Hello! I need your help as I am desperate.
That's how the story goes. I am at the beginning of my second year of my PhD. Recently, a member of my PhD committee was replaced. His place was taken by a professor who is a collaborator and personal friend of my main supervisor and who showed particular interest in my study. This at first made me extremely happy as my main supervisor does not show much interest in me and my study (e.g. the feedback I receive on my drafts is rather superficial than in depth. Many times in the past I have realized some important mistakes and omissions in my draft that my supervisor didn't). This has made me feel completely helpless and neglected. Thus, I based my hopes on the new professor. However, my initial joy turned into disappointment as I noticed that he is trying to change my existing experimental design to one that serves his own research interests. Long story short, he has almost canceled anything I have done so far but without giving me any reason for it (e.g. he says it's better to use a specific type of analysis and not the one I propose without explaining to me WHY). I am very annoyed and angry mainly because my supervisor does not take a position (although he has previously agreed on the methodology I had suggested) and has left me alone. The meetings we have (altogether) are unhelpful leaving me more confused and frustrated than before (e.g. One time I was so annoyed that after the meeting I burst into tears). I cannot even sleep at night thinking to leave my phd. Next week the three of us will meet again and I am puzzled over how to handle this. Should I clearly state that they are not supportive? I am afraid that this will make things worse...
I am sorry that things are unpleasant. It might help if you think to adopt methodology of the other professor if it was really better. Ask for a one to one meeting with him and ask him directly why he wants to change the methodology. If you are convinced, then continue and do not think too much about the work you have down. It is not uncommon in PhD to discover that methodology has to be changed. Now is better than later. Do not take it personally. In academia and in companies, the seniors take decisions based on their "experience" (sometimes wrong decisions).
Is there something else bothering you in the meetings? are they nice or try to belittle your work? I would advise to be open and frank with them especially your new one as the primary looks not useful. Having a discussion with the new supervisor might be very helpful as he might have no idea of your disappointment and suffering.
Just be pragmatic. Do what helps you to go further in your PhD. Of course do it only when you are convinced.
Sorry about not responding earlier.
If you feel overwhelmed and frustrated, take a holiday away from your PhD. Burnout is incredibly common among PhD students and it so easy to get sucked into the moment that you lose sight of the bigger picture. After a break you might see things differently and feel better more generally.
Do you think the new methodology is better? Do you think the second supervisor will help support you conduct the the new methodology better? Your methodology should change through the PhD as you learn more about the subject and no-one gets it perfectly right the first time. It is okay to lose a years work, I had no results in my first year because of shoddy methodologies (engineering) and if you make the right decision now you still have plenty of time to complete on schedule. I understand your second supervisor isn't explaining why you should do what they want, but what do you think is better? It is your PhD and you should be able to make the choice but ultimately it is your responsibility.
Also, I wouldn't say that they aren't being supportive but that you feel you want need more help with certain areas. Supervisors assume everything is fine unless you explicitly tell them. It isn't wrong to say that you want more help with your writing, or drafting your methodology or how to analyse the data. They will probably be more than happy to help. With regards to feedback with writing, my supervisor was similar in that her feedback was incredibly vague and superficial. Originally I asked more help, which didn't work but I found asking for them to go through a single section usually got results. Building your working relationship with your supervisors can be difficult but trying different approaches and having small targets can sometimes work.
Thank you eng77 for your answer!
Hi Rewt and thank you a lot for your helpful answer.
As I mentioned in my previous message I finally arranged a meeting with the new prof and things became more clear. However, during our discussion I realised that my main supervisor agreed to a methodology that it was no proper. Actually, I sent him my experimental design and he said to me that I am ready to proceed. Due to COVID restrictions I couldn't proceed to it so far (thankfully, as I would have faced many problems)! However, my new committee member realised the methodological flaws and that is why he insisted in changing methodology (this became clear during our discussion). Thus, I am really dissappointed of my main supervisor as if it wasn't for my new committee member I would have proceeded to an experiment that would have been faulty (at least) making me loosing time. I have realised so far that my main sup's style is quite hands-off (so swim or sink) but I think that he should have indicated some flaws in my experimental design. And the worst (for me) is that if I ask him why he told me to proceed to the experiment he will say that I should have found the flaws on my own (maybe he would be right?). So, I am very confused regarding the sup's role in the whole phd process...
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