I am a PhD student and my masters advisor is not replying to my emails. Why is he not replying?

When I was in the masters program he and I published a paper on a big journal. I am the first author. This has been cited ~100 times now.

About a year ago another researcher published a commentary article about our paper on the same journal. Since then I worked on a reply, and sent the full draft to my former advisor (coauthor of the original article) asking for review.

He has not replied so far, even though I reached out to him multiple times. As a last resort I informed him if you don’t reply by this deadline I will just submit this on my own. The deadline is approaching soon.

I don’t think I will get a reply. My question is, why would he do this?

  • 1
    @Buffy A year, the same timeframe since the commentary got published.
    – user161050
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 19:08
  • 3
    Maybe he or a family member is ill? Are there third-parties you can contact him through or find out information from, like a current student you know, someone in leadership in his department, a mutual friend or colleague?
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 19:14
  • 13
    At the risk of stating the obvious: Pick up the phone and call him? If he can't answer, you call will likely be rerouted to his department's office, who will be able to tell you what's wrong or when and how to reach him.
    – Heinzi
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 6:15
  • 2
    I knew someone who got fed up with academic life, withdrew from it entirely, and took up farming. Anything is possible. Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 0:20
  • 1
    Calling or emailing his department should at the least be able to tell you if he's still around and ignoring you or else on sabbatical, retired, indefinitely away to deal with a family situation, etc. For what it's worth, I had similar situation with a professor I had worked with, and after a couple of months of trying to contact him, found out he had unfortunately died of covid in the interim.
    – anomaly
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 11:58

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of possibilities, including retirement, new job, and death. It is even possible that your emails are going to spam if their mailer doesn't recognize your (presumably new) email address.

I suggest that you try to contact him indirectly through the department in which he works/worked or another third party known to both of you. The head of department might have something to say. Most people will reply to (correct) emails if they are able, if only to say they aren't interested or able.

But an administration office is almost certain to reply with something useful. And they are also likely to give the person a nudge if it is feasible.

  • 1
    Right! And it would certainly be best to get some response/opinion/edits from your ex-advisor, rather than either put their name on something they've not endorsed, or omit their name from something relevant to their professional practice... Yes, it is awkward to not get any response, but I think you have a serious obligation to pursue things until you get some response. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 20:55
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    Important messages need to go out over a more reliable channel in than just email. It happens sometimes that some domains block other domains so that your email is not even making it to the other person's junk folder. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 23:15
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    If possible (like a 2h drive), you might even want to go there in person.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 7:39
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    @RadioControlled It is not about blame, it is how to get the best response and avoid any akward situation.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 10:38
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    @RadioControlled of course the OP owes their coauthor and mentor their serious effort at trying to reach them, and replying solo to the commentary is simply the wrong thing to do until those efforts have been made. A few emails hardly constitutes a serious effort. Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 13:43

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