Hope you are doing well. I am a third year PhD student. I have very good relationship with my phd supervisor. However; I am secretly dissapointed at him. I am listing the reasons one by one:

My professor has put me in a topic that I am not interested in. It’s also not a hot topic currently in the field. He wants me to do that because he got a fund on this topic and someone needs to do it. I agree with him on this.

However; since I am doing research on topic that doesnt have easy rate of returns; he should direct lab resources at me. However; instead he directs lab resources to other phd students.

For all these issues. I can see that working with him is keeping me down. I will not be able to reach my full potential during my phd. Therefore; I have planned to sideline him. Yes I will do my thesis work with him (on things he suggests). However; I will only do research work on my own and publish on my own. I will also create networks on my own. In these circumstances what can I do to advance my career? What circumstance would I face if I sidelined my advisor?

  • 12
    If you don't like your supervisor, why don't you switch to another one ?
    – Nobody
    Nov 25, 2023 at 4:05
  • Thats too late for that. He causes a lot of problem when someone tries to switch. Too much of a hastle for an int student.
    – Robin
    Nov 25, 2023 at 22:28
  • I am not sure I can follow all your points. You're saying that your supervisor is easily fooled by students? How?
    – Nick
    Nov 26, 2023 at 3:14
  • 1
    If PhD students don't work, it hurts them much more than their advisor. The advisor could be the person to tell them off, but telling them off is supposed to help them improve, not a punishment. This, this "fooling" doesn't buy PhD students anything.
    – Nick
    Nov 26, 2023 at 15:26
  • 2
    Not all of your points (describing supervisor's behaviour) are unreasonable. For example many PhD students can learn something worthwhile from writing reviews and reports or rather the work that goes into it. "My professor gambles with my manuscripts." I have no idea what that means. Your point 3 puzzles me. Having a paper with your name on it will normally be good for your CV; delaying your work on it for 8 months will hurt you if anything. So without knowing further detail it looks like you just harmed your own position there. If you agreed on point 1 you can't really complain about it. Nov 26, 2023 at 16:41

4 Answers 4


As someone that just finished their dissertation, I can certainly sympathize and I apologize for your situation. It's never fun when you're stuck in am awkward/tough situation with a coworker, boss, colleague, etc.

Overall, I agree with all the previous comments and while every situation is unique, I'll give my advice. And I'll say up front, my advisor and I got along fantastically; however, there were many of my colleagues that had issues with their advisors, so I can speak to their situations.

While we can always go to the internet to complain about the interactions we are having with people, it is important to remember that only 2 people's opinions really matter, you and your supervisor. Clearly the relationship has soured. And it sounds like you do not enjoy the work you have been given, and are potentially jealous of the work your colleagues have been given and the recognition or importance of their work, relative to yours. And it sounds like you'd like to switch to something more interesting, and with greater potential. However, it's important to remember that we shouldn't compare our work to others, and we rarely know the full story. And as I write this, I recognize the irony of that statement.

My advice would be to do something fun, clear your head. We rarely make rational decisions when our emotions get involved. And the voice you write in sounds like it is rooted in a soured relationship bent on trying to break the bridge entirely rather than repair it.

Once you're in the right head space, I would just ask to speak to your advisor. Often times we as people have difficulty seeing when people are struggling, if they don't directly voice their concerns, we would never know. Your advisor might not realize how you truly feel. Approach the situation with grace and acknowledge that the work needs to be done, but you aren't enjoying it. Then ask your supervisor if there are ways that you both can meet in the middle to make the project more enjoyable. Or propose if switching the work would be allowable.

Another thing to note, is its common for people to do an "assigned" project for the majority of their dissertation. I myself had two projects in the beginning that quickly became tiring and were not always what I wanted to do. But in hindsight, it helped build me as a researcher.

But there is a silver lining. It is often tradition at most institutions to allow you to, and more importantly, require you, to pitch your final project. Perhaps you could ask your supervisor if they could meet you in the middle. If you continue to work on the project they want, would they be open to letting you do something more directly aligned with your passions for the final project? Or if they want you to work on the current project, is there a way to blend the two ideas together? Or could your supervisor better describe why the work you are doing matters (beyond just, I have funding for it and it needs to be done). Sometimes just reminding people why their work matters is enough to instill a new found passion for it.

While I know these answers are likely not going to solve your problems, I hope that you take the advice to take a step back and approach the situation again and try to repair the bridge, before you destroy it entirely.

The world could use more kindness. I think if you approach it in a better head space and try to meet them halfway, you'd be surprised at what can happen.

Best of luck.


All the details of your relationship with your supervisor are hard do clarify without a deeper understanding of both sides, you may be right, but also very wrong (e.g. asking your PhD student help with a few paper reviews is very normal), so I will ignore this and stick to the question:

Can you publish without your supervisor?


Should your supervisor be aware of it?

Also definitely. In many cases your supervisor will be fine even if the topic is within your thesis, in others they may not (for various possible reasons).

If the topic is outside your thesis, as long as you still get enough work done for the thesis, they will not have a problem with that, but you need to ask them something like "hey I would like to pursue something about this general topic on my own, and I think it will not impact the thesis. Is there any problem with that?"

Finally, consider one thing: if you indeed are able to do pursue research on your own, where did you acquire the skill to do that? I'd guess your disappointing supervisor has something to do with it.

  • Ofcourse I learnt a lot from him. However; there has to be justice. You cant give hard projects to one of your graduate students; make him do all the hard stuff; experiment around with his work and give easy stuff with high rate of return to your other grad students.
    – Robin
    Nov 26, 2023 at 18:42
  • I tried to focus more on your direct question, but if your main doubt is that you got "the bad topic" you're also definitely welcome to talk to your supervisor about it, try to not be accusatory but rather show your concern for your future, and I'm sure you'll get something out of the conversation (if only a better understanding of them)
    – Pronte
    Nov 27, 2023 at 19:34

I don't know your field of research. Are you sure you can carry out research projects independently from your supervisor? For some fields like Math it might be possible, I guess. In my field (biological sciences) it would be unthinkable. Do you have your own funding? If you are going to use lab's resources to pursue your own goals you should discuss it with your supervisor. Generally, I welcome grad students proposing research ideas, but it doesn't mean that all ideas are good or feasible. A research project should always be discussed internally and approved by the supervisor. Some talented grad student are able to carry out their projects with very little input from their supervisor. Nonetheless, they won't be allowed to publish a single author paper. Just think about the publication fee... who is going to pay for that? Based on your story, I feel like you are trying to take some revenge on your supervisor. It's not going to end well. So my suggestion for you is that you meet with your supervisor, you politely explain that you don't like your current project, you propose your idea and start working on it upon his/her approval. This is the way to go in academia. Good luck.

  • Thank you for your valuable advice. You are right it might backfire. Looks like I am stuck. The only problem here is he makes me do the hard work and gives easier task (with higher rate of return) to his other students. Its creating an uneven balance. Its kind of exploitation.
    – Robin
    Nov 26, 2023 at 17:44

A short answer: if you publish a paper without your supervisor, it will be called scientific misconduct, and your career in science will be finished. All your future jobs depend on a letter of recommendation from your PhD supervisor. However, the opposite works fine. Your supervisor can kick you out of the paper or give the first authorship to another student. Whatever you produce as a PhD student belongs to your research supervisor.

  • Absolutely not. There is a big difference between publishing without your supervisor and publishing behind their back, and even in the latter case, it would make things harder but it is not the end of a career
    – Pronte
    Nov 27, 2023 at 19:31
  • None of the supervisors allow their PhD students to publish a paper without their name. Nov 28, 2023 at 7:21
  • 3
    @AndreyZavialov this is simply factually incorrect. Nov 28, 2023 at 16:51
  • You guys are pushing people to make the wrong decision. Nov 29, 2023 at 8:02

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