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I am a math postdoc at a university in the western hemisphere. Within a very short span of time, relations with my mentor have turned sour, and our relations have become increasingly acrimonious. My mentor has a reputation for being arrogant and dismissive, which I had initially dismissed as manageable. However, I feel that things will only go downhill from here.

I want to switch advisors.

  1. Is this generally possible to do? Note that my funding is drawn from my department through teaching duties, and not the advisor. However, my advisor is my official postdoctoral mentor, and he had vouched for my selection at the university.

  2. Will it make my life unmanageable in the department, if he chooses to indulge in vengeful behavior?

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I was once in a somewhat similar situation as a doctoral student, though not as stark. My advisor at the time was more interested in getting tenure than in helping me. There was another faculty member that would have been much better for me.

However, being very introverted, I didn't speak up for myself, either to the department head or to that other faculty member. Had I done so, I suspect that I'd have graduated much earlier. As it was, my solution was to change universities, in which I found a much better advisor, fairly naturally, but at a cost of three years.

I suggest that if you have an alternative, that you talk to them. You don't need to complain about your current advisor, but with their help and the chair/head, things can be made to happen. But they won't if you don't initiate it.

I'll also note that some professors in some departments aren't very well respected generally because they are known to abuse students. What the advisor says about you to others may carry weight or not, but another professor can mediate to make things happen. Open a conversation.

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