I am a starting PhD student and my advisor got a research grant funded, and I am supposed to do the project. I have been supported by my family in the hope to find funding. well, the professor said that all the money from the research grant went to the department and so I am not getting any. Could that scenario happen? P.S. My adviser is a new assistant professor and she is getting another student in the fall.


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    Yes, this is possible. However, in my country and research area grants that don't cover personnel costs are very rare. The funding agencies don't want graduates to work for free (and it would be pretty much impossible to find anyone to do this). In fact, I would consider what your adviser suggests to be very unusual. My advice would be to refuse this until you get some money from your adviser to cover your living expenses. I suspect if they really wanted/needed to, they could get you some salary. If they can't, you should concentrate on getting funding and not work on this project. – Roland Jul 1 '16 at 12:45
  • Since OP's location is not given, I am voting to close as too broad. – Mad Jack Jul 1 '16 at 14:45
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    Unless you do a self-funded PhD from the outset, this sounds pretty dodgy. Which country? – Captain Emacs Jul 1 '16 at 16:17

That would be illegal in the US. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but here, all people who work are entitled by federal law to be paid, at least, minimum wage. If he refuses to pay you, you can either quit, refuse to do the work, or call your state's department of labor (or whatever it's called) or the US Departmen of Labor. I don't think Florida has such a state-level department.

If all the money that came from the grant to your school was swallowed by the department, then they should pay you instead. In the US, awards by the NSF are made directly to the university with the requirement that the funding listed in the budget for the workers must go to the named PI and the other named people or (often) unnamed student who will do the work. There are other line items that go to the university (indirect costs, etc.), but I'm not considering those here. The university, essentially, must send the salary money down. I don't know where you are or what terms the granting body puts in its terms, but some similar model seems likely.

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    It's not that uncommon for students to do thesis projects without an RA stipend. They're at least getting academic credit for their work. The exact circumstances aren't really clear from the question. – Brian Borchers Jul 1 '16 at 15:30
  • @BrianBorchers, says who. The OP may or may not get a course credit for the work. Course credit often counts in the DoL's mind, but not always. The worker must get something of value, and it doesn't have to be money, but in this administration, they've been coming down harder on unpaid internships. – Bill Barth Jul 1 '16 at 20:35
  • @BrianBorchers, also, common does not equate with legal, moral, or OK in my mind. If it's done but is illegal or unethical, it can and should be stopped. – Bill Barth Jul 1 '16 at 20:38

Yes. The funding can only be used for the purposes for which it was obtained. Unless the funding explicitly includes a line item to support a student it is unlikely that the money could be used for that purpose.

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    Generally, in countries with reasonable labor protections, people who work are required to be paid as least the national or other minimum wage. There may even be a graduate student union in OP's nation, state, or school that has arranged for other requirements. – Bill Barth Jul 1 '16 at 14:04

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