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I am in my second year of PhD. A lot of the past 1.5 years was coursework and little research. I have been working with my current advisor for the past 5 months and have a publication in the pipeline.

However my advisor informed me that he is planning to take a year long break from academia to work in industry and plans to come back. Like most of the advisors he offered me the following choices:

  • Search for a new lab
  • Continue working with him; keeping in touch over email and occasional skype sessions

However he isn't yet tenured and I am skeptical that he might choose not to return to academia.

My department is a pretty small one and moving to a new lab doesn't seem feasible because I am not interested in other labs' research. In some cases the research is good, but I found the lab environment unsuitable when I rotated with these.

I would like to complete my PhD. Another option is to possibly quit with a Masters and then reapply to other graduate schools. However I have the following concerns:

  • If my advisor is against giving me a recommendation letter, should I still apply rather than looking for another lab in my current university?

  • My graduate school GPA is average and so was my undergraduate GPA, I have couple of publications since joining the graduate school. Will a low Graduate school GPA further reduces my chances of getting an admit again?

  • Should I mention my situation(about my GPA; quitting PhD because advisor moved) in my Statement of Purpose?

  • As an anecdote: my supervisor spent 11 months on sabbatical in another country in the middle of my PhD. We hade Skype meetings roughly every other month. I visited him once, for a week. Now I'm probably more independent in my work than the average PhD student, but this worked fine for me. – semi-extrinsic Oct 30 '15 at 10:14
  • I should mention, I did have two advisors, the other one being in industry. @mhwombat's answer below is very good. – semi-extrinsic Oct 30 '15 at 10:16
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A third option would be to continue to work with your advisor when he moves to industry, but to have a second advisor in your institution. This second advisor's primary role could be to guide you through the PhD process, so he or she may not need to be in the same field as you. They can help you improve your academic writing skills, and your research skills, offer moral support, help you brainstorm, act as a sounding board for ideas, etc. As you go through your PhD, you may find that you need this kind of help at least as often as you need more technical help.

The company I work for has close ties to nearby academic institutions, so it is common enough that one of us will jointly supervise an MSc or PhD student when their project is somewhat relevant to our industry.

I am also a PhD student, and have two academic advisors. I find this quite useful, as they have different strengths.

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