Troubles with organization and supervisor

posted
03-Dec-18, 13:46
Avatar for pejovi93
posted about 1 week ago
Hi All,

About a month ago I started my PhD at a very renowned institute, got a good position on an interesting topic, well payed, in a nice town, so I was very excited to start. However, I can say that after a month I feel disappointed, mostly with the organization and my supervisor. To give you a background, this is not a typical academic institution, it's quite big, with a few thousand employees and the research is directed towards industry and applications. The problem is that my supervisor is highly positioned in the hierarchy and has many ongoing projects. All the discussions and actions so far were initiated by me and it is not unusual that he doesn't reply to my emails. Moreover, the discussions very often go into a big picture direction, so to say, about the plans, expectations, things to be achieved in one, two years etc. and not on the concrete actions, which is what I need at this stage. He is not even an expert in this field and for any practical question I have to ask around and hope that somebody will help me. The nature of the institute is that the projects are big, usually involving many people and different groups, so working alone with occasional meetings is not an option.

I know it has been only a month and maybe too early to rant, but I am afraid that this is note something temporary and it would be painful to continue working like this all the time. Any suggestions or similar experiences? Thanks in advance!
posted
04-Dec-18, 11:45
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 week ago
You are a month in, don't get disheartened. It sounds like you want a more hands on supervisor. Instead you have a senior academic who is well funded, well connected and has a good lab. Those are some amazing benefits and can you adapt to use them? I would give it a few more months and leave if you fell you need a supportive supervisor. Supervisors are one of the most common complaints on this forum, so you are not alone. You just got to be realistic about how much time he can give you (he can always help in none-time heavy ways)

My advice is to read. Just read as much as you can, thinking how everything affects your work. I think a mistake a lot of people do is rush into doing work, without taking the opportunity to get a broad knowledge of the field and competing ideas/technology/methods. It doesn't need to be relevant but will make you far more rounded as a researcher. This will help you become an independent researcher and become a self-starter.
posted
05-Dec-18, 08:05
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for pejovi93
posted about 1 week ago
Thanks a lot for the advices!
posted
05-Dec-18, 12:51
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
You are probably expecting too much from your supervisor. They are there to give you with the big directions, not necessarily give you day to day training in the lab. You can find most things you need from speaking to others in the lab and department and from googling. A PhD is meant to be independent research. This is not undergrad.
posted
05-Dec-18, 15:19
edited about 5 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
I know this isn't a pleasant phase to go through at the start but those conrete plans you talk about are solely your responsibility.
In addition to the excellent suggestions by rewt and ToL, I'd add that if you need to use any instrumentation or techniques you should find online tutorials and get yourself up to speed during this stage. Find other people who can take you through any physical instrumentation as well if you can find them. You want to pay particular attention to any safety concerns.
posted
05-Dec-18, 19:37
Avatar for pejovi93
posted about 1 week ago
Thank you all for the feedback.
I would like to defend myself for this overreacting, as it was perceived like that, and indeed it may sounded like that, but I didn't want to write too much.
The place where I am doing my PhD has literally thousands of squared meters of lab space and more than 4000 employees, and I was not even told in which particular lab I have to work, needless to say that there wasn't anybody that would show me the lab and the tools. I don't expect my supervisor to tell me what to do on a daily basis, but I think this what I mentioned above should be a bare minimum at the beginning.
posted
06-Dec-18, 05:18
edited about 19 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Did you ask anyone?
Do you now have a lab and a workspace?
posted
06-Dec-18, 15:13
Avatar for pejovi93
posted about 1 week ago
I was asking around and now I know in which lab to work and which tools are available there.
posted
07-Dec-18, 10:01
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 6 days ago
Sorry if I sounded too harsh, it wasn't intended and it can be difficult sometimes to express nuances in text (difficult for an engineer at least).

Though thousands of square meters of lab space and 4000 employees, sounds awesome. There will always be something going on and there should be a huge vat of institutional knowledge to draw on. They will be so helpful and probably far more useful than your supervisor. I am kinda envious but good luck!

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