I graduated with an excellent master's degree from one of the western European countries. I thought it would be good for my career development to do a PhD in another university but unfortunately I now find myself in a lot of trouble. The lab I am working at has several issues and there are many deeply unethical things going on. I am pretty confident that if I leave the lab without completing a degree, the professors will try to hamper my applications to other places.

Is there anything I can do? Obviously I am no longer a good applicant but someone who (at least seemingly) "failed" first. I wish this was my fault but it is not.

To make the question clear, I am contemplating on leaving due to ethics issues, general unfairness, and repeated mistreatment of employees (not just me).

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    How can the professors hamper your applications if you don't tell them about your applications?
    – JeffE
    Oct 10, 2017 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


Deciding to leave one university for another is in my belief, beyond the scope of asking strangers on the internet. However one thing stood out.

The lab I am working at has several issues and there are many deeply unethical things going on.

If things are as egregious as you claim, you are beyond, "should I leave" territory and cross into "what are my country's whistle-blower laws"? Is your lab injecting subjects with unknown substances or diseases without their knowledge? Is it stealing or utilizing funds in an unscrupulous manner such as buying personal items?

If things aren't as serious as claimed, I don't see why you couldn't have a sit-down meeting with your researchers and inform them of your dissatisfaction and hope things turn around. If it comes to applying to another program, you can always inform your potential institution of the shortcoming of your current situation.


I would suggest talking with your university's ombudsperson. First, have a discussion with the ombudsperson about what behaviors they are required to report. Usually they will bring this up themselves, but it's best to be sure--some institutional ombudspersons are mandated reporters. Then I would discuss those aspects of the situation that can be kept confidential (hopefully, the entire situation). They can advise you and point you towards other campus resources that may be of use.

In other words, this sounds like a complex situation that is worth talking about in person, and in more detail than you probably feel comfortable disclosing online.

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