Signup date: 29 Sep 2017 at 12:15am
Last login: 19 Oct 2021 at 11:37am
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I've experienced some pretty horrendous bullying since starting my PhD. I have persevered and I am now nearing the end of my second year. I have presented work at two conferences through which I've published and a workshop, I won grants/ awards to attend all of these. I have first authored all of my publications, a collaborator looked through these and made comments and was named as second supervisor but its mostly my own work. My project is part of a £5M grant yet all requests for funding from this have been denied or just ignored, the PI is only giving funding to the students he supervises it seems where I am based. Hence why I've had to apply for external funding to present my work. I'm the only one he doesn't supervise. There are other Universities who are part of this project and the PhD students at those all get funding from the grant to attend conferences and support their research. I subsidise my lab work with personal funds. Recently 18 researchers were sent to one international conference (mostly staff). They still however include my deliverables in reporting for this grant. This doesn't seem right but I've not been able to do anything about this, any advice?
Find out the timescales regarding the University's complaint process, these should be online, if you can't find this information the Students Union should be able to provide this. If the University do not respond within the time they state a response should be given I advise contacting the OIAHE, you won't be able to send your case to the OIAHE if you choose to until you have a completion of procedures letter, but the OIAHE can get in contact with the University if they fail to respond to the student in a timely manner during the internal complaints process.
Although you have finished the PhD you may still encounter issues, should you need an academic reference reference or if you intend to publish papers on your PhD work.
It is not always possible to address issues directly with individuals concerned, this can depend on the personalities of those you are dealing with, culture within that area, management etc. You have a right to make a complaint.
You are welcome to contact me directly. I'm a student who has encountered supervision related difficulties.
If you have only heard bad things about the new PI, who has interviewed you four times!, then my advice is to stay well clear of that one. You would likely be going from one bad situation to another, I've read other cases on this forum of that happening when people are desperate to get out of a bad situation. I've not heard of anyone being interviewed four times before. I don't think staying on where you are and getting one extension after another is a good situation at all. The PI will just get more annoyed and you are not likely to get development opportunities if they know you are leaving. Ideally you should have found a new position then given notice. Given the bad blood etc. my advice would be just to leave your current position and do something else for a while, preserve your health.
In my experience of applying for PhDs a few years ago, if you haven't been shortlisted typically you won't hear anything from the University again, not even to say you have not been shortlisted. Its not a good sign that the head of the course hasn't responded, admissions seemingly won't get involved and the person you spoke to on the phone didn't call back when they said they would. What you describe would put me off that particular University. I would strongly advise applying elsewhere.
I have been looking for potential sources of funding for a research visit to the US for up to a year from this Fall, as part of my PhD. I've been interviewed for Fulbright but I am not hopeful after not answering one of the questions well. I have an offer of attendance from a US University which has a specialist centre in my field of research and the Advisor I would have there is an expert in this area. I will still get my current stipend during the visit, this will cover living expenses and some of the fees. I am aware of grants of £500 to £1000 from a couple of societies I am a member of. Any recommendations of potential sources of grants would be much appreciated, I don't want to rely on Fulbright as I felt from the point of applying it was a long shot, and I can only be considered for the most competitive All Discipline award. If I don't get that I would like to advise the US University that I have identified other funding sources, I can contribute some personal funds also.
Never trust that a previous student was correct. Both my Masters and PhD work followed on work of another student, fortunately in both cases I noticed errors early on - which surprisingly were not picked up by examiners. In the first case a key equation had been written incorrectly. I've noticed many issues with a past students' PhD work. I had looked up standard testing techniques and sample sizes required, the test rig should have been consistent with these but I found it was far from it, the student reported dimensions in their thesis which were still smaller than specified in the standards but maybe close enough to get away with, its a multidisciplinary area and its something their particular examiners may not have picked up on. Upon measurement of the apparatus this was significantly smaller than they stated in their thesis. I didn't use that test rig, I designed and developed my own. I've learnt to check everything. Their methodology was suspect, various incorrect assumptions had been made and some things just didn't seem plausible. I re-ran a test, I got very different results. They used inappropriate controls, the list goes on. Some of their thesis is just too vague to work out exactly what they did. They drafted just one paper which wasn't accepted for publication. I've just drafted the second and hoping for 4/5 publications including 2/3 conference papers. The previous student had a lot of support. I've done much of my work with very little supervision so far, there was perhaps some benefit to that in may case.
Monkia - I persevered at the same place. I made enquiries about PhDs elsewhere at one point and had quite different responses. Its not always the case that there will be a non-positive impression of you, its very much dependent upon individual views and experiences. I found it was best to be open early on about the situation, then you know if there is an issue or not. If someone jumps to negative conclusions that should be a warning. I have found having a supportive supervisor helps avoid difficulties so if you find someone in the right field who is supportive and understanding from the offset this will help. There are sometimes issues which cannot be foreseen. If there are a lack of systems in place to address issues, poor management etc. then negative environments could more likely develop. I won't go into details but I can understand why there are issues where I am and some progress is now being made to address these.
Try to have a positive outlook and have confidence in yourself. A lack of confidence can be a barrier to progress and affect motivation.
I've been in a similar situation and having to fight cases like this takes a lot of energy and time so you may just be in need of a bit of a break before starting the new PhD. I can relate to the feelings of hurt after being treated badly myself, being in these situations can feel very unfair and you can find yourself very much alone. I even got trolled on this forum for sharing my experience at one point and had to get my post removed, which the moderators were quick to action. I've been fortunate to experience a very positive environment at the University where I did my undergrad course, compared to the toxic environment where I am now. Hence I know that not all places are like the one I am currently at, where there are seemingly leadership issues. This stops me feeling disillusioned and helps motivate me to get my PhD finished and progress my career somewhere better. Both places I have been are in the UK Russel group but are significantly different.
Just try your best, you may need to take things easy for a while and do a bit each day to build up momentum.
I had concerns from meeting one about my supervisors and these turned out to be justified, very much so. I too was subjected to intimidating behaviours and didn't receive guidance, and my project was changed. From what you have said it sounds like they had no interest in the project you proposed, hence the lack of guidance and only negative comments. Its possible they had a project idea for a while but no funding to take it forwards until you came along. The second supervisor sounds quite controlling. Sorry this sounds a bit pessimistic but I speak from experience of being in a toxic environment. As you are self-funding and proposed the project you could take this elsewhere if you chose. Given the position of your second supervisor I would tread carefully now. As the Head of PhD studies was no help then its possible they informed your second supervisor of your contact with them, particularly given your second supervisor's position.
As you are self-funded you will have more say about who supervises you than someone who has a stipend. If you are not happy then I advise requesting a change of supervision, or even going elsewhere as sadly in these toxic environments once you find yourself in a situation where you are seeking alternative supervision you can be seen as a problem even if you haven't done anything wrong. Not all places are like this, departmental cultures vary widely where I am and the institution itself is very different to where I did my masters. I advise speaking to someone you can have a confidential discussion with in your department. You could try discussing your concerns with these supervisors and should maybe try this first, but maybe also have a backup plan in place.
I will just add that a senior lecturer I had during my undergrad studies told me that he hated his PhD, despite this he has a successful academic career. I guess he had focused on the end goal. Personally I like to enjoy what I am doing and not for it to be a means to an end as such. It sounds the the experience is also important to you and your end goal has changed.
You could put something like 'postgraduate researcher' on your CV to cover the past year, and mention skills of relevance to jobs you are applying for. I wouldn't worry about how employers will view leaving a PhD, its perfectly understandable if you feel the academic environment isn't for you etc.
I am not sure what to advise about accommodation as you have paid for a year in advance, particularly if you are referring to the current academic year, it is maybe not so bad if its to the end of this year. Maybe you could transfer the contract to a new tenant if the landlord will allow it.
I'm in Engineering also and encountered many similar issues. I didn't like the culture in the group I should have been part, there was a lot of inequality in respect of funding and my project didn't fit in as well as others. I was cut out of communications at times and things got worse after the group management changed. I ended up distancing myself from that group and networking outside of it, which has been very beneficial to me. Equipment availability is also a constraint, I work with what I have access to currently. I am planning to use equipment in other departments at later stages, for which there may be a cost. These issues aren't uncommon. There were changes to my project, although some aspects couldn't be changed. My supervisor was very difficult and cold, issues there I won't detail on this post led to me seek a new supervisor, I work independently currently. I enjoy my PhD and plan to go into a career in academia, this has kept me going. The issues you state can be fixed to some extent but if you don't enjoy the work I would say at this time you have likely given it long enough to know if this is for you now.
I'm with pm133 on this. I've had depression for many years, I've never cheated and wouldn't ever think of doing so and I have never been lazy. If you were struggling due to health you had the option to tell someone before the assignment was due, this is likely how the University will see this. I once had to get an extension for an assignment during the final year of my undergrad studies. I didn't like having to do that but I couldn't have done my best otherwise. Universities do understand these issues. There are deadlines for letting them know about these matters though. If you've said nothing before now then mitigations may not be considered in respect of the assessments you've already completed. You say 'they found chunks to be plagiarised'. This is serious, integrity is vital in academia. I would advise you speak to an Advisor in your Students Union, and its sounds like you have done this. I think the best you can do now is learn from your mistake and get the help you need. unfortunately for any future applications where you need to provide a transcript it is likely to be a red flag, depending on how closely this is looked at. Maybe seek opinions among academics where you are about this if you can. I have encountered misunderstanding and stigma in respect of depression, especially in academia, so I am personally cautious about mentioning this now. I personally wouldn't mention this on an application, maybe at an interview if you feel comfortable to do so.
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