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I'm a second year PhD student in Computer Science in the United States. I started on a research topic in my first year of PhD. There are two advisors jointly involved in it and I don't get along with one of them at all. On the other hand, the other one has been extremely helpful as my mentor.

I want to switch research areas because I'm not excited about the work and I'm starting to dread my meetings with the PI. But my advisors are counting on preliminary results for applying for a grant. How should I approach this without burning bridges?

(I apologize for the poor grammar, English isn't my first language)

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    I'm starting to dread my meetings with the PI Who is the PI? Or both are PIs? – scaaahu Jun 2 '16 at 5:44
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    How much progress have you made on the original topic? How far away are the preliminary results that they need? – user24098 Jun 2 '16 at 10:19
  • @scaaahu, the PI is the professor I don't get along with. – PSakrar Jun 2 '16 at 14:09
  • @dan1111, I honestly don't know. Our results seem to be very different from what we expected and it looks like there's a lot of work to be done. – PSakrar Jun 2 '16 at 14:13
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This is a really complex problem, especially since you're in your 2nd year of PhD, meaning it left you more than 1 year, right ?

Why are you not getting along with one of the advisor ? Is it not one of the main issue, which gives you the feeling you don't like your research area ?

Breaking plans of your advisors is really not a good idea, there is always gap in motivation when you are in PhD, and I think you should think about what gives you the feeling you want to go somewhere else. That will hurt both your carrier and your relationship with everyone in the lab.

There is no good answer to your question, either way, you will end up with a problem (for yourself and for your advisors). The best way is to speak with them about your feelings, after having a self-reflexion.

EDIT: Since it is clear you don't want to stay in this lab, the earlier the better. Tell them about what are in your mind, and they will certainly understand, if they are not short-minded (which hopefully is not the case for a scientist !)

  • In North America, PhD usually last longer than 3 years, so there's probably more than 1 year left. – Emilie Jun 2 '16 at 12:52
  • @Emilie ok thanks, I'll edit that :) how long does it usually last ? – Gautier C Jun 2 '16 at 12:54
  • In my field, a PhD typically takes 6 years. Yes, this is in the US. Let's call the advisor I don't get along with A. He is rude and very demanding. I can no longer tell if I'm dissatisfied with him or my research area even after "self reflection". The thing is, these two guys are the only people who work in this research area and if I switch groups I'll be forced to switch research areas. – PSakrar Jun 2 '16 at 14:05
  • @PSakrar just rude and very demanding ? Maybe he doesn't know how to manage people and want you to give your best, so he is like that. Is it not possible ? Don't understand why you don't speak with them, just telling that you don't feel confortable at the moment with how it turns, asking why advisor A is very demanding ? If you don't speak with people, don't think they will just guess ^^ – Gautier C Jun 2 '16 at 14:33
  • @GautierC, I don't doubt that he has good intentions. But I think I'll be able to work better with an advisor who has better interpersonal skills. Thank you for your inputs, but I don't quite understand why you are making assumptions about whether I have tried talking to them about the rudeness or not. I have. It didn't help. I'm looking for pointers on what would be the best way to leave the lab with the least amount of pain for all of us involved. And not looking for tips on how to force myself to stay. – PSakrar Jun 2 '16 at 16:59

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