Supervisor destroyed my love for science

E

Hi everyone,

I have a story to share and I need some kind of support and just sharing experience.
I am in my last PhD year (life science), I have published a paper 3 months ago in a good journal and now having a problem with myself thinking did I do the right thing.

I don't know how to make a long story short but I will try. I started my project when I was a Master student and after getting some promising results I continued on this project and collected data that was ready to publish a year or so ago. I realized my supervisor and me have a very different opinion on one of the main conclusions of the paper/data. I really would not like to sound arrogant but I know he is wrong because I can tell he did not read recent publications on the subject and as far as I know he is the only one who has this opinion in the field and I am quiet sure nobody in the field would agree with him. To be clear on this, I strongly believe everyone can have their own conclusions and hypothesis, science is about that and it's the way science progress but this person has conclusions without evidence. And here I am not even mentioning that students in his lab (including myself) have zero support and below zero supervision, he is behaving like doing a PhD is your own thing and he has nothing to do with that.

So...I wrote the paper and he removed half of my data and wrote discussion part as he wanted to write it, with most of the conclusions I do not agree with. I know I cannot graduate if I start to make complaints now and my time and money is gone. So I said ok, and I thought review process will take care of it. Reviewers asked the questions I knew it would be asked and I agree with all of them 100%, some of them really bashed the paper and I totally understand why.

At first submission I was rejected and to be honest I did not feel bad, I felt relief because I knew it is just wrong. Second submission had a set of reviewers that I could tell were not really focused but still they had a good points. My supervisor is a famous name in the field and I think this is probably the reason I got accepted after the revision.

I am literally a week before my defense and I just totally mentally sinked, I cannot force myself to make a presentation because it all feels so fake for me, it feels like a bunch of lies and I am having a serious concerns that I will never be able to continue my career after a paper like this. I am wondering if other researchers in the field will have problem reproducing this data and the entire story told. I am scared and I have zero motivation to continue science, I just want to finish my PhD and never eneter a lab in my life. I was very passionate about science before and at the beginning of my PhD, this person completely destroy all I ever felt for science.

Does anyone have any advice? Anyone ever been in similar situation? I would be happy to hear someone's else experiences and thoughts.
Thanks!

A

If i were you I would be more than happy to defend my thesis and say Good Bye to such a (nasty) supervisor. As far as your love for science is concerned, you can rejuvenate it .

E

Thank you so much for saying this. This experience definitely opened my eyes and if I can see something good in this PhD that would be that it gave the answer about if I want to stay in academia. Definitely NOT! :)

Avatar for rewt

A paper is still a paper. You might not agree with the conclusions but if the data was collected correctly it is ethically okay. Your reviewers cannot deny that you have made a novel contribution of research, which is the main aim of thesis. If you feel uncomfortable defending the work, you can just agree with them and say that further work is needed but it was outside of your scope. Nobody's thesis is perfect, you just need to do enough. So I wouldn't beat yourself up about what you could have done and look at what you did do.

I haven't submitted yet but have been feeling the same way recently in my 4th year. I have lost all love for my work in the last 6 months and I can only cringe looking at one of my papers. I think that everyone goes through a stage near the end of their PhD where you are just worn out and need a break. Spending so many years on one topic can destroy your passion but it is nearly over. I would just defend your thesis to the best of your ability and then you can forget everything about it.

Goodluck!

E

Thank you, I hope we both finish this and find the love for science again or simply find the work that would make us happy again. The thing I am the most scared of is that other scientists will be unable to reproduce my work, or even people in my own lab. Having thoughts of someone else doing the exact same experiment I did - this petrifies me! I am scared one day my supervisor will think I fabricated the data or something like that and I base these thoughts on the fact that me and my supervisor really didn't like each other. If something goes wrong I can precisely imagine what he would think. I am not sure if I will ever be able to let go of those thoughts...on the other hand, I know what kind of person he is and I should definitely not care what he thinks now or anytime in the future when I am no longer here...

E

Edit: I just asked my supervisor if he wants to see my presentation before the defense, to check my slides, he said: "no"
Great, I feel so supported!

Avatar for rewt

Quote From Evelyn:
Edit: I just asked my supervisor if he wants to see my presentation before the defense, to check my slides, he said: "no"
Great, I feel so supported!


Do you want to present it to us?

E

Haha thank you, that would be so embarrassing! ☺️

G

I really hate how common it seems to be for some supervisors to continuously undermine their students like this. If anything you're the one who deserves a research career because you're the one with the good ideas. I have a similar situation with my ex-supervisor and I know how intense the frustration can become. I'm sorry you're dealing with this.

C

Quote From Evelyn:
Edit: I just asked my supervisor if he wants to see my presentation before the defense, to check my slides, he said: "no"
Great, I feel so supported!


Not to defend your terrible supervisor at all, but maybe when dealing with people like this it is more useful to rephrase it from asking if he wants to see your presentation to directly asking what you need from him: 'Please can you look over my presentation before the defense to check my slides?'

E

Quote From glimmerbat:
I really hate how common it seems to be for some supervisors to continuously undermine their students like this. If anything you're the one who deserves a research career because you're the one with the good ideas. I have a similar situation with my ex-supervisor and I know how intense the frustration can become. I'm sorry you're dealing with this.


Thank you!! I am done, defended my PhD, I will leave and never look back, and I will never work for someone like this again!! Life is happy again!

E

Quote From cucaracha:
Not to defend your terrible supervisor at all, but maybe when dealing with people like this it is more useful to rephrase it from asking if he wants to see your presentation to directly asking what you need from him: 'Please can you look over my presentation before the defense to check my slides?'


The answer would be the same. "nope", I know this person for over 10 years, all kinds of questions formulated in many different ways, a bad supervisor is a bad supervisor, no matter how you 're-phrase' yourself...

Avatar for rewt

Quote From Evelyn:
Thank you!! I am done, defended my PhD, I will leave and never look back, and I will never work for someone like this again!! Life is happy again!


Massive congratulations! Well done Dr Evelyn!

E

Quote From rewt:
Massive congratulations! Well done Dr Evelyn!


Thank you so much!!!

G

Yes, congratulations!! I'm sorry it was such a stressful experience but I'm really glad you got through it!

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