My Supervisor is a bullshitter whose career is based on hot air

posted
03-Nov-17, 12:55
Avatar for dbdbmouse
posted about 2 weeks ago
Newbie here,

I haven't completed my first year of PhD yet and I am thinking to quit and find a job. Why? I have been in this lab 6 months as "Research assistant" in Biotechnology/molecular biology let's say, and after that I have started the PhD always with the same supervisor. It was just in the last couple of months that I have started to realize who my boss really is. A bullshitter!

When he talks, in his words he is the expert in everything, but the fact is he has no clue at the technical level of nearly anything about my or other PhDs students' projects he is "following".

Not only that, I could accept it, he is also a liar. I know that he published papers where he plainly lied. Saying that fir example 3 independent experiments have been done when in fact it was just one experiment!. In fact, this person literally jumps to conclusions immediately, whenever he sees an experiment that just slightly tells what he wants, then immediately that experiment is correct. When the experiment tells the opposite than he blames me!

When I try to convince him that maybe before screaming eureka and starting to write a paper with a "n=2" we need more experiments to confirm, he tells me off at lab meeting, belittling me in front of all the other components of the group, telling that I am always there trying to disprove other's people work, speaking like he is the expert when he literally doesn't know anything about the technique he is talking about!

Indeed, he has never published, and never will publish in a decent peer-reviewed journal but he is the first one to criticize other manuscripts belittling them! He is full of names on manuscripts (reviews, let me specify, not actual experimental work, because his experimental work is shit).

To all of this, let's add that I don't like this environment, I don't like academia and especially knowing that I have to stay in this group for 2 more years of madness with a crazy post-doc that licks his boots.
I prefer spending these 2 years in a real job getting paid with real money and not peanuts for 10-12 hours a day.

The problem is, if I quit my PhD, how do I justify my last year in the resume? also, how do I deal with my supervisor? he will get incredibly angry when he will find out I want to quit, and he will definitely throw shit on me if I add him in my CV references and somebody actually contacts him.

Has anybody ever quit a PhD in science because of the shitty boss/environment but also project that thanks to the aforementioned supervisor will never go anywhere?

I am worried if I will ever find a job (out of academia), how can I declare that I have learned some techniques and skills when I can't actually use my supervisor as a reference??

Help
posted
06-Nov-17, 19:26
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
Anyone?
posted
06-Nov-17, 19:57
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
I haven't had that experience but just some words of advice/encouragement which you can take or leave. I don't think you should let the fear of a reference keep you from leaving.Do you have an advisor or another supervisor or mentor who could provide your reference? Are you based in the UK? I am not sure of the facts, but I've heard it is against the law (don't quote me) to dish the dirt on someone when providing a reference. Don't sweat it - just leave if that is what you want to do. You'll find a job in time. Even if he does write you a bad reference, I don't think it could do that much harm in the long run - it will probably just look like someone who is disgruntled that their student left and wants to stab them in the back. Your CV and interview presentation will speak for themselves.

By the way - I think you're definitely doing the right thing by choosing to no longer work with this person. It will only get deeper and deeper... like when you come to write your thesis and it has to include papers where your supervisor has falsified parts of the procedure (lied). A few people have posted about that on here - and by the sounds of it, it is a real possibility in your situation.

On the other hand - if it is only this supervisor who is making you want to leave - maybe consider switching supervisors before leaving. It might be a much more enjoyable experience for you.

Good luck.
posted
06-Nov-17, 20:13
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for cloudofash
posted about 1 week ago
I agree with Tudor Queen, I would look elsewhere for a better supervisor.
If you want to hide that year, you can always say you went traveling as well.
posted
06-Nov-17, 22:05
Avatar for alexandercarey1989
posted about 1 week ago
Hi, fortunately I have never experienced a very bad supervisor during my postgraduate years. However, I had a couple of friends who shared similar experience as yours. There are several options from this circumstance that you can do.

1. Yes, he is a very very bad supervisor indeed. Quit doing PhD from him right away.
2. Look for better supervisor if you really wanted to still continue with PhD research. Otherwise, look for a decent job
3. Leave out his name from your CV. You don't want your future employer to contact him for reference.

Goodluck
posted
07-Nov-17, 10:57
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 1 week ago
Unfortunately, having worked in academia for 10 years at 4 different universities on 2 continents, I have to say that incompetent supervisors are a very, very common phenomenon. Frankly, it is the rule rather than the exception. It is important to understand that academic careers everywhere are built on 1.) networking,networking,networking, 2.) politics, 3.) acquiring funding, 4.) forcing one's way onto authors' lists by all means, 5.) overselling oneself, and at a very distant 6.) actual research and teaching.

In short, for every competent academic out there you will find at least one other who got to where they are based on hot air and taking credit for the work of others. I cannot count the number of times I witnessed even tenured professors who had to be constantly corrected by their own students in undergraduate lectures on the most basic subject-matter. For some "senior" scientists I worked with I genuinely wondered how they even managed to get a high school degree in the first place, including one tenured professor who constantly struggled to correctly spell simple words in their own native language.

Unfortunately, the correlation between having genuine original ideas and sound research methodology on the one hand and succeeding professionally in academia on the other hand is close to zero, and at many universities seemingly negative.

The problem is: If you change supervisors, how will you know your next one is not even worse? If they fooled their hiring committee and colleagues, will they not fool you? I switched research groups several times hunting the big names with great publication lists and reputations. However, when I arrived, I understood within weeks that there, too, it was all show and no substance at all. Frankly, it got worse the "higher up" I aimed. Ending with the guy who couldn't spell and didn't have the faintest idea about their alleged area of expertise, but who was so well-connected and powerful that he willfully destroyed my career in the end.
posted
07-Nov-17, 12:29
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From Walter_Opera:

The problem is: If you change supervisors, how will you know your next one is not even worse?


It doesn't matter. If he wants to leave then changing supervisors first is just a thing to try. If it doesn't work out, leave as planned.
posted
07-Nov-17, 17:13
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
By the way, I don't think poor spelling discredits someone as an academic. Maybe they have dyslexia. Whatever the case - spelling isn't necessarily linked to intelligence or ability to be an academic.

Also, I think these negative experiences might be in the minority rather than the rule. I've yet to meet an academic who didn't have a clue about their own area of expertise.

I don't want to disagree with everything the last poster said but seriously - "Unfortunately, the correlation between having genuine original ideas and sound research methodology on the one hand and succeeding professionally in academia on the other hand is close to zero, and at many universities seemingly negative."

That's a bit extreme!
posted
07-Nov-17, 19:30
edited about 1 second later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From Walter_Opera:
It is important to understand that academic careers everywhere are built on 1.) networking,networking,networking, 2.) politics, 3.) acquiring funding, 4.) forcing one's way onto authors' lists by all means, 5.) overselling oneself, and at a very distant 6.) actual research and teaching.


Oh, so you've met one of my supervisors? :P

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