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Summary:

My Ph.D. advisor left my university, but I decided to keep working with him remotely. Now, he does not have time for me, and I feel the only solution is to quit my Ph.D. How difficult will it be to avail of another Ph.D. position?

Background:

I started my Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics in September 2019 from Uni-X under the supervision of Prof-A. I had three other Ph.D. offers at the time, but I chose this Ph.D. because I wanted to work with Prof-A. I was "mad-crazy" to learn a theory, and Prof-A was actively working on this theory.

After two months of my joining Uni-X, Prof-A took a sabbatical leave and went to Uni-Y. However, when the Corona pandemic happened, Prof-A decided that he would permanently leave Uni-X, and he offered me three options

  1. Apply for a Ph.D. position at Uni-Y at work with him
  2. Stay at Uni-X and move to another research group and work with another professor
  3. Stay at Uni-X, move to another research work but remotely keep working with him

I could not choose option (1) because of the pandemic and "no funding" for new professors at Uni-Y. Option (2) was a clear no-go for me because no other group (I repeat, not even one group) was working on theoretical condensed matter physics in Uni-X. Because I was so stubborn to work with Prof-A, I chose option (3) and joined the research group of Prof-B, who is a very good friend of Prof-A. Biggest mistake of my life (so far).

Progress of my Ph.D. and relation with Prof-A and Prof-B has been as follows:

1st year (Sept-2019 to Sept-2020): I was focused on coursework and the Ph.D. qualification exam. I had fortnightly meetings with Prof-A about potential Ph.D. projects. I had very little contact with Prof-B because he didn't care what I was doing.

2nd year (Sept-2020 to Sept-2021): Prof-A and I started working on a project. But he began to give me less and less time. He could arrange only one meeting in one month. Still very little interaction with Prof-B because of the covid pandemic.

3rd year (Sept-2021 to today): I talked with Prof-A and explicitly told him that I needed more time (fortnightly meetings). Things started to change; I felt like my Ph.D. was finally moving. I defended my Ph.D. proposal on 2nd Feb 2022. But right after my proposal, Prof-A again started ghosting me. After the 2nd Feb meeting, I could speak with him in April. Also, I began to meet with Prof-B weekly. I update him on my progress, but unfortunately, he is not very familiar with the mathematical theory we are using, so he always says, "sounds good, keep working!".

Current Condition:

Since Feb 2022, I have been stuck on the second part of the project we started in 2020. I am stuck because I didn't take two courses about a math-heavy theory. Prof-A was the only person in this institute who knew this theory, and he used to teach this. Ever since he left, nobody has been teaching that. I asked Prof-A to help me understand some theoretical points, but he is too busy to help. I asked Prof-B for help, and he said he is not an expert in this field, so he can't help.

I am so burned out because of this Ph.D. I see no one in this institute who can help me; everyone is either an experimentalist or doing computer simulations of some materials. In the whole Physics department, I am the only guy working on theoretical physics. I believe this is the reason why Prof-A left this institute.

I see no future here. But I also don't want just to quit. I want to get a Ph.D. I want to ask a simple question: How difficult would it be to find another Ph.D. if I quit this Ph.D. in 3rd year?

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  • 1
    Part of being a PhD student is learning to pick up things like ‘math-heavy’ theory on their own. Does someone have lecture notes from the course?
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 6 at 14:44
  • 2
    Can you clarify how/if this is different than your question from last year? If so, please edit your question to make the difference clearer, and we can reopen. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/167749/…
    – cag51
    Aug 6 at 16:07

1 Answer 1

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I don't know anything about the educational system in Turkey so this may be useful advice or not.

Moving to a different university may mean moving yourself (and family as well). This puts you back in the situation of option 1, which might still be open to you.

But, in the US, at least, it is possible to move from one program to another. However, it is greatly aided by having a sponsor to ease the way. The best case is when the sponsor is at the university you want to move to, so if you have contacts, exploit them.

But your advisor might serve as a sponsor if they are willing to go to their list of collaborators and contacts to promote your candidacy to another university and, optimally, to an alternate advisor there.

But simply dropping out and making application elsewhere on your own is a much worse scenario.

The alternative is to tough it out where you are. But there is no reason you can't seek help from other people on those mathematical hard bits. There may be a professor at your current institution, possibly in a different department, who can give informal advice. Between you and your advisor you might be able to find a person that can assist remotely.

All options are difficult. You need to choose the least bad option, perhaps.

Good luck.

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