Made to Fall (Ph.D. Unsatisfactory)


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Hello all,
I want to share something very important with you.
I had my defense just few days back and the result was unsatisfactory.
There was an incident that happened in the lab two years back where in one of the senior research fellows called me "b****" in front of everybody for 5 times and that was because i was merely enquiring him why he dismantled my experimental apparatus and set up a new one for some body else in my absence and not emailed me ever.
This incident is about to change my life.
The senior research fellow (as old as my advisor)happens to be my advisors favourite and they were together for about 15 years. Ever since that incident ,my advisor treated me like a dog.He started having his secretary taking notes of what i talk.He cut my funding off.He did not allow me to present at any conferences. He choose the committee and outside reader for me. Unfortunately all of them are dependent on him wrt funding.
he writes condescending emails with cc to committee. My department head knows everything but he never acted. I have been facing this since last two years.
In short i got over that incident and he never did even though he was not the abused while I was.
No action was taken on the person who abused me. Its a personal vendetta.
I feel extremely harassed and can do nothing about it.
after my defense i went straight to the dean of graduate school and informed me what happened. He would meet me tomorrow with any options.
I will be meeting the Dean of Engineering aswell.
I know that i have a second chance at defense and this time i want 'choice'.
i am going to request dean for neutral committee .
Also i am going to file for a grievance with office of affirmative action.
Three of the professors who i met personally said, my advisor is like a hurricane and he is too powerful. He will never let me cross that hump and never get me a phd. he is punishing me.
I have good academic record, got national and international research awards and publications .My work was 95% self supervised very no input from my advisor.He occasionally used to throw some key words at me and expected to build diseertattion around it.My topic was vaguely defined from day 1
if this is what i get from 5 and half years of my life...does hard work and sincereity ,courage and perseverance mean anything?
I just wanted to share.
Just wanted to add,I am the first female PhD the group ever had.
If any body can guide me in any way,please advice.
I will update as and when I can.

I have few questions and would appreciate reply
Can the student carry over the netire work with him or her to a new advisor who is willing to put his stamp on it.

Who does the work really belong to?student or major prof or university??


I just wanted to say, I'm really sorry about your viva. It's good that you are channelling the hurt in a productive way.



That sounds dreadful - I really hope you get a favourable outcome from your re-viva and from the grievance action you are taking. Hopefully you'll be able to put it all behind you at some point and move on to something better. Good luck!


I can't imagine how difficult that must be for you... it sounds so unfair. :-(
Stick in there though! Best of luck with your viva and getting this whole situation fixed.


Given your situation it is probably best to comply in written form all the negative incidents and outcomes that have occured throughout your studies (hopefully, you kept a diary/notes of dates and email archives). Then seek help from someone outside your department e.g., a student welfare officer or student union rep. If they feel you have been unfairly treated, then it may be fruitful to see a lawyer who specialises in higher education litigation.


It is possible to change Supervisors - two of my friends PhD students actually switched from him after an argument to my own Supervisor.

However, you need to find someone who is willing to go up against your evil Supervisor - as effectively they will be named as 'first supervisor' or your PhD and if none of them have the balls to go up against him - you might find yourself against a brick wall.

Currently, you need facts, not feelings.

Document everything - when you were insulted in the lab - when this happened, who witnessed it - are there any people who would be willing to testify to this? this, at the very least is bullying. If you have sent a lot of emails to your supervisor and not got any replies .... document the lack of supervision.. the dates you emailed him ... how many times .. how many times you got a reply .... everything.

Write down your publications, write down dates, where they were published - demonstrate your work has been peer-reviewed at conferences - all facts

Don't meet saying ' I feel this , and I'm annoyed' - present the facts in a very logical way and *prove* you have been victimised - very much like your viva... 'proof' is everything.


Hi Cameroon,
Working backwards from your post:
The work that you do, ie the IP rights (Intellectual Property Rights) belongs to the university, not individuals. As long as your lab work is conducted in the university, the output belongs to them. I got this information from the IP people in my university when things went pear-shaped and my PGRT said that my supervisors have rights over my work.
Although in theory, your supervisors should have no influence over your final viva, in practise, some academics get knobbled by the other big boys. I got stitched up for my upgrade viva 'cos my supervisor told them I was a basket case before I met the examiners. However, they could not find fault with the resubmission and I was very confident in my re-viva and passed.
From experience, I can vouch that once there are cracks in the supervisory relation, it truly is a slippery slope. I wished I got off sooner. Nonetheless, I managed to get out and they can no longer decide who my examiners are for the final viva. The university has a duty of care towards all their students. Use the apparatus to your advantage and like the previous posters said, stay objective and shelf your feelings aside whilst you present your case. I know that few laywers would take on the university, certainly not the legal aid people. I would seek help from the MP and the students' union and also, write to your VC. If you have a solid case of bullying and poor academic support, someone out there will help. Keep us posted.


I don't have much to add other than that I'm really sorry to hear that you've had this terrible experience. I would second the others' suggestions about keeping a record of everything that you have experienced with names, dates, witnesses etc. There seem to be several different issues here: discrimination by your supervisor (it seems this is what you're suggesting); lack of sufficient supervision; and misconduct at your defence (is this correct - i.e. do you feel you were actually treated unfairly by the examiners or is it more the case that because of your lack of supervision your work was not of the right standard?). I think you need to raise these issues separately when you meet the Deans of Engineering/Grad School.

Try to find support from other student groups as well e.g. the students' union and postgraduate studies committees if they exist. I think on the 'PhD failure' thread there is something about students unions being able to help with appeals.

Good luck.


What a jerk! I'm sorry that this happened to you. It's great that you are still able to think rationally and calmly: I would be putting laxative in his coffee.

As to your questions: I think it depends on who is funding you. I have heard of other students moving their reserach to a new university, but they had to get permission offthe funding body: which (unfortunatly) sounds like it is the university itself, in your case.

By the way, I would take a rep from the Student Union with you to the meeting; they will know your legal rights, and will have seen jerks like this before. They will give you some moral and legal back-up.


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