TL;DR: I have better “chemistry” with a different professor doing extremely similar research to my current advisor. Is there a way to switch professors without leaving ill feelings?
I have a question similar to this, but I didn’t feel that the answers listed adequately cleared things up for me.
I must declare whether I will work with my university-assigned professor or another professor by the end of the year.
I am currently working with my university-assigned advisor. This professor was my first choice for an advisor due to their research interests, which align very closely with my own. However, upon spending more time working with this professor, I've discovered that our working methodologies are very much misaligned. My research interests have been moving away from my initial advisor's, though I believe that this could at some level be motivated by my struggle in staying motivated with this professor. I have absolutely no ill feelings towards this professor – in fact, I would say that we are on friendly terms...but this does not help the problems we have in communication. However, this professor was instrumental in getting funding for me for my first year, and also played a large role in my acceptance at my (extremely competitive) university and department.
In my first semester, I took a class from another professor in my same department. This professor’s research interests have significant overlap with my initial advisor, but branch out in the same direction that I believe I may be interested in. I achieved the highest marks in the class with this professor, and they inquired about my current research status (i.e. they let me know they had hoped I wasn’t already working with someone so they could invite me to work with them). When they first discussed this with me, my current concerns hadn't arisen yet, so I informed them that I was happy with my situation. However, I took the opportunity to do something akin to independent study with this professor the following semester, and found that our personalities mesh extremely well – I feel much more able to communicate with this professor, and am more motivated in completing work for this professor than my own.
My current professor has much more funding, and has had much more success in publications at our university (including multiple which I have helped author), though they are about equal in seniority.
The only things stopping me from switching professors are the following:
- Due to how similar their research interests are, it will be obvious to everyone involved that I would be switching mainly for personal, not research/academic, reasons.
- I fear potentially losing funding, as the second professor appears to be struggling to attain funding.
- What steps should I take prior to deciding to change professors? The second professor involved does not currently have any graduate students, so I am unable to “confirm” my suspicions with them about this professor’s communication style.
- Should I ultimately decide to change advisors, is there a way to approach my professor such that all parties involved are aware that the switch is done for communication/motivation reasons, and not any sort of personal dispute? Or, perhaps, is this something I should even worry about?
I have shared my concerns over our poor communication with my current professor, but despite efforts from both of us, things have not improved. Furthermore, I certainly do not expect my professor to adopt a new advising style; I recognize that we may just not be a good fit.