So I'm a MS student in Computer Engineering just doing a capstone project as one of my requirements for graduation.

My advisor had been nice and assigned me a partner to work on the project. However, the partner just did many rude things to me so I told my advisor that I want to leave the team and work on my own. He agreed, saying that's understandable.

But after a few weeks, I couldn't get much work done on my project because I've been so busy with other things. Then I noticed my advisor kicked me out of our lab Slack channel (I was deactivated). I met up with him once just to update my progress, and to me he seemed mad/annoyed. I'm not sure if he was actually thinking that way because I think many professors are just not good at communicating or busy.

I felt scared so I thought I'd just only communicate with him when I have made presentable results. At the end of this quarter, I show him my finished project, and he hasn't responded. I need his signature to graduate. Do I read this as my advisor being mad at me for not making progress in the beginning and for not getting along with a team member (who was good at making himself look like a good student, and he was close to my advisor so I'm wondering maybe he made-up some rumors about me) and he just decided to cut me off?

I don't think he'd cut me off without telling me since I have an expensive equipment from his lab. I sent him an email asking for a sign to approve my project and I need this to graduate but he didn't reply and the form deadline has passed but the office gave me an extension. He's still a young assistant prof but his lab has published many papers, and he usually replies to email super quick. Do I see this as him disliking me or is he just busy? And does it happen often to not let a MS student graduate?

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    If your advisor was mad at you for some reason, refusing to communicate with you would be a very childish way of expressing this (much like, you know, writing a fake RateMyProfessor review for someone you've never met in response to getting feedback on this site that rubbed you the wrong way). Unless you have reason to believe that your advisor is a particularly petulant person, probably there is no need to imagine catastrophic scenarios. The simplest explanation, namely that he just hasn't gotten arond to reading your project or responding to you yet, is probably the correct one. Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 23:20
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    I don't think it's reasonable to jump from "he didn't add me back to Slack" to "he doesn't want to advise me". Normal (i.e. not passive-aggressive) advisors do not engage in sending veiled hints to their students in this way. I think the reasonable way to respond is to just wait for your meeting with your advisor and to avoid, if possible, ruminating over the worst possible scenarios in the meantime. Other than that, it's impossible for anyone here to guess what's going on in your advisor's mind. Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 23:31
  • Some people don't like it when there is no progress and they lose interest. (Not saying it is in your case). However, since you need his signature to move on, you could contact student office and ask how to proceed. Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 23:33

1 Answer 1


There is no way to guess what is going on in your advisor's mind.

Professors are human beings so they have the same range of personality traits as humans in general. But deliberate "ghosting" would be clearly unprofessional. Of course that must happen sometimes (see above "professors are human beings", but it's not the conclusion I would jump to. Other possibilities include:

  • They are having some kind of personal crisis and are not able to respond in a timely fashion

  • Due to some technical issue, they are not receiving your emails, or you are not receiving their replies

  • They have some issue that they need to address with you, but are trying to work things out (gather information, research institutional policy, etc) before they contact you

  • You can surely think of more if you try.

Regardless, clearly nothing will be resolved if the two of you can't communicate. If he won't respond to your emails, try something else. Visit his office in person, or call on the phone.

If that doesn't work, then get someone else involved: e.g. a department chair, graduate program chair, or another faculty member who you trust. They can help facilitate communication between you, and if it turns out there is a conflict, they can help mediate it. They may also have additional context about the professor's situation, in case they have something going on that you don't know about.

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    No, you don't have to suck it up. If you have a deadline tomorrow, then telephone or visit the department chair at 8am on Monday or whenever is the normal start of business hours. Do not delay, and do not rely on emails that may not be read until later. Yes, I know phone calls are awkward and uncomfortable, etc, but just do it. Also, call whatever office is imposing the deadline, and explain the situation. Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 23:52
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    By the way, the fact that he is mostly on leave would crank up the probability of the "personal crisis" option in my answer. Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 23:54
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    It's true that replying to you ought to have higher priority than updating Twitter. However, because as mentioned they are human beings, professors do not always prioritize their time the way that they ought to! (Case in point, right now I am on Academia.SE instead of doing something productive for my students or research :) Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 0:01
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    @happypenguin I have seen people going AWOL for a whole bunch of reasons. The fact you do not get a comment may be because they don't like your work, because they are ill, because some member of their family are ill, because they have a crisis, because ... - this is out of your hands. Get help from the department. Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 0:04
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    @happypenguin: A situation where a student may be prevented from graduating on time should constitute an emergency for the department. Be as persistent as you need to be in getting help from anyone who is able to give it. Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 0:08

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