I am in a low ranked US math PhD program. I generally get along well with my advisor and like my research area (complex algebraic geometry). But the objective of my PhD program is to get low paid math teachers. We are overloaded with TA assignments.

So, I could get into a foreign math PhD program in South America. I am starting next July. Those foreign institutions generally offer full scholarship through the their Federal Government without any duties, free tuition + living expenses. No Duties Attached.

The thing is that I want to keep working in collaboration with my current US advisor, but he got mad and upset when I told him I am moving to another university.

How could I convince him to keep working with me? I mean there is internet and Skype. But I have not talked to him since the time I told him I am moving abroad.

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    I'm beginning to think we need a general-purpose reference question. "I did something to make someone mad; how do I convince them not to be mad at me any more?"
    – JeffE
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:44
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    @JeffE. I still want to work with my current US advisor. He is a really nice person. But I am fed up of the excessive TA workload. So why no try to improve my conditions? I have already taken the decision to move. I just ask if there is a way to keep my current advisor.
    – marcelo
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:50
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    I don't mean to suggest that you've made your advisor upset out of malice or negligence, or that you should blame yourself for his upset. Based on the limited information in your question, I think you're making the right decision for you. But for reasons of his own, your advisor may see your departure as an unforgivable betrayal. As @Saturnus says: You will need to sit down with your advisor and talk this through, but It may be a case of it not being possible to convince him...at all. Welcome to being an adult.
    – JeffE
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:57
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this just isn't something we can help you with. Apr 9, 2017 at 4:13
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    Eat the cake and keep it, too ...
    – Karl
    Apr 9, 2017 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


It sounds like you should probably not expect your advisor to continue as your advisor. In choosing to leave the program (and, indeed, the country), you have relieved him of responsibility.

Advising students is difficult and demanding work. It is much more difficult, and less rewarding (for both the advisor and the student), when done over correspondence. Usually when advisors agree to do this, some combination of the following two factors are in play: (1) the student is near the end of their Ph.D. studies (and already has a thesis problem); (2) the advisor left the university (either temporarily or permanently) and the student didn't want to or couldn't follow them.

I don't know your exact situation, but I would recommend looking for a new thesis advisor in your South American university, while still trying to salvage a productive relationship with your current advisor. Even if he is no longer willing to assume formal responsibility for advising your thesis, he might still be willing to suggest open problems to you, offer advice, or be supportive in other ways.

One course of action that might turn out well for you would be to investigate opportunities that will be available to you at your new university, and schedule an appointment to discuss with your old advisor which of them he thinks it would be most valuable to pursue.

Good luck to you in any case.


Ultimately, the decision of where to do your PhD is yours and yours alone. By the same token, the advisor's decision to collaborate after your move is his, (and possibly the rules of his department/institution).

Your academic reasons to move on seem quite sound and the advisor's response could be out of sheer frustration of not only losing another TA, but losing a student with a passion for the subject due to the institution's TA overload. It may be a case of it not being possible to convince him to collaborate at all.

You will need to sit down with your advisor and talk this through.

In terms of asking to continue with collaboration, give him time and space - be sure not to pester him. Concentrate on your transfer (if you choose to go ahead with this) and studies - there are likely many others you could collaborate with, if he still declines. Get yourself established (published etc) and, if you wish, leave the 'door open' to future collaboration with him.

  • My moving is not my advisor´s fault, but my graduate department for overloading TAs with too much heavy assignments.
    – marcelo
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:07
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    Oh yes, I get that this would be the case - have clarified this point.
    – user70612
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:08
  • And this also affects me emotionally, I do not know how to tell this to my US girlfriend. I really have a special relationship with her. My relationship is also over.
    – marcelo
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:17
  • Sounds like you need to take a moment to consider all of the factors of such a move.
    – user70612
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:20
  • @marcelo if it is over, what is the problem? moving to another country is the best way to get over these things
    – Rüdiger
    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:27

My advice (from experience of treading a fine line all through my academic career) is to approach people with some really heartfelt statement. Emotion is not often expressed between adults especially between academics and more so between student and supervisors. Doing this can really throw people off, make them feel special and open them up to possibilities they would normally not consider when approached in the rigid formal way they are accustom to. Saturnus mentions that the rules of the department/institution may ultimately stand in your way. From my experience, these rules are only guidelines and most academic supervisors have the power to bend them, especially if properly motivated to do so. You've got to remember that supervisors are human too! You may think you made him mad but it was the result of many factors most of which you probably never guess at. Imagine he had just won the lottery and was thinking of giving up his position. What do you think his advice/reaction would be then?

From what you ask I would say something like the following. If you can put a suitably humble and quivering voice on then all the better. If he feels sympathy for you and sees its a difficult decision for you the more likely it will deflate any tension between you both.

"Look, Sir, I've been meaning to talk to you regarding my move to S. Africa. I hope you don't think I've been avoiding you but I feel a little uncomfortable about the situation. I feel I may have disappointed you. I made my decision to move my studies to S. Africa " Continue here with a charm offensive but refer back to your motivations to balance the attack. "I have really enjoyed working alongside you. I think you are a great supervisor and I feel really comfortable around you. Speaking with other students I fell I'm luck to have you as a supervisor. I have found our time together most inspiring and I hope it can continue." e.t.c. ... "I would like to enquire as to the possibility of continuing to work with you when I move to S. Africa. I know it's a long distance but communication wouldn't be a problem" e.t.c then reiterate why you want to remain his student.

In my experience, this kind of approach has been very successful.

  • Um, "South America" not "South Africa".
    – mkennedy
    Apr 11, 2017 at 0:13

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