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Don't really know what to do with thesis supervisor


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#1 kacey87

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 08:25 PM

Hi everyone, I didn't really know where to go for advise so I'm posting here. I'm in my Masters program and I'm hoping I'm nearing the end of it but there always seem to be delays pushing things back more and more. The biggest problem I've had is with my supervisor who is completely inexperienced with the field of my project and has never been able to give me any suggestions on my project. I doubt he has ever put any thought into my work and he isn't up to date on the literature. Any suggestions he has given are pretty much a complete waste of time and he barely has any knowledge of molecular biology. I'm already over the 2 year time-point of my masters project and I feel like just trying to submit whatever I have so far. This will probably not look too good but I really just want to get out...

I want to apply for PhD programs in other universities but my other problem is that my supervisor said he won't give a letter of reference until I have finished everything and written a manuscript...I really can't handle this. I want to move away from this lab ASAP and I'm sure it would put me at a great disadvantage if I try applying without a letter of reference from my current supervisor. I really don't want to hold off applying till the end and then wait around doing nothing. Another thing is I'm not even sure if he'll write me a good support letter due to having constant arguments with him over my project...I'm really lost at what to do. I can't get away since I don't have his support and I don't even know if I can submit my thesis right now without concrete results.

So my question is how necessary is it to have a letter of reference from your current supervisor, would a postdoc (who's moved away to another lab now) or a professor I've TA'd for be good support letters? Also, is it possible to get into a PhD program at a different university without finishing my Masters project...I don't know how I would explain my reasoning for not finishing my project...

Anyways, just wanted to get all of that out..thanks for reading and please suggest any advise you may have. Thanks.

Edited by kacey87, 30 July 2011 - 08:27 PM.


#2 casandra

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 07:49 PM

Hi everyone, I didn't really know where to go for advise so I'm posting here. I'm in my Masters program and I'm hoping I'm nearing the end of it but there always seem to be delays pushing things back more and more. The biggest problem I've had is with my supervisor who is completely inexperienced with the field of my project and has never been able to give me any suggestions on my project. I doubt he has ever put any thought into my work and he isn't up to date on the literature. Any suggestions he has given are pretty much a complete waste of time and he barely has any knowledge of molecular biology. I'm already over the 2 year time-point of my masters project and I feel like just trying to submit whatever I have so far. This will probably not look too good but I really just want to get out...

I want to apply for PhD programs in other universities but my other problem is that my supervisor said he won't give a letter of reference until I have finished everything and written a manuscript...I really can't handle this. I want to move away from this lab ASAP and I'm sure it would put me at a great disadvantage if I try applying without a letter of reference from my current supervisor. I really don't want to hold off applying till the end and then wait around doing nothing. Another thing is I'm not even sure if he'll write me a good support letter due to having constant arguments with him over my project...I'm really lost at what to do. I can't get away since I don't have his support and I don't even know if I can submit my thesis right now without concrete results.

So my question is how necessary is it to have a letter of reference from your current supervisor, would a postdoc (who's moved away to another lab now) or a professor I've TA'd for be good support letters? Also, is it possible to get into a PhD program at a different university without finishing my Masters project...I don't know how I would explain my reasoning for not finishing my project...

Anyways, just wanted to get all of that out..thanks for reading and please suggest any advise you may have. Thanks.

Hi kacey,

Welcome to Bioforum. Your situation is a recurring topic here and one of the reasons why this subforum was added. So you're not alone (I know, I know..it's such a small comfort) and yup, this is the best place to rant and rave...

After the first year, aren't you supposed to present the progress of your project to your graduate committee? At least that's how it is in most universities so by that time, they (your committee members) would have an idea of how much you've accomplished in achieving your goals..they'd have made proper critiques, suggestions etc and would've seen the direction of your work. If you're having any issues or concerns with your direct supervisor (and would dare face his wrath ;)), perhaps the first person you can go to would be the head of your committee.

Furthermore, your supervisor can't keep you there forever bec there usually is a maximum time limit. Unfortunately, you can't submit anything right now (it would be rare without the supervisor's approval) and more importantly, if you have no concrete results yet. So you're kinda stuck, it's too late to change projects and you don't wanna quit, right? Hence, you have very little choice but to continue plodding on until you get enough data to make a tight little neat story with.

And a letter of recommendation is usually very important or even crucial esp if your potential PI doesn't know you or your work personally. Of course you can always ask one from the postdoc or another professor but it would raise a red flag if your current supervisor wouldn't give you one. It's the mafia out there :P But seriously, what can you offer to this prospective PI if you're not even sure you'd get the degree and no publications as well?

In many universities here in Canada and I think, also in the States (for some programs at least), we already have the fast-track system for PhDs so a qualified undergrad student can start off as a masteral student and then switch to the PhD after the first year. So theoretically, one doesn't need a masteral degree to get into a PhD program. So you can inquire about this cos I don't know where you're doing your grad program. Meanwhile, take a break, kacey..it's summer time after all...just my 2 cents (which is now worth a lot more than the american ones...:))

Edited by casandra, 02 August 2011 - 08:00 PM.

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#3 Adrian K

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Posted 03 August 2011 - 08:50 AM

Really, Kacey87, you are not alone.
I'm in a bad situation as well.
Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the lion not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.

..."best of our knowledge, as far as we know this had never been reported before, though I can't possible read all the published journals on earth, but by perform thorough search in google, the keywords did not match any documents"...

"what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"---Goddess Casandra reminds me to be strong

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#4 lab rat

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 07:14 PM

Kacey,

All I can offer is the advice of my department head, when I spoke with her about concerns I had with advising quality:

"Invoke the power of your committee. Your advisor will do anything to avoid looking foolish in front of his colleagues. Your advising committee is there to give you advice. Ask for it"

Your committee members should have been chosen for their special knowledge that can be applied directly to your project. Ask them, and explicitly tell them that you would like their advice about [whatever topic] because your advisor has not explained it to your satisfaction or understanding, and pick their brains. When you return to your advisor, tell him that you spoke with a committee member and what advice you received. If you think this will backfire, then perhaps you should approach another faculty member, outside the committee, that you trust and explain your concerns about your advisor and committee. They may have a clearer perception of the politics that are invisibly shaping your experience.

The second piece of advice I have to offer is: if you lodge a complaint, work your way up the chain. Register your complaint at the lowest level of administration and leave room to work your way up. Failures at the bottom can be leapfrogged; failure at the top = failure that crashes all the way to the bottom of the administrative chain of command.

Good luck,

lab rat
42..."An immutable fixed-precision number of unlimited magnitude." <a href="http://en.wikipedia....amming_language)" target="_blank">http://en.wikipedia....amming_language)</a>, accessed 25June2009.




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