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My former supervisor from university offered me a PhD project two months ago. I gave it some thought, chatted with them once about the topic a month ago, talked to their current students, and then decided to instead take an industrial position, because of family reasons.

I cannot meet them in person, so I was thinking about writing a message to communicate my decision. Since I know the professor well I think that some personalization of the message is required here.

Would you advise to:

  • motivate why I decided to take the industry position (i.e. family/partner related issues) and if so, should I be detailed? For instance, is "I wanted to stay closer to my partner" out of place?
  • emphasize positive aspects of their offer that made the choice very tough? E.g. the topic was interesting, the past collaboration was good?
  • say that I took so long to be able to communicate a definite decision?

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I think all the points you laid out in sequence are a good way to communicate your decision. After all your personal pathway for your future/life matters to you the most and your advisor will understand. You did not explain if your advisor offered you research because you asked if they could offer you a project or not. If your advisor offered a research project without you asking, they might be really impressed with your work or could not find the right candidate at the right time. Either way, the professor understands that you know your life aspirations.

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