To make the long story short, at the end of my PhD (Just 3 months before my viva), I realized that my PhD supervisor is liar and totally dishonest, probably he has his own reasons, but this is what I realized. I talked to the head of the department to quit my PhD and I was told it is better to finish it, as it is too late. He asked why I did not report the problem sooner and I replied that even I could not imagine this situation one year ago. My supervisor and I are from same country, but he is a professor at a European university.

I decided to talk to my supervisor, but the discussion was too strong and I told him he is not eligible to be a teacher (professor), because he is not an honest person; the most important criterion for being a teacher.

Any way, he did not support me to get a reasonable postdoctoral position and as a result, I ended up finding myself in one of the very well developed East Asian countries. The PI was a young scientist without proper experience (we were his first group members). He assigned me a computational project and when I asked him what we are looking for, he said just do what I have asked you, run the simulation and at the end you will realize. Repeatedly I talked to him and told him there is nothing special in this simulation and we should carefully know what we are looking for before pushing the enter key and running the simulation, but he insisted to running the simulation. I asked him to change the project, but he refused.

I have finished the extremely heavy simulation, which took 1 year, analyzed the data and extracted what I could extract from the simulation. I presented the results and it was clear that there was nothing interesting in the simulation. He said “you are postdoc and you should think about what you are going to do”. I was aware of the fact that in East Asian culture I should not criticize my PI, but I believe in science community we can and we must do that. Science means working with the facts and reality. After a couple of more wrong information and recommendations that he gave me, I eventually told him he was wrong. It triggered a personal war between us and he fired me – after two years of hard work without any publications.

I was lucky enough to a new position in Southern hemisphere. Now whenever I look for a new job, I am asked for 2–3 letters of recommendation and specially some of them asking for letter from my PhD supervisor.

How can I handle this situation? What should I say when I apply for a job? Should I mention the conflicts or does it make the situation worse? Should I say that I only have one letter of recommendation? What should I say about my low number of publications?

I should mention that at each stage I have changed my research field; my PhD and the postdocs all are different topics in physics.

  • 1
    I should mention that I have a few publications from my PhD and current potdoc position.
    – O_o
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 21:57
  • A! I am not answering the question but just want to say your experience is almost the same with mine (though I am just a 3rd year phd student). Maybe the best lesson I have learnt from the unpleasant experience is that getting along with any kinds of people is very important. This may not be an honest or moral lesson but it works all around the world.
    – HanaKaze
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 19:57
  • @HanaKaze I read your post. You have lot of options to do, you can start small projects with other researchers which helps you to learn new things and probably some publications and letters of recommendation. Expand your scientific network and talk about your research, your ideas to all the researcher that you meet, regardless of their research field, it will help you to find job and it brings more new idea. There are some student exchange scheme where you can attend different universities for (I think) up to 1 year. Changing the field from physics to psychology is a big decision ...
    – O_o
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 9:44
  • @HanaKaze Personally, I believe everyone is interested in psychology because it is much much easier to understand than physics and it is closely related to our everyday life. You can do physics and you can find job after graduation provided that you do some research on projects which lead to the proper job, for example you can do some research on polymers and there is higher possibility to get industrial job. If you do a combination of theoretical-experimental project, you will increase your chance to get better job...
    – O_o
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 9:45
  • @HanaKaze In some cases mathematical modelling are good choices as there are many places who are looking for people with such expertise. If you do string theory, then the number of options are limited to mainly academic jobs. Finally, be creative and do not let anything put you down. You can make a bad project to a brilliant idea.
    – O_o
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 9:45

1 Answer 1


As you may realise, telling the story as outlined here to people asking for references may not be sufficient to convince them. If you know an area in physics where you will be applying for jobs, you can make contact with professors in this area and offer your help in some small project (2-4 weeks). Make sure you do a good job and have a good interaction with them. After you are finished, ask them if they could be your reference. If this area in physics is very close to the tasks in the job it should be a more relevant reference, and therefore it will not be too strange that they are your reference instead of your supervisor from the PhD.

  • Thank you for your recommendation, actually, I have tried to do research in collaboration with other researchers, but in many cases they did not agree. The research during my PhD was a theoretical work which is not popular at all and after that I was always new to the field so people could not see my outputs to start the collaboration. Now I have some publications, but my contract ends soon and I should find a new position. Finding fund for short term visit is tricky.
    – O_o
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 22:10

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