I am a PhD student in life sciences. My PhD project's goal is to analyze specific data and to check a totally new idea in the field I am working in. This project is risky, however, very promising. With my supervisor, we planned all the studies and experiments before the start of the PhD, and he did promise that this would be my project. However, just as I started the PhD, he asked me to finish other experiments as I am the only one in the department who knows methodology and that work was crucial for the lab funding.

At the same time, he gave my project to another student claiming that he wants to know results and to publish this as early as possible. This student started the experiments and to analyze data. Moreover, my supervisor presented him to our collaborator (well known and influential scientist in the field) as the main researcher.

At this point I am desperate. Yes, I am jealous, but just don't know what to do in this situation. I came to this lab only for this project. I tried to mention this to my supervisor, but he just said: "Well, these findings are very important to us and I want to know the results as soon as possible".

It's only 4 months into experiments and I hope that someone could suggest how can I change this situation.

  • 1
    Have you spoken to anyone else about this? eg, department head, graduate programme head etc.? When you say you are 4 months into experiments, do you mean you started your PhD 4 months ago?
    – MJeffryes
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:37
  • 10
    Was it ever actually your project? Or was it the professor's and he just assigned it to you but before you ever started on it he gave it to someone else? Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:42
  • 7
    Have you discussed with your supervisor what he sees as being your main PhD project? Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:46
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    @AustinHenley, main idea, experiments were formed by both of us. It's not only his idea. And then he gave my other experiments to finish while giving my project to another person.
    – user54101
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 10:27
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    @user54101 I meant, have you repeated that discussion after the change in plan? Given your comment, you should also discuss co-authorship for any papers that depend on your ideas. Commented May 14, 2016 at 10:50

2 Answers 2


You know for the most part supervisors are smart enough to handle their students and their research groups. However, once in a while, there will be a problem either with the student and/or supervisor. So two things here:

Know You Rights and Hierarchies: Simply know what your rights are in your institute. Moreover, know the hierarchies. For example, who is the boss of your supervisor, or even, who is the boss of the boss of your supervisor? You know where I'm going with this? This bring me to the second point.

Be Vocal and Express Yourself at the Meetings: If you sit at your desk and pretend everything is fine, and your supervisor manipulates the situation (assuming you are telling the truth here), then YOU are the one responsible, because you didn't speak your mind. Have a meeting with the head of the group (your supervisor's boss) and speak about it. Tell him/her your story and situation and he/she should sort this out. If you couldn't sort it out, have a meeting with someone higher. They are there to help you.

  • 9
    "If you sit at your desk and pretend everything is fine, and your supervisor manipulates the situation (assuming you are telling the truth here), then YOU are the one responsible, because you didn't speak your mind" - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 22:42

If this was really the way you were treated - by which I mean that you have to be sure not to misinterpret statements or promises of your supervisor - then you should run.

A PhD requires trust between the supervisor and the student. After such a breach of trust, you need to find a new supervisor.

  • Starting a fight with your supervisor by going over his head is not going to improve your situation. This is sound advice. You would be much better off finding someone else to work with that has a better reputation on how they treat their students.
    – user158559
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 16:50

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