Changing supervisor or quitting


I am an international student doing a PhD at the same university as my partner (came together). I have been having difficulties dealing with my supervisor, who is ineffective, rarely comes to school and can be abusive at times. Other students in my research group are negative and frustrated. I have little progress, in part because I have been required to work on a large number of unrelated tasks, in part because I have been lacking motivation (which I believe is amplified by the negative environment). I have been quite depressive and can't deal with the situation well. Lately, it has gotten to the point that my partner is worried about me leaving the country without him, and he's asked me to look into options. I've had a talk with the postgraduate adviser and he's said he would help me either find a job or change supervisor and project if that is what I felt was the best. He's also taking up some of the problems.

I've talked things through with my partner, family and friends, and I've made up my mind that I'm not sticking with the current supervisor. However, I am waiting on options of alternative supervisors before breaking the news. Avoiding meetings and pretending to still be interested in my project is proving difficult (only been a week). This last week, she has actually helped me with my project more than she has since the begining, and I feel some guilt at quitting now. But I also know that things won't change (haven't in 4 years according to other students) and my mental health has become more important than a title.

I am very anxious and worried about the current situation, and I feel horrible about pretending, especially since she is making me meet with a potential external supervisor tomorrow. I also worry about the other students, who will surely be blamed for my departure (she blames the group for sapping the enthousiasm of a new girl already).

I would like some objective advice on how to deal with the situation. Also, I'm worried about the mess of changing supervisor and the stigma attached to it. And my partner is worried since his supervisor is a friend of mine's.

At moments, I just want to take the next flight home and not deal with any of this. Any words of comfort will be appreciated.


Are you happy with your current project? or are you looking for a change in direction as well?


unfortunately these things happen more often than it seems.

i would try not to consider the sigma associated to it. don't quit and get a new supervisor.

i think it is very important not to blame you current boss though: talk to potential supervisors and explain what you are looking for, how you work, the environment you need to work efficiently and the work ethics you have. focus on the fact you and your supervisor have different work ethics, and that will be ok.


I have some serious worries about my current project. The project I had discussed with my supervisor before coming fell through, and I was assigned the task of finishing the project that a PhD student before me didn't manage to finish (during her 5 yr thesis...). I haven't really been able to discuss the problems with my supervisor. When I've tried to bring up some of my worries about the technical aspects of my work, she has just dismissed what I was saying. But now I realise that she doesn't know more about it than me, and she just wanted me to work on this project because it is a trendy topic.

I wasn't in love with the topic when I was first told (2 weeks before starting), but I thought it must just be because I didn't know anything about it. Now, I don't know if the situation is the main reason that I am not excited about my project, or if really it isn't what I want. I do notice that my supervisor is pushing the projects of the other students in a very theoretical direction that I'm not all at interested in. She seems to be wanting to do that with my project as well. I know that it's my project in the end, but she has a way of forcing you to do things without giving you an order...

I've thought of changing project altogether, and even though it is a scary thought, I think I feel excited about doing something else. Not sure if that's a clear sign or if I'm too deep in the situation to think clearly.


It's probably a huge coincidence but everything you say in these posts really reminds me of a research group I worked in during my MSc. I hope you're able to sort out your problems.