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First day of PhD but found out my stipend is 1500 e/month instead of 2800 e/month.
W

Your post is somewhat confusing. I do not understand what you mean by a "fixed amount contract" instead of an "employment contract". Are the 1500 EUR before or after taxes and social insurance? Because if they pay you 1500 EUR net instead of 2800 EUR gross as a regular employment contract, this pretty much amounts to same thing in many European countries. Either way, the pay isn't that bad for pursuing a PhD. Also, you won a prestigious fellowship, which is a great start for an academic career. Maybe you shouldn't focus on the money so much.

False advertisment in a postdoc position post
W

Quote From TomJ:
Quote From Walter_Opera:
This is in fact fairly common in academia and not limited to new research groups. It happened to me twice, once during my PhD and at one of my postdoc positions, that promised funding turned out to be wildly exaggerated or non-existent.


I have the same impression from personal experience and the experience of friends, hence the 'paranoia'.
I think that University's leaderships do little to prevent it, and it is our responsibility (grad students and postdoc) to make sure this become less prevalent.

We are still experiencing the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession. But this should not serve as an excuse for Universities abusing their non-tenured employees (which is exactly what we observe in the last decade).


This has nothing to do with the 2008 recession. Nothing at all. You can go back 5,10,15,20 or 25 years (at least) - it was always the same discussion. I started my PhD in 2002, and was baited back then with imaginary funding which later magically evaporated. By a famous professor at an elite university with a long established research group of 35 scientists no less.

The truth is: Until you have a "real job" in academia, you are somebody's underling, plain and simple. The one chance you have of improving your situation at least marginally is to acquire your own funding (e.g., through a fellowship or industry funding). As long as you have to rely on other peoples' money, you will generally not be taken seriously, especially as a postdoc, who is expected to become more and more independent.

I guess the main insight here is that in academia, maybe even more than in other industries, it's all about money. If you have it and can employ others, you are an "important scientist". If you don't, you are an irrelevant lab slave who may be "accidentally" omitted from authors' lists. What your actual scientific contributions are, is irrelevant either way.

False advertisment in a postdoc position post
W

This is in fact fairly common in academia and not limited to new research groups. It happened to me twice, once during my PhD and at one of my postdoc positions, that promised funding turned out to be wildly exaggerated or non-existent.

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

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.

Do I need a Windows laptop for my Masters?
W

Why don't you ask your future advisors? They certainly have a better answer than we can give.

Maths in Germany
W

Another remark that might be helpful for you: At least in the classical structure of German academia, a Masters degree and a Ph.D. are completely different. For a Masters (former "Diplom"), you essentially go to school and take courses and seminars, complemented by a relatively compact thesis period at the very end. As Ph.D. "student", you essentially work 100% and open-ended as independent researcher and teaching assistant, without receiving structured instruction or (sadly often) much meaningful supervision yourself. (Admittedly, this strict duality has been softened a little in recent years by the introduction of Anglo-American-style "graduate schools", but these are still a very small minority AFAIK.) As a matter of fact, Ph.D. "students" are not referred to as "Studenten" at all in German, but rather as "Doktoranden" and are rather considered to be university employees (and technically they usually are), as opposed to the "Studenten" up to Masters level.

Maths in Germany
W

I am a little surprised you applied for a Ph.D., as you cannot generally pursue a Ph.D. in Germany without obtaining a Masters-level university degree first.

Technical University of Munich is one of the best universities in the STEM fields in Germany and has officially been designated a "University of Excellence". However, take into consideration that Munich has the highest cost of living of any city in Germany, and finding affordable accommodation can be almost impossible, in particular for students.

Other good universities in the south are Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, as well as Tübingen and Heidelberg. RWTH Aachen and TU Clausthal also have good reputations in STEM. Some of the universities in the east (Leipzig, Dresden, Weimar) are also really good and generally offer much lower costs of living.

As a general remark: At least within Germany, there really is no big difference in "reputation" between universities. Degrees from all public "Universitäten" are considered more or less equivalent. Only the Universities of Applied Science ("Fachhochschule", "Hochschule", "Technische Hochschule") are generally considered second class. The perception may be a little different abroad, of course. As a general rule of thumb, larger universities in larger cities and older "historic" universities are considered better. However, in my experience the variation between professors has a much greater impact on the learning experience than the "reputation" of the university as a whole.

If you want to specialize into one particular research topic, however, certain research groups at certain universities may be much more famous and helpful for your career than others. Obviously, you would have to pick a topic first...

Being a Mech Engg graduate, for my profile, can I try Germany or US for pursuing my Masters?
W

I just couldn't help checking - the DAAD's search engine actually lists 237 (!) English-language Master programs in mechanical engineering in Germany. So you should have quite a choice :-)

Being a Mech Engg graduate, for my profile, can I try Germany or US for pursuing my Masters?
W

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.

Seriously considering "suing" ex-supervisor
W

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.

Seriously considering "suing" ex-supervisor
W

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....

Postdoc with an assistant prof or an associate prof
W

(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.

Postdoc with an assistant prof or an associate prof
W

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...)

PhD Intellectual Property rights/supervisor problem
W

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.

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

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.