I am about to wrap up my first semester at my University. Before school had started in the summer I had developed an iOS application for the University which gained the attention of one professor, before the semester had even started he emailed me and informed me of a research position he think I'd be interested in. It turns out that I have experience in exactly what they are doing and it sounded like it would be a great fit.

I accepted the position, it took about a month before I met who I would be working with and how exactly I would be applying my experience. I found out that my colleague developer is a foreign graduate student who doesn't speak much English and has hardly any experience with our technologies. We setup weekly meetings to do something, nothing is ever accomplished at these "meetings". Most of the time the professor cancels the meeting due to "conflicts" an hour before they are supposed to take place

Overall I've got several problems with my current position:

No way to collaborate with my colleague due to a language barrier and no structure in our work environment

No clear objectives for what I should be doing with my time have been laid out, yes I've asked. I get responses back such as "Do some iOS stuff with "Bob"" Whenever I sit down to work, I really don't have an idea on what he's expecting so its hard to put in any meaningful hours.

Extremely low pay for what I am doing, the technologies I am working with are not simple and I am getting paid about 1/5 what I would if I was at a company. I know this is an academic position but it's hard to be motivated knowing I'm getting low pay.

The project I am working on seems to be some project that has been hanging around and he is just trying to produce "results" with the grant money.

Overall I just have no interest continuing to work with this professor. What is the best way to tell that to him?

  • 2
    ..."Extremely low pay for what I am doing" compared to what? You are a first year undergrad. Who do you think hires inexperienced 20years developers (without a degree) and offers a lot of money? If you would make such a lot of money already, why do you need the degree for, or why did you accepted this position in the first place?
    – Alexandros
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 9:54
  • 4
    Directly. Just as if they were human.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


Just tell him the way you have told us. Undergraduates quit research projects all the time. In this case the reasons you have given may help him run the project a bit better.


Alternatively, if you are interested in working in something different, do so, without necessarily giving the detailed reasons of your departure. Not everybody reacts gracefully to criticism, especially if you suspect other agendas (speak: grant money spending). Whether you want to give full disclosure of your reasons for leaving, depends heavily on the advisor and the situation.

If you consider going for industry, anyway, now is a good time, as the market is attractive. The professor may not like it, but excellent people leave academia all the time now, you wouldn't be an exception and your step requiring no out of the ordinary justification.

If you want to continue that work, somehow, but not under the current circumstances, then, either look for a suitable other position, or else, if you want to stay put for some reason, you will have to bite the bullet and to ask for conditions to be changed.

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