I am posting here for the first time. I am Canadian 6th year grad student in USA. My adviser is rushing my graduation, which is a good thing. But, he is telling that he has ran out of funding and want me to graduate in February with whatever I have done so far. Also, he has clearly said that he does not have any funds to support me beyond February, but he will be happy to be my adviser, but cannot offer any financial support. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, that too this late. Also, because of the extreme pressure to finish the projects, graduate and find jobs, I am undergoing chronic depression, insomnia and anxiety disorder. With this medical condition, it has become even more difficult for me to focus on my thesis.

I am partly supported by a university fellowship of which only one semester is remaining, which will be applied for the Spring 2015 semester, if I continue with my current plan of graduation in February 2015.

At this point, I do not have any job offer, just started applying for jobs last week. With my wife and kid also living with me, it would be very hard to continue to stay in USA without any financial support. I have two options now:

  1. Go ahead with finishing the thesis and aim for Feb-Apr 2015 graduation. Pros: If all goes well, I will get my degree in about 3-4 months for which I have toiled for the last 6 years; the duration of degree will be much shorter, a positive?. Cons: I do not know if I can get job in about 4-5 months in USA as I will have to worry about the OPT; will have to do a sloppy thesis; no time to publish 1-2 papers for which I have done 90% of the work; may have to spend some money out of my own pocket.

  2. Due to medical condition, I can take medical leave for up to a year. So, take medical leave for the Spring 2015 semester, move back to Canada where I can cover my family living expenses without much hassle, use the summer to write up my thesis and defend in Fall 2015. Pros: I will get much more time to apply for jobs, will not be rushed due to OPT; can do some more good research and do a better thesis; write some more papers in the mean time, which will help me during job hunt; can better deal with stress and anxiety Cons: A delay in graduation, some costs of moving my family back and forth, the "unknown" factor which I am not able to account right now, which can hinder me from getting my degree.

By and large, what should go into my thesis is decided and I have talked clearly about it with my adviser. So, there is not much uncertainty about getting the thesis ready. Also, if I go on a medical leave, my one semester fellowship will be applied when I come back. Plus, if I have some job offer, I can also continue as a non-resident student and finish my degree as adviser is okay with being my adviser, just that he really does not have any funds right now.

I would like to get opinions from as many people as possible. Any input will be highly appreciated.

  • 4
    Have you discussed this with the department or school? They may be able to help you in situations when the professors can't pay, depending on your contract that is. – Chris C Dec 30 '14 at 5:24
  • @Chris C: Thanks for your reply. This news came to me abruptly, just a few days ago. I am still ruminating on this,so I have not discussed this. But, tomorrow I will make it a point to discuss this with the department chair. – Henry Dec 30 '14 at 5:41
  • I think your problem is: Can you finish your thesis without frequent face to face discussion with your advisor? – scaaahu Dec 30 '14 at 6:01
  • Thanks @scaahu. The work is nearly done and I do not think it will need a lot more frequent face-to-face discussion. Even if it is needed, I do not have any option. I will have to apply for OPT in 1st week of Jan and it will be approved. I will have very little time to find a job. Since I know precisely what the deliverables of my thesis are, I will have to strive to get those results and at this point, I should be independent in pursuing my research. So, I feel confident to finish my thesis without much supervision, as it has been since last 1-1.5 years as expected of a senior phd student. – Henry Dec 30 '14 at 6:18
  • Can you be a TA? – Ben Bitdiddle Dec 31 '14 at 8:54