I was in the program for about a year when I was getting extremely anxious about the whole thing. It was a 3yr program and he constantly made excuses as to why he couldn’t get to the papers I submitted to him (I wanted feedback), he had excuses why he let me work on some old data but didn’t have time to send me the full dataset, he had excuses why when I’d go on a short holiday he would schedule multiple workshops with the rest of the lab to teach them about the methods we use (it was a new lab and we were all new), he had excuses why the other PhD student in my lab needed 2-3x meetings with him a week and why she needed to receive all our lab projects (not just the ones going into her thesis but ALL other projects as well). Somehow he had time to provide her with feedback on her papers. I first worked on a project that had no funding then worked on a project with no equipment, which I couldn’t move forward. He asked me to stay home and read literature while we waited for approval and funding. He told me if I so wanted to also learn some of the methods to come to the university after hours so that I don’t disturb the other students when they need to use the computers with the software we use in the lab. He sent a mail to everyone in the lab to tell them that I had least priority to the computers. But it wasn’t just that - our staff also worked during office hours so the lab members had access to the staff if they had any quick questions. He too drove to the university to provide support. But I worked 5-midnight so none of that was available to me. All this put a huge strain on our relationship. We didn’t trust each other. Eventually (at the 1.5yr mark with no data) he came to meetings and completely ignored me. We constantly fought because I felt like I had nothing to discuss with him during meetings , obv with no data I couldn’t show him anything. I felt isolated the way I worked. I felt helpless. I felt like he didn’t care. After a year and a half when finally all funding had come in and equipment was purchased and arrived, he let me go through 2 data collection days and told me to leave. The project is projected to last another 4 years which fits perfectly with the timeframe of a new student in the lab. The project is in collaboration with 4 other universities , all of which started recruiting PhD students now. Not 2 years ago.

People often ask me if I had any differences in demographics compared to the rest of the lab. Yes, I do. I don’t know whether that had anything to do with the situation or not. Part of me feels like not really, it’s just an unfortunate situation but the other part of me feels like - if it was indeed an unfortunate situation instead of providing side projects to the other PhD student in the lab maybe he could have provided me with a single funded project? I don’t know.

I had a scholarship and was satisfying all program reqs up to that point.

Again, looking for some - this doesn’t sound fully normal. Or it does. Looking for a bit of comfort, I guess. I’m sorry for the long post.

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  • You've done an excellent job of adding important details and clarifying your question; thank you!
    – uhoh
    Jun 12 at 8:04
  • 1
    It sounds like you had a very difficult experience and it was not normal at all. To enable people to give useful answers, some parts of your answer would benefit from clarification ...
    – Oliver882
    Jun 12 at 8:23
  • 1
    ... "he came to meetings and completely ignored me" Do you mean meetings with just the two of you? He just sat there and literally ignored you? If it was a bigger group, do you mean you said things and he literally ignored them, as though you weren't there? "I have many other examples of other things that he too intentionally or not lied about." The phrase "too intentionally" doesn't make sense, and If it wasn't intentional, it wasn't lying.
    – Oliver882
    Jun 12 at 8:23
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    I added an answer, I hope you'll find it helpful. Still, I would be remiss if I didn't suggest that you edit your question. You did a good job lengthening it to provide enough detail for people to answer. But now it's a little too far in the other direction -- if you can reduce the length by half while keeping most of the "concrete" details, you'll probably get some better answers.
    – cag51
    Jun 12 at 8:25
  • @Oliver882 I think "other things that he too intentionally or not lied about" was intended to mean "other things that he also lied about, whether intentionally or not." Jun 13 at 4:57

1 Answer 1

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hey maybe this wasn’t exactly how PhD studies should go. trust me it will help me in my heeling process. That’s all I’m looking for.... But I worked 5-midnight so none of that was available to me.

This is definitely not how PhD studies should go. It's true that there is some uncertainty with hiring -- it's tricky to hire late enough that we're reasonably sure that the contract will be signed, but early enough that the staff can hit the ground running once the contract is in place. But when we end up with someone in your situation, the solution is to find something else useful for you to work on in the interim. This "useful" thing might not be our top priority, so if computers are limited, I could understand limiting your access. But having you work 5-midnight on an ongoing basis, and deliberately scheduling team events when you can't attend, is neither normal nor appropriate.

he let me go through 2 data collection days and told me to leave.

As an outsider, it is very difficult to guess what was really going on here. I won't hazard a guess, though given his erratic behavior up until this point (and your apparent willingness to try to make this work despite his outrageous behavior), I am inclined to say that this is about him, not about you.

The project is in collaboration with 4 other universities , all of which started recruiting PhD students now. Not 2 years ago.

Yes, sounds like he jumped the gun here. I wonder if he had another project in mind (which didn't get funded), or if he thought this contract would go through much faster than it did. Either way, the fact that the senior colleagues started hiring so much later is good evidence that your advisor's judgment is not sound.

People often ask me if I had any differences in demographics compared to the rest of the lab. Yes, I do.

Hard to say. I'd hate to assume this was the reason, but it is hard to imagine why else he (apparently) treated you so much worse than everyone else. I suppose it could be about the timing, or a bad first impression, or some other factor. But, from the information you've presented, I certainly don't see anything you could have done differently (except perhaps leaving sooner!). One way or the other, I hope you put this behind you and find a better outcome.

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  • I don’t know if it was deliberate or not. It’s just a bit strange to me that he decided to schedule 3 different workshops because he ‘rushed to do it before the interns had to leave’. That’s what he said during the lab meeting when he said they had 3 different workshops the week I was gone. But one of the workshops was also recorded for the one intern that couldn’t make it - so it tells me that that intern either knew about the workshops and asked for the recording or didn’t and he did it from the goodness of his heart. I wasn’t invited to any and the recording was in a different language.
    – JK110
    Jun 12 at 8:37
  • Thank you a lot! It means a lot!
    – JK110
    Jun 12 at 8:38
  • Happy to help. Though your mention of "a different language" is interesting. Doesn't change anything I wrote, but it did jump out to me because we have had some past questions on this site where English-speaking students studied in non-Western countries; some cases went fine, but others encountered some difficulties and reported being treated quite differently from the domestic students.
    – cag51
    Jun 12 at 8:49
  • Anecdotally from what I see is that many of the English students have some sort of issues with their supervisors. We were 4 English students In the entire department. The only one that I know that doesn’t, her supervisor speaks the local language but is not from the country where we studied. The other one had a similar situation to mine with her first supervisor (although her first supervisor was very well known for being racist there’s even articles on the internet about that guy , I’m surprised she didn’t Google it). The 4th one just started, she’s still new although I heard
    – JK110
    Jun 12 at 11:47
  • Her supervisor was upset with her because she would show up late to the lab for a month after her dad passed away. I’m not sure my supervisor is like the rest of them but statistically if I look at it, it’s mostly English students having some sort of the problems I described. Also - I know that at some point I really couldn’t take it anymore - the isolation, the consistent ‘I don’t have time (to look at papers or go over methods with me)’ and I started questioning him so I know I have a part in how it ended but what I described in my post mostly happened before I ever said anything.
    – JK110
    Jun 12 at 11:50

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