I have started my fully-funded-PhD for about 6 months in North America. When I applied professor promised me that he was going to provide me with the funding. Yet, I have not received any detailed topic about my PhD from my supervisor.

I see my other classmates have already got projects with secure funding. I have not received any secure project yet, and my funding is not stable(so far I have received only $12500), my bank is currently -$10000, and I had to pay the tuition fee.

The amount fund received so far: $12500

My spending so far: food, housing, and tuition fee: $18800

I needed to borrow an extra $10000 from my family to pay my expenses.

Each time that I have a meeting with him, he just comes and talks about some general topics about his projects and he does not assign anything.

I tried to communicate this during my meeting but it was not effective, seems like he does not understand my needs. How do I write him an email and communicate this with him? "I need a problem definition/ project with secure funding from a company so that I can work on it, It is really frustrating for me to see everyone is working on their project"

How do I write him an email to effectively communicate my thoughts? I feel like my words may not be heard as intended.

  • 3
    Assuming you won't get the funding, do you have alternatives? Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 9:28
  • 9
    @programmer_smart That sounds like a horrible situation and I’m sorry. Some questions: 1. Did you not sign a contract at the start of your PhD with a salary amount in it? 2. Who is your official employer? 3.do you expect the funding to come from the university, your Pi, or a company? 4. Did anyone tell you that the funding was tied to finding a research project?
    – user126108
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 13:02
  • 12
    Either your PhD is not actually fully funded, or you have failed to bring this to the attention of the right people, who might include administrative staff for the grad program, a department chair, etc.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 13:33
  • 14
    Funding and project are not quite so intertwined as you imply; you can easily have a project but no funding or funding but no project. It seems like the funding, not the project, is the more immediate issue so work on that first.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 13:35
  • 3
    Which country is this?
    – user985366
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


To be honest, it sounds like you are entirely too passive in this situation, expecting that the advisor will simply "give" you something. While I don't know your field, that would be very unusual in many.

You have had conversations with the advisor. Does anything in those conversations pique your interest in a problem to be researched. My guess is that the advisor expects that to happen.

A PhD isn't just an employee working under the explicit direction of a manager, carrying out assigned tasks. It requires some creativity and initiative.

Not everyone can come up with their own problem, but having some idea of a possible problem opens the opportunity for a conversation with the advisor that, with refinement, can lead to one. Open that conversation and not with email. This is a situation that calls for face to face discussions and explorations.

I suggest that you don't sit back and expect things to happen automatically. Get busy.

  • 2
    " It requires some creativity and initiative." Totally agree! Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 7:43
  • 3
    While this is a good advice, it does not answer his question.
    – صالح
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:07
  • 1
    @lr0, I've made it a bit more explicit. Email is a poor vehicle for this.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:16
  • 2
    I cannot see how the question of funding (money) enter this answer. Or, this is already not important in academia?
    – yarchik
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 13:46
  • 2
    @yarchik, my reading is that funding is tied to the specific research. The funding will follow from finding an appropriate project. That isn't universally true, but seems to be the case here.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 13:58

How do I write him an email to effectively communicate my thoughts? I feel like my words may not be heard as intended.

You don not write an email. You meet him in the office, you pester him with phone calls, you read your contract and you escalate to the head of department.

You have plenty of hints that he is not getting your needs. You need to sit at the same table to discuss face to face. Be calm and polite, bring him to understand your situation.

"I apologize but I do not have much quality time to think about our research because I have to compare all this APR loan options to sustain myself" can be a good ice-breaker.

  • 1
    I've voted down because the advisor would be able to say this to their boss : "I'm being pestered by this crazy person. He's always ringing me, no matter what I say." Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 21:01
  • 1
    @StephenG-HelpUkraine "no matter what you say, but what did you do?"
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 21:06
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    @StephenG-HelpUkraine you have a very simplistic view of the world. Glad it works for you.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 6:00
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    All your advice would do is make the OP look confrontational while leaving them without written evidence of the problem, as you particularly say they should not email. That won't work well for anyone in dispute with any organization. Writing in email also allows people to make considered responses that, if they make the effort) are phrased well. This can reduce the problem of not saying what you need to in a conversation and not using ambiguous language - something that's very prone to happen in face to face conversation. Heated phone calls (inevitable if you "pester" someone) won't help. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 7:18
  • 1
    An email is a useful record when escalating to the head of department or other parts of the university/institute - "I specified x problems at y time and it is documented here." It's impossible to evidence what was said on a phone call. At the very least emailing after the phone call/meeting you describe with the contents of the discussion is useful.
    – Jay Bee
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 5:13

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