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I would like to read some opinions about a complex situation regarding a potential postdoc position that I am not 100% sure about how to approach.

As part of my PhD I had to take several courses, six in total. During this period, I experienced a lot of difficulties:

  1. A huge chunk of my funding was removed, not just to me, but to all the grad students of my department as well. This left me with a salary of 650$/month during the last 8 months of my 2nd year as a PhD. While I had savings that allowed me to survive the first months, as my money started to dwindle I had to take measures like eating twice a day and was almost forced to register to the student food bank.
  2. I had a supervisor and a co-supervisor and there was a lot of fighting between them. I felt like I was back in high school with all the gossiping, bullying and similar issues that I witnessed. It was like watching Laurel & Hardy in the 21st century academia. I think that owing to professional jealousy, my co-supervisor decided to make life miserable for all the students that he shared with my supervisor. He denied access to equipment, delayed the approval of budget for equipment acquisition, berated us at the littlest of details and so on. It was so bad that the Ombusdman, the department chair and a dean of grad studies became involved.
  3. I was an international student that came from a small country and had very few (if any) friends at all in the city where I was doing my PhD. While I tried hard to become involved with people from other backgrounds and work with my colleagues, I always ended up alone doing most of my assignments, study sessions and so on.
  4. My research project was refocused, reoriented a couple of times during my first two years as a PhD, causing me to adjust correspondingly my literature review, research proposal and so on.

Certainly, these circumstances affected me; I became depressed and my motivation went down hard. My academic performance suffered correspondingly and I got a low grade (B-) in a mandatory class, which caused my GPA to go below the minimum required for the program (3.4) and I landed in academic probation. This automatically disqualified me to apply for scholarships, grants, merit-based assistant positions, internships and so on.

However, I was able to overcome all of that, got my GPA back to the minimum acceptable limit, passed my candidacy, final dissertation/viva and got my degree. However, I am now a doctor in a STEM field with some publications in my area of expertise but with a mediocre GPA.

In the last couple of months I was able to get some interviews with a couple of companies that are looking for someone to conduct R&D and have expressed their interest in me. However, these positions are conditioned to get funding through government institutions which is a slightly complex process: it requires a joint grant application from the company and a candidate, which is picked by the company based on an internal selection process. Both the quality of the project, the feasibility of the proposal and the individual qualifications of the candidate are assessed and then it is decided whether or not the application is selected among the pool of applicants.

For one company, I passed the interview stage, the presentation process and the meeting with the senior managers; all them where pleased with the way I conducted myself and decided to select me as their candidate. Although I was initially excited about the proposal, it wasn't clear until the end that the position was conditioned to the approval of the government grant. They did discuss about the fact that external funding was required but only mentioned the specific government agency they were aiming for only after the selection process was finished. Now I feel terrible because I consider that my academic credentials could be a major issue that could cause the rejection of the grant application, even though I have some publications and conferences that could provide some support to my application.

While I mentioned my low GPA during the interview, which I considered kind of odd being an interview for an industrial position, I didn't discuss my academic probation situation. I conducted my own inquiry about this agency and couldn't determine whether or not having that black spot in my transcripts would be a major issue or if it would be only a minor inconvenient. I couldn't find the evaluation criteria used by this agency either, but I know that if an application gets rejected it is accounted for in the total number of times that a company can request this specific funding.

Now I am torn because I know that when I inform the company about this, it will cause them to pick a different candidate.

Any suggestions about what can I do in this scenario?

  • Does your transcript actually list the academic probation? Does the federal funding agency actually want your transcript or just the final GPA? (or doesn't actually request it at all) – mkennedy Oct 16 '15 at 21:16
  • The transcript includes everything: # of terms, academic probation, individual grade and the class average. The federal funding agency requires the official, detailed transcript. – Disgruntled Doctor Oct 17 '15 at 5:24
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My personal mantra is "full disclosure" on such matters (whenever it makes sense, of course).

IMHO, you should have mentioned the whole situation up front. Because now that will eventually come to light and, following your idea of worst case scenario, the grant can get denied because of that, and that will make you look bad to the company.

Keep in mind that such situations (problems during the phd) are more common than you think and potentially are not that big of a deal... you got the title after all, sometimes that's all that matters...

I see two possible paths once you disclose that situation: 1) They decide that you are not a suitable candidate, which will avoid the whole bad thing I mentioned on the first paragraph or 2) they decide that you are a suitable candidate and to try to stick with you for the grant.

Ideally, you would rather they pick #2, but path #1 is not a bad outcome for you either... its a whole lot better than getting the grant denied afterwards...

Either way, in your position, I would disclose the whole thing right away, apologizing for not doing it sooner...

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While I mentioned my low GPA during the interview, which I considered kind of odd being an interview for an industrial position, I didn't discuss my academic probation situation.

You informed them of the "low" GPA. Good enough! If this mattered very much to them, they could have asked you if there were any repercussions as a result of the "low" GPA.

Of all the skeletons in the closet I can imagine, yours is really a very small skeleton. However, it is natural that right now, while you are on the edge of your chair about this position, that skeleton is getting larger and larger in your mind.

Now you need to go for a hike, clean the oven, write some overdue letters to friends and relatives, go to a movie, in short, try to distract yourself from the very natural nerves you are feeling while you wait to find out!

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