supervisor has a problem!


Hi guys, I've spend hours looking thru books on how to manage hermit type geeky phd supervisors, but in vain.

Let me share a bit on my experience as a 2nd year phd student.
I engaged myself into this topic because of my supt where he managed 'convinced' me that it is extremely easy to publish, has high impact and various industrial applications.
He also convinced me in the first year that this field will be difficult but he'll be focusing on this work in future, so we'll work together to achieve great things.

It sounds good, I stepped in and done literature survey thoroughly and preliminary numerical.

What he failed to tell me was, he doesn't have a grant supporting it and no facilities to perform experimental work. When I enquired about it, he told me he'll be working on a collaboration with an external facility to obtain access for me. But 2 years have passed and he has conveniently forgotten about it. When I prepared a grant application with hard work and effort, he didn't spend much time on it and effort to obtain make sure it goes well. Instead , he forgot to include the collaboration partners and screwed the whole grant application up... i wonder why....????? he tells me he is busy with his other project

He couldn't finish his previous project and continued working on it continously neglecting me for the past 2 years.

Worst still, I was given a desktop PC (not even clusters) with an outdated numerical code to run simulations that requires supercomputers(em FDTD is computionally expensive).
I can only run crude simulations and refine ones due to its limitations.

Fustrated, I spoke to him on my concerns. He says he has no idea how to solve it, but we'll get it solve. Its the supervisor's responsibility to get funding.
What the ...... who has been toiling and putting effort in writing the grant applications which he forgotten?

I feel I cannot trust this supervisor and here are the reasons:
1) He has a track record of screwing up students --> don care about students
he has 2 past students.
Both were suspended scholarships for 1/2 year penniless because he didn't timely schedule the qualifying's examination for them.
1 student works like a dog for him sleeping in the lab for 3-4 hrs a day, working 7 days a week 365 days per year and never went back to home to visit parent for 1.5 yrs.

2) He pays his post-doc rates that masters students are getting.... --> he has no money

3) He hates to befriend any other collaborators because he feels his ideas are brilliant and hate free loaders -> names on publications

4) He is a perfectionist and demands us to publish high impact journals so we won't jeopardize his track record.

5) He likes to do things last minute and

Now without experimental facilities, without funding $$, without facilities, without publication and without supervision(bcos he is too busy...)
What should I Do.....


He sounds like a dreamer to me; but the problem with dreamers is that they can be full of great ideas, but they are not good at taking responsibilty and doing the day-to-day grind. They need to be counterbalanced by a more practical person. Do you have a second supervisor? You should.

He sounds a lot like one of our academics; full of his own genius but unable to handle serious work.


I have seen similar situations (and I'm in one myself - no funding for the actual research but not told that until I started). The general rule of thumb is that if you can't see a way to cover your costs, one way or another, by the end of the first year, then you have to eaither change to a topic that doesn't need funds or switch to another supervisor with a cheaper, or funded, project. A friend of mine here was in this position and went through the board of graduate studies (you will have some admin equivalent) to officially switch to another supervisor. Unfortunately, there were serious problems with this other supervisor - so think carefully when choosing another topic/supervisor.

For myself, I put some of my grant towards research costs with has been a total pain and I am still pretty angry about having to do that. I had to scale back the costs drastically and consquently my dataset is really too small.

Keep some documentation to support any future complaint you need to raise about your situation.


I have a second supervisor who is the kind that is only in charge of administrative.
I've shared this problem with him. The other supt has diplomatically spoken to this supervisor. but It seems futile nothing has changed.
I'm thinking of downgrading to a Masters and get away from this lousy supervisor.
But he may even drag my masters for another year which would cost me 3 yrs on a Masters programme.

So my other colleagues are telling me to just bite on to myself and get int thru by doing simulations. I wonder if that's the right choice.

We are doing silicon microfabrication.
I don't think he's a dreamer, the problem is he reads a lot but practically he never done it before.
One thing you are right. He doesn't have hands on experience. He is a theoretical fella trying to do practical work, we are doing the dirty work in silicon microfabrication. He is also a new professor. just got his assistant professorship about 4 yrs after 10 yrs of post doctoral.
Lack of experience, lack ppl & time management skills, worst thing is we've to pay for his mistakes.


You need to take your worries to a Graduate Secretary or Tutor. If your supervisor has done this before then I'm sure they're aware of it. Can you write funding applications with someone on your degree committee?