I have a professor in my university. He has married his PhD supervisor, and students are now making fun out of it as he didn't work on his PhD. Instead they were in relationship and this and that.

I was wondering how this decision affects his academic life. Do people doubt his degree as being softly defended or can people trust the expert knowledge of such a person?

Especially if a student wants him as a supervisor and when the student knows about this, what can be the effects of such a relationship on the student's decision?

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    Is getting a PhD the only reputable thing the professor has done (beside gaining a professorship!), or does he also have any research output, project participations, etc., going on? – O. R. Mapper Sep 4 '16 at 9:17
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    You are allowed to answer your own question here. In this case I would encourage you to do so. – aparente001 Sep 4 '16 at 13:32
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    he is not involved in any projects and he do ask students to add his name to publications despite not even contributing a single word — If true, this is a much more serious issue for his prospective students than his marriage. On the other than, this could just be rumor driven by disapproval of his marriage. – JeffE Sep 4 '16 at 14:21
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    The answer to your question strongly depends on the specific traits and attributes of the person the question is about. There is no reasonable way to judge a person's academic merit based solely on their personal life, because these two things may have no effect on one another (romance between academics is certainly not unheard of, and can lead to a "two body problem" in competitive areas of research). Whether or not one can "trust the expert knowledge" of anyone should be based, first and foremost, on previous display of such expertise/knowledge, i.e., their work. – Will R Sep 4 '16 at 15:06
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    There's a reliable way for the student to allay any such doubts: publish new, high quality research without their advisor's collaboration, in an area outside the advisor's expertise. – user37208 Sep 4 '16 at 21:36

Let us call the professor A, his advisor B. Let T be A's thesis.

If T was finished before the relationship, and the examination rules of the university were complied with, then there is neither a legal nor a moral issue. Don't worry, A writing T and then sleeping having a relationship with B is a non-issue. It's none of our business.

If the examination rules were complied with, but T was not finished at the time point the relationship started, then T lost some of its credibility, and all lost some of their reputation (to an extent which is difficult to quantify without knowing the details): A, B, and the university department. One has a perfect right to doubt the credibility of T, the reputations of A and B, and the status of the university department. Prospective fresh students are right to raise such doubts. However, if nothing else has happened or will happen, the doubts must remain doubts and one should presume innocence. To restore the reputation of A, of B and of the department and the credibility of T and remove the doubts, the department should evaluate T independently. To evaluate the qualification of A, a prospective student should evaluate the quality (perhaps also the quantity) of the work of A outside A's collaboration with B.

If the examination rules regarding T were not complied with (e.g., B had a conflict of interest in a sense defined by the rules), one should insist on starting the standard procedure prescribed by the rules of the department.

  • In short it does have effect.even if the marriage takes placr later. The relationship started during phd. And student will do doubt any ways. – Shahensha Khan Sep 4 '16 at 23:24
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    A thesis should be assessed by and defended against a third-party committee. The supervisor will always be partial. Hence, approval of the thesis should not be influenced by the supervisor, and then it should not matter what kind of relationship student and supervisor has... – Arnfinn Sep 5 '16 at 13:33
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    @Arnfinn: I have never been part of a thesis defense procedure in which the advisor's opinion was not heavily (or even overwhelmingly) weighted. Even when a student was clearly not prepared to graduate, it fell on the advisor to make that call, not the rest of the committee. – Buzz Sep 5 '16 at 15:03
  • @Buzz: Well, I've seen some theses being rejected by the appointed committee. High time to make some changes in the assessment and approval process of your university if what you describe happens... – Arnfinn Sep 5 '16 at 21:52
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    @Arnfinn i will agree with Buzz that your advisor has pretty much hold on the defense. As the external examiners are given a few months time to go through thesis and then conduct the defense in which the externals do have tendency to follow the advisor, as the advisor is the second person fully aware after the student. – Shahensha Khan Sep 7 '16 at 8:32

This situation would likely be a serious concern for the folks in the department where he graduated and for the first place that gives him a job. They would probably look into it and may or may not take issue with how things are done. Depending on the details it could certainly affect his ability to get a good placement.

Once this person has their first job I would think everyone subsequently will assume that there was no issue and will not care. By the time he is in a position to supervise students, he should also have a track record of work in the field since graduation and things that happened in graduate school are irrelevant. After your first few years of work, your credibility is based on what you have done while working, not on anything that happened in graduate school.

I find it hard to imagine a professor being in a position to supervise a student but the student basing his or her decision in any way on something that happened back in graduate school.

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