Hi All, long time lurker, first time posting in this forum. I am mid way into my PhD in life science at the moment. I have a very very busy supervisor who is completely hands-off on my project. Whenever I have certain issue with my experiment, she will say "That's your project, you have to figure it out" or "I don't know what should you do".... Because of this issue, I have completely lost passion in research and have no respect towards my supervisor. Long story short, I have lost the confidence in her as a supervisor. I am not the only student who is suffering under her mentorship, as a matter of fact, EVERY students in my lab faces the similar situation as me.
I consider myself to be the most productive student in this lab. In fact, I had my first author paper in my 1st year. To my dismal, my supervisor wasn't even encouraging during that period (as the paper was published in low impact journal and not up to her expectation). Right now I am working towards another paper which I am hoping to get into a mid tier journal.. Then, things get complicated. My supervisor wants to submit to a High IF journal which everyone thinks that is IMPOSSIBLE. I don't mind if she is a helpful lot who can give advise and guidance on what should I do in order for us to get into Nature quality journal, the problem I am having right now is, I am left stranded alone. What should I do?
I feel exactly the same way with both of my supervisors! One is exceptionally busy, so I barely see her, and the other is around all the time. However, when I ask for help he never has any answers or useful suggestions! I'm also in the lab, and coming up with all of my experiments on my own as well as trouble shooting is seriously exhausting. I'm on the verge of leaving as I'm just so fed up with it. I too have lost respect, as awful as it sounds I can't believe he even got his academic job in the first place.
Sadly I can't offer any useful advice, only that you're not the only one in this frustrating position!
Can you present her with concrete problems you are having and ask for concrete support (you identify what support)? Or concrete reasons as to why it is "impossible" and what you suggest instead (a mid tier journal). I suggest that you pretend to have respect/confidence in her... otherwise she may sense it and be even more unhelpful...
Hi, is there any postdoc around to help you with the labbased part of your experimental problems? To be honest, my supervisor (also very busy - meet him every other month if I am lucky) is completly useless if I would asked him about lab based problems. I am working at the intersection of two big, not directly related field - one he has expertise in, for problems in the other part I have to find experts myself. All of his phDs are working more or less independent under the supervision of a postdoc - basically we are reading papers, generating ideas, planning our experiments and present the data in the end to our supervisor. He is more like an academic sparring partner. You are expected to know more at the end of your phD in your special niche than your supervisor.
And I understand the wish for high IF publication. After all, the supervisors carreer depends on it. Sometimes, its wishful thinking, sometimes you would be surprised what goes through reviweing with just the right name on the paper ;)
Dear, I have been a supervisor for many projects, so I can understand the duties of supervisor. I must advice you to keep writing in journals and also send the same in Nature qualify journals as well. You must also at the same time keep your self motivated and complete your research projects. In case you need any help you can always ask for online help or use google search. In fact when i did my master my supervisor also behaved in the same way, however I kept my self motivated towards completing the dissertation work and out of 18 students who was enrolled I was the only one who completed the masters program on time.
Syed Usman Ahmed
Submit it to the high IF journal anyway? Does it matter if it gets rejected? Seems like win-win to me - it keeps your sup happy and it may be accepted, and if not, well, you tried right? Presumably your sup will read the draft and if you pointers where it can be approved.
I think you are not appreciating the positive side of all this: it’s much more fun working with a supervisor who is totally hands-off because he leaves you completely free to explore what you want and to think your own hypotheses! Figuring out problems on your own is part of the game, you can see it as the price to pay for freedom/fun! I personally find reading papers very useful to keep my mind opened.
Concerning the high profile journal, could you maybe chat with someone experienced in your lab as someone already suggested? I personally use a post doc in my lab as a sort of “potential reviewer” just to double-check that the experimental design of the future experiments that I have thought is the strongest possible so in this way you can aim to a very good journal.
I know the feeling! I've also gradually lost trust for my main supervisor after a huge string of "Ask [other PhD student]", "Ask the tech support"...it isn't the fact that she doesn't know the answer to whatever question/problem I want to discuss - it's the fact that she doesn't seem to want to even discuss it. It's always an immediate half-assed referral to someone else, yet when I bypass her (the middle-man?) she'll ask why I didn't ask for her opinion....
Unfortunately I don't have advice for how to deal with it, but if it helps at all, there's two of us over here in the same kind of boat...and it's beyond draining!
Well, speaking from my little experience I think that if you study and keep updated every single day about your research and keep your mind opened + you are extremely rigorous, focused and dedicated + you investigate a certain question using several different techniques and you find consistent results + your results are consistent with what is in literature + you get feedback at conferences/from experienced people, well I think that in that case your boss can also be mostly hands-off. Of course, it’s great to have feedback from your boss too, but if he is busy like in your case then there is still plenty of things that you can do.
In my opinion, the beauty of the PhD is being independent intellectually and free to explore. If you have “lost” passion just because your boss is busy and he is hands-off maybe you have just discovered that you actually are not passioned/interested enough.
When it happened that I have had problems in the past I’ve always asked my PI first and he can give me suggestions but then in the end it’s your motivation that allows you to persevere and think of solutions.
In summary, in my opinion if you are motivated and if you get feedback from different sources (e.g. literature, experienced people, using at least two different methods to answer a certain question) you can compensate the “absence” of your busy PI and, at the same time, safely enjoy the precious freedom that he gives you.
But, again, that’s just my little opinion! :)
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