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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 at 12:06pm
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Thread: Being a Mech Engg graduate, for my profile, can I try Germany or US for pursuing my Masters?

12-Jun-14, 09:06
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
Hello Antony!

A good starting point for international students who want to pursue a degree in Germany is the website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which also offers advice on scholarships, visa and the like:
Quite a few universities in Germany now actually offer English-language courses, which may be a better option. Besides passing an initial language test, you would have to follow the actual lectures in German - and German is no easy language to learn.

There is not such a big difference in quality between the public universities in Germany, which are generally at a comparable level. However, note that there are two types of post-secondary academic institutions: Universitäten (universities) and Fachhochschulen (FH, usually translated as "universities of applied science"). The latter are usually less research-oriented, and their degrees are generally considered inferior to university degrees in Germany, although the distinction is often not made internationally. E.g., it is difficult to pursue a PhD with a Master's from a Fachhochschule in Germany, but usually no big problem elsewhere.

Generally, extracurricular activities and publications are no important criteria for admission to German universities at the Master's level. The formal recognition of your high school and Bachelor degrees, and the associated grades, is what counts.

Note that the cost of living is high in the big popular university cities (e.g., München, Hamburg, Berlin, Heidelberg, Tübingen). They are often significantly lower in the less popular / smaller places, but obviously at the price of having fewer (international) students around.

Thread: Seriously considering "suing" ex-supervisor

28-May-14, 13:06
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From MeaninginLife:

It is sometimes possible that a professor was recruited through connection or has "good networking"; not about his technical knowledge.

That is the rule, not the exception, in academia.

Quote From MeaninginLife:

3. A professor may have so much workload that supervision duty is not of higher priority for him to survive.

That is the rule, not the exception, in academia.

Thread: Seriously considering "suing" ex-supervisor

28-May-14, 12:31
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
Grizzle, your main motivation for suing appears to be that you need the money. This is never a good starting point for suing anybody, for whatever reason. You should primarily consider what the merits of your case are.

You should also at least consider that one of the main factors determining the outcome of legal proceedings are the financial resources of the parties. There is no chance you can do this without professional representation. And if your situation is as dire as you describe, you will run out of money to pay your lawyer long before your supervisor does.

As others have remarked, and as much as can be understood from your quite brief explanations, the "lack of supervision" you suffered from is - unfortunately - the norm in academia and not the exception. Supervisors not supervising, not answering e-mails, making useless recommendations, delaying everything etc., is something practically every PhD student experiences.

Also, if you sue, your academic career is over from the moment you file suit. You will never find another advisor anywhere else, period. That is the way academia works (again, unfortunately). And even when looking for a job in industry, there is the distinct risk that they may hear rumours you are the person who sued the academic supervisor for perceived "lack of supervision". Not a good starting point...

Finally, it seems you are seeking advice on the chances of legal success in your case using an anonymous post to a forum of grad students / postdocs. The only person who could give you this advice would be a lawyer with access to all the details (in particular available hard evidence).

Frankly, I hope that you did not use the same misdirected passive-aggressive style when seeking advice from your PhD supervisor, otherwise one might wonder whether the miscommunication was NOT entirely his fault....

Thread: Postdoc with an assistant prof or an associate prof

28-May-14, 09:34
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
(part 2)

Tenured supervisor:
+ Better connected, possibly better funding opportunities.
+ More self-confident and calm.
+ Possibly less short-term work / result pressure.
+ You may have better opportunities to teach - very important for your CV.
+ Ditto for conference presentations.
+ Typically larger research group and better lab equipment mean better opportunities for research. "Menial" tasks are done by younger colleagues or distributed among more people.
+ Supervisor is unlikely to travel a lot and/or leave for another job elsewhere. Exception: sabbaticals!
- Supervisor may be out of touch with field and/or may simply not care about research anymore. You may have to do all the core work / heavy lifting entirely by yourself.
- Supervisor may be frequently absent from university / his office except for lectures and a few important official functions.
- Possibly no interest in developing research group and supporting students / postdocs in any meaningful manner (beyond funding). Group runs on "autopilot" with little interest and little motivation.
- In a larger research group with little supervision: Unclear hierarchies / responsibilities. Infighting may occur!
- Supervisor may be hard to reach (e.g., does not read e-mails and refuses to use other modern communication media).
- Larger age difference may complicate communication / personal relationship.
- You may be expected to shift research areas rather frequently and in entirely different directions due to high-level political considerations (e.g., faculty-level / national / funding). Little understanding for personal research passion or your intention to build a coherent CV.

Thread: Postdoc with an assistant prof or an associate prof

28-May-14, 09:24
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
First of all, personal chemistry, agreement on working styles and responsibilities, and the same idea about research topics are much more important than your potential supervisor's employment status. In particular the personal chemistry (pun not intended :-)) is enormously important. You must be sure about their personality before going to work with somebody who you do not know in person.

Besides this general remark, from my own experience:

Non-tenured supervisor:
+ More ambitious and proactive, (possibly) open to try new research ideas
+ More presence at university / in the office, possibly easier to reach
+ Possibly better personal relationship and easier to talk to due to smaller age difference
+ Better acquainted with cutting edge of field and modern technology; willingness to use modern communication media
- May travel a lot and thus be absent / hard to reach
- May disappear without warning to take different (tenured?) job elsewhere
- May be overworked (lots of publications, conference committees, grant applications etc.)
- You may be asked to do all sorts of "menial" tasks due to small size of research group
- You may get little chance to teach or present work at conferences, since the supervisor has to build his/her own CV.
- May see you as a threat (competition!) due to working in the same field at similar career stages (beware!): Realize you might end up applying for the same jobs in just a few year's time.
- Mood swings! Rejected job applications / funding may lead to the supervisor being in an extremely bad mood and/or reconsidering his/her career long-term plans entirely. May disappear for months at a time due to this.
- May be worse connected. Possible funding and room / equipment issues.

(part 2 follows...)

Thread: PhD Intellectual Property rights/supervisor problem

11-Apr-14, 23:31
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
This is an interesting question. It is one of the big paradoxes of the academic world that although it revolves around the generation of intellectual property, nobody has any idea of how that actually works.

I can tell you from experience that it is customary and will be expected from you that you hand over and relinquish all rights to everything you have produced to your supervisor. This is true of all code, data, experimental results, etc., regardless of whether he contributed to it at all. The academic custom is that you should be listed as author or in acknowledgments in the first wave of publications resulting from your contributions. After that, the supervisor may basically claim that he came up with it all by himself. The cold, hard truth is that the careers of a large portion of scientists and professors are based (at least to a certain degree) on intellectual theft. Unfortunately, if you resist this venerable tradition, you will be labeled a troublemaker. In the end, you'll lose your code, your PhD, and your career.

I was made to hand over 100k+ (not a typo) lines of C++ code which I had written during my PhD to a secondary supervisor who had in the meantime actually moved to a different university. He proceeded to publish research based on them for years - although he had not only written none of it, but for most of it he had not even provided any sort of initial research inspiration or idea.

Whether any of this is legal at all, is an entirely different question, but it is (unfortunately) the manner in which IP is handled in the academic world. This is a consistent experience I can confirm from doing research at 4 different universities on 2 continents, working under and with dozens of poeple.

If you signed any sort of contract with the university, that might contain rules concerning the handling of IP and/or the rights to code produced during a PhD. E.g., as a paid research assistant, everything normally belongs to the uni by default.

Thread: My life has been made a living hell by people who are a disgrace to professors everywhere !

28-Jan-14, 12:41
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
So here is a summary of what you've written so far.

Concerning your work ethics:
My work was slow but steady & my attendance was very good (not excellent).
I'm not a morning person therefore, I'd come in late & leave late but that prof wudnt have it.
I just wasnt able to work in the office,
I was late for a few meetings at times but hey, who isn't ?
I'm not a morning person & that prof wanted me to be there at 9am. I'd come in late

Concerning your inertia in the face of ongoing criticism:
I felt myself hanging on by a thread so many times. It was a horrible time !
I was expelled on the grounds of my attendance & my lack of progress.
I appealed after I was withdrawn but my sup AGAIN did not support me.

Concerning your attitude towards the people you worked with:
Theyre money grabbing pieces of filth, NOT professors !
I spit on the student union people as all these people are together. Theyre the biggest hypocrites ever !
when I approached the students union, more like criminal union !
Greedy vultures !
the PG tutor was a minion
would love nothing more than to sue these pieces of filth !
That goes to show u how deceptive & untrustworthy these people are !
wish these heartless, money-grabbing, good for nothing poor excuses for teachers, hypocritical pieces of filth should burn in hell
I'm angry all the time, angry with everyone who was a part of all this,

Honestly, don't you think the problem may have originated at your end? What did you expect from the university? Apparently you ignored all criticism and the lab's standards and let your working relationships deteriorate in the face of ongoing criticism over 2.5 years until they kicked you out.

Thread: Quit a 'dream PhD'?

28-Jan-14, 10:23
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
I do not quite understand your post. What is your actual problem? You write that you are unhappy with your PhD, but why? Is it boring, uninteresting, the wrong topic? Are your supervisors doing a bad job? You mention the choices you made and/or could still make. But what are you actually considering - not doing a PhD at all, or switching to that other project you mentioned? Unfortunately your post really is not very clear.

In any case, it is normal to feel demotivated after a while. No job in life is ever quite as it seemed (or was presented to you) before you started. Feeling some disappointment after a while is therefore normal. Maybe it is possible to adapt the objectives of your PhD research to become more interesting without leaving the general framework of your project, in agreement with your supervisor.

Thinking about the path not taken is common, but ultimately useless. It will happen to you with every life decision you ever make, and in particular with every job offer you accept. With every opportunity you accept, other doors close, and in hindsight, they always seem tempting. This type of feeling and "buyer's remorse" is particularly common among PhD students - quite simply because it is the first really important career/life decision most people make themselves.

However, thinking about the past and what could have been is ultimately futile.

Make the best of your situation, be proactive, talk to your supervisors if you think your project could be improved. Focus on the positive things about your work (e.g., work environment, pay, colleagues, career prospects). It is normal that it takes a year or two just to get into the rhythm. Only if there is no improvement in sight despite your best efforts, make your decision and quit

Thread: My PhD advisor is not being supportive at all.

27-Jan-14, 18:13
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 6 years ago
Everything you describe in your post sounds fairly normal to me. Professors not being around and not answering their e-mails is about the most common thing in academia. Several weeks to get comments on a writeup? I know cases where it took more than a year.

The same is true for supervisors not being "supportive enough". A large portion of PhDs result from students essentially working by themselves with little or no supervision or support from anybody.

Curiously, you entirely fail to mention in your post what the status of your research is. I would say this is the most important aspect. Do you have results? Publications? A convincing argument to make and presentable conclusions? Only when and if your supervisor is happy with those aspects, she will give her OK for you to wrap up.

Frankly, your post sounds a little like you are trying to impose your personal timeline on your supervisor, no matter what the state of your work is. I can tell you that in the history of academia, this has worked exactly 0 times.

Finally, at the end you say that you would really like to quit and take a job elsewhere. You should realize that this is a decision you have to make independently from how your PhD is going. If you want to quit, quit. If you want to finish your PhD, finish your PhD, which realistically might take you another year or two. Make up your mind - and then live with the consequences either way.

Thread: Postdoc extension for doing nothing

31-Jul-13, 12:24
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 7 years ago
Frankly, your question is a little weird. I guess you are in your mid-30s at least based on your statements, have a PhD and 2 years postdoc experience? And yet, it seems you are waiting for "your prof" to take career decisions for you. One of the main lessons you should have learned during your PhD and postdoc is working independently, and in particular setting and pursuing your own goals, even if they may be at odds with the goals of your colleagues (this includes your prof).

What are your career goals? Do you want to stay in academia? How many faculty positions have you applied to during the last few years, and to how many interviews have you been invited to? Honestly, if you have trouble finding a permanent position after a two-year postdoc, it is probably time to seriously consider abandoning any academic career plans. In any case, at least some experience abroad and/or as a visiting researcher at some prestigious institution are ESSENTIAL for any academic success. Both of these conditions are not achieved by staying with your PhD- and postdoc-advisor.

It seems you are waiting for you prof to come up with the funding, but how much funding have you acquired yourself? How about pursuing fellowships or initiating a research project or industry partnership of your own? If you ever apply for an academic position anywhere, a record of the funding you have acquired YOURSELF will be among the most important selection criteria.

Concerning "bad references", this is a matter of diplomacy and political skill, which are the two most important skills in academia in any case. Obviously, you should not simply tell your prof that you've had enough and are leaving. Tell her you thank her for her support, but that you think working somewhere else is necessary for your career at the moment. Offer her to keep collaborating and stay in touch even after you've left.

Honestly, based on your post, you will need A LOT more independent initiative to get ANYWHERE.
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