I am currently PhD student, just finished 3rd semester. But it is just 5 months that I defended my proposal, and due to university rules, you are considered an official PhD student just when you defend your proposal. I would like to change my group, due to different reasons, one is financial matters. As my one year financial support from an external fund ( not offered by my current supervisor) is finished and my supervisor also said he has no money!

I already applied for a new open PhD position (not in the same university but in the same city). The new Professor invited me to his office for interview. Should I tell him that I am already PhD student? What if I say nothing?

  • 9
    Doing everything behind the backs of everyone (old and new advisor) will blow up in your face, sooner or later.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 16:55
  • @ Alexandros: But my current supervisor told me 2-3 months ago that I am free to leave whenever that I like! Whar shall I do actually?
    – Lisa
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 17:12
  • 2
    In any job, people are free to leave at any time. But they should notify their supervisor before leaving, within a reasonable time (notice-period).
    – Alexandros
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 17:15
  • @ Alexandros: I would tell to my current supervisor for sure, but when I am sure that I get the new position ( I am in final selection but still not sure if I will get the job). Why shall I tell about my leaving while I am still not sure if I would leave?
    – Lisa
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 17:20
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    – ff524
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 21:42

5 Answers 5


It is crucial to tell the truth.

  • For your current supervisor, you will need to let them know that you are interviewing with the new Professor, and explain why you are doing this. This potentially could work to your benefit as your current supervisor may offer to be a reference and offer assistance to you going forward.

  • For the new Professor, let them know upfront that you are already a PhD student and the reasons why you are moving.

Most of all, as has been said in the comments, be honest - because if you are not honest, it can (and probably will) blow up in your face, potentially generating distrust from the old and new supervisors/Professors.

In your comments to the question, you mentioned that you are not sure as to whether or not you are going to leave your current position - before you progress any further, make sure you are certain in what you are doing (at the very least to be sure you're not wasting anyone's time).

An acquaintance of mine did something very similar, and was caught out a few months later - he had to overcome significant suspicion about the reasons for his move, as he had not explained it to both parties.

  • Another possible situation if the OP tells the current advisor, he might work hard to find money to keep his awesome student! Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 19:28

When it comes to your academic and professional life, you should always be honest. Starting a long-term association on a wrong note can be damaging for your life and career. I would say whether or not the supervisor asks you, you should inform him about your current position and the reasons for leaving. It is your moral responsibility to inform him. If you hide such an important information from him, it might lead to trust issues later if he finds out.


Leaving a group because you are not getting paid is perfectly reasonable, and thus you should explain that to the new professor. This may play to your advantage, as you already have some experience, and can start being productive earlier. That also explains what have you been doing your last year.

If you don't tell him, and he learns somehow, he may either ask you directly, imagine some (realistic or not) possible scenarios, or wonder what else you may be hiding. He may also wonder if you would do the same to him, leave after one year, and deem it too risky to hire you. On the other hand, if you are upfront with your case, you show that you have a legitimate reason to leave, and you won't probably leave for as long as he can fund you.


I did something similar, and I fully agree with @Ghost and @Davidmh's advice which upholds honesty is the only policy in academia. I shall tell you what I did (NOTE: I am sharing my personal experience, by no means I am asserting that my way is the way that it should be handled, as situations differ).

In my second year of PhD, I realized that I was not satisfied with my research area, and that I should look for an opportunity which will let me explore ideas that I want to for my PhD.

After I made contact with a professor with whom I would have liked to work, I informed the person that I am yet to have a discussion with my present adviser regarding moving to another university, and requested him/her to refrain from contacting my present adviser, until I could have that discussion. After getting an approval from the school and the potential adviser, that I would most possibly be offered a position, I sought out to have a discussion with my current adviser to make him/her aware of the situation.

In that discussion, I was very frank about why I am considering to leave my lab, and that I would be very open for future collaborations. I spent the rest of the semester wrapping up my work and discussing about future project directions with my mentor and another lab-member who took up my role. I left the lab on a nice note, and I still maintain a healthy relationship with my previous adviser and lab members.

In research, we never know with whom we would need to collaborate in the future. Apart from that, many jobs require recommendations from past advisers. Hence, having a trust-issue-free-relationship with peers, advisers and fellow researchers is a must for personal development.


Such matters are of both sensitive and ethical concern. The best thing to do is to tell the truth.

  • If the new prof ask me in interview, I would tell him. But shall I tell him myself even if he doesnot ask?
    – Lisa
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 17:22
  • 4
    @Lisa Put yourself in the new prof's shoes. Would you want to know if a potential new advisee was transferring from another institution/adviser?
    – tonysdg
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 18:32
  • 2
    Your current student status should appear in the top half of the first page of your CV, which you already sent the new prof when you applied. Riiiight?
    – JeffE
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 13:28
  • @JeffE: no, I didnot! I write the last year as working experience for the external international project that my money financial comes in the first year! And the proffessor that I worked for him (not my supervisor) wrote recommondation letter for me
    – user41867
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 19:11

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