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help.. my advisor makes me want to die


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13 replies to this topic

#1 leslt39

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 06:54 PM

I hate my advisor and I think he hates me. He is a strange, arrogant, rude little man and today he finally made me cry after expressing his severe 'dismay' for my slowness at getting a particular task done, and even emailing this to another faculty member (whose job it is to make sure new grads are doing okay). The email made me feel really low because the tone was so angry and fatherly and maybe even unprofessional. I feel so stupid for crying, because I've always thought of myself as being pretty strong and reasonable. I mean, I met with him today and he already told me in person how disappointed he was about this particular thing and I agreed to move more quickly, so why the need to send out an email addressed to me and this other faculty member?

I can't really switch advisors because I came to this school (a year ago, for a masters program) specifcally for his research, but I feel like this man is killing my confidence and even a desire to be a scientist. I feel like he doesn't even want to work with me. Or maybe he just hasn't had too much experience working with students. He has 1 student (not including me) in the past 10 years. I mean, should that worry me? I feel literally sick in my stomach every time I have to go talk to him.

Any advice?
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#2 UndraftedFreeAgent

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:51 PM

This strikes me as being his personality problem, though I'm not fully aware of the circumstances. I had a similar experience with my thesis advisor in undergrad. I've made it my personal objective to publish in a journal better ranked than any that have accepted his work.

Are you planning on going for the PhD after your masters? If so, that might be a good time to change schools, if you can't really change advisors. Pure sciences are notorious for students having terrible experiences with their advisors. Have you checked out the forum on the PhD comics site? Most of the people on this forum are newly enrolling grad students, whereas most of the posters over there are more senior grad students who might have better experience-based advice to offer.
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Current grad student procrastinating.

#3 nazzaz99

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 05:31 AM

I am sorry that you are going through such an experience. It is really a pity how such academically and professionally accomplished people can turn out to be horrible human beings.
I had a similar experience with the program coordinator of my master's program. You are also lucky that you have this problem with your MA advisor because you can get out. Just tolerate him as much as you can and you will go somewhere else for the PhD and hopefully forget that he even existed. Just make sure to take his slack this year so that you can get your MA and as soon as you get your PhD acceptance, life will become so sweet.
Good luck.
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#4 ChemGradfrmphlly

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 08:39 PM

I went through something like this during my undergrad, my research advisor wouldn't read any of my work and was dismissive of my efforts, and eventually put another student's name on the work I had done. When I refused to do more research for this professor, I was blacklisted and dismissed by other professors when I tried to change projects. Still, I would try to suck it up and be a man about it if I were you. Millions of Americans hate their boss, welcome to the club.
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#5 storiaitaliana

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 05:40 AM

A lot of brilliant academics have piss-poor social skills, and some of them are even piss-poor human beings. From what you're saying, this guy acts unprofessionally like this on a regular basis. Chances are that everyone else knows it, and they aren't looking down on you for what he says -- they are feeling sorry for you for having to deal with him. So, try to keep your pride in yourself and your self-worth, do the best work you know how, expect the advisor to be an ass and don't take it personally, get your MA and get out. Good luck -- I know it's hard to deal with people like this!
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#6 prapae

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 05:32 AM

Sorry to hear you are going through this. My advisor is a jerk too.
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#7 Roll Right

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 05:44 AM

Yeah, I had an academic advisor like this in my undergrad. He often told me I was a shitty writer and that i tried to sound smarter than I actually was. Funny, my thesis advisor loved my writing. I remember my academic advisor told a fellow student that she was too dumb to go to grad school, as her papers weren't intellectual enough. Shes brilliant IMO.

In short: it's their problem, not yours. Don't take on the weight of their own pain...or whatever is causing the ridiculous behavior.

Edited by Roll Right, 03 January 2010 - 06:22 AM.

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#8 ZaphodB

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 05:31 PM

I am in the sciences. I have an M.S. and I am currently working on a Ph.D.. My experience with advisers in the sciences is that they are all completely stressed out, wack job, bat-shit crazy assholes (my apologies to any advisers on the forum). My Masters adviser said extremely rude things to me on a regular basis, and my Ph.D. adviser is no better (possibly worse, actually). The last time I had a one-on-one meeting with him, he compared me to one of his Masters students and told me "If I were to compare you to [so-and-so Masters student who has done such-and-such amazing things] I would have to say that you didn't do very much this semester." He also said that taking care of my child is "a personal choice" (as if I can choose not to care for my kid if I want to) and that I shouldn't let it effect my work. I just had a meeting with him last night in which he told me that a recent draft abstract I sent to him for comments was "sloppy and half-assed" (his words exactly).

So, bottom line is, don't sweat it. Your adviser is just displaying the same asshole tendencies as every other adviser in the sciences. I get through it by telling myself that:

1. It probably has very little to do with me, but in reality is more a product of the fact that my adviser is completely stressed out for whatever reason (e.g. my adviser is currently about to come up for tenure review, and he has very little to show for his last year of work). I believe the short description for this is "Shit roles downhill.".

2. I think of grad school as "academic bootcamp" and my advisers as "academic drill seargents". Their job is basically to "beat you into shape" academically speaking, and they can't accomplish this by "being nice". You wouldn't expect a military drill seargent to "be nice" to his cadets, so why expect an academic drill seargent to be that way?

So, just suck it up, put your head down and do what you have to do. Recognize your adviser's BS as BS, learn whatever lesson you think this BS might be able to teach you (but know that sometimes, BS is just BS), and let the rest slide off like so much runny shit off a hot tin roof. ;)
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#9 liszt85

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:07 PM

I am in the sciences. I have an M.S. and I am currently working on a Ph.D.. My experience with advisers in the sciences is that they are all completely stressed out, wack job, bat-shit crazy assholes (my apologies to any advisers on the forum). My Masters adviser said extremely rude things to me on a regular basis, and my Ph.D. adviser is no better (possibly worse, actually). The last time I had a one-on-one meeting with him, he compared me to one of his Masters students and told me "If I were to compare you to [so-and-so Masters student who has done such-and-such amazing things] I would have to say that you didn't do very much this semester." He also said that taking care of my child is "a personal choice" (as if I can choose not to care for my kid if I want to) and that I shouldn't let it effect my work. I just had a meeting with him last night in which he told me that a recent draft abstract I sent to him for comments was "sloppy and half-assed" (his words exactly).

So, bottom line is, don't sweat it. Your adviser is just displaying the same asshole tendencies as every other adviser in the sciences. I get through it by telling myself that:

1. It probably has very little to do with me, but in reality is more a product of the fact that my adviser is completely stressed out for whatever reason (e.g. my adviser is currently about to come up for tenure review, and he has very little to show for his last year of work). I believe the short description for this is "Shit roles downhill.".

2. I think of grad school as "academic bootcamp" and my advisers as "academic drill seargents". Their job is basically to "beat you into shape" academically speaking, and they can't accomplish this by "being nice". You wouldn't expect a military drill seargent to "be nice" to his cadets, so why expect an academic drill seargent to be that way?

So, just suck it up, put your head down and do what you have to do. Recognize your adviser's BS as BS, learn whatever lesson you think this BS might be able to teach you (but know that sometimes, BS is just BS), and let the rest slide off like so much runny shit off a hot tin roof. ;)


I made very similar observations of the people in Physics where I did my undergraduate (and masters, combined) degree. It was supposed to be the best program in the country for Physics. However, the work atmosphere was terrible.. students using the choicest of abuse words when professors weren't around (for very good reasons might I add), professors intentionally insulting students, etc. This was one of the MAJOR reasons why I decided I didn't want to do research while being at a pure sciences department. I'm now in a behavioral and social sciences department and I LOVE the change in atmosphere, much more reinforcing behavior here, more support and hence I've become much more efficient and hard working. I still do my Physics, its just that I apply those techniques to behavioral data.. its fun!
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#10 Genomic Repairman

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:35 PM

Professors have to document deficiencies of trainees in case the situation gets so bad that they need to cut them loose. Not that this is what your PI is doing, but maybe he is just documenting a deficiency that he sees in you. I know most professors have to fill out periodic evaluations of their trainees, sometimes you get a copy of these and sometimes they are confidential, but they are always evaluating you. Him expressing his disappointment is negative reinforcement of bad behavior, he is not going to pat you on the head and tell you good job if you are moving to slow. You have to work to get better and then you might get some affirmation. And honestly if you want to be a scientist you have to develop a thick skin, and that means being able to take a semi-severe ass chewing session with a PI. Have you broached the topic of what you can do to speed up this particular task? And besides this is not like a long term thing, you only have a year to a year and a half left on your masters right? Just put your head down, get your work done, and get the hell out of there.
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#11 appmatharmy

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 03:54 PM

I've been dealing with a not so great relationship with my army boss lately, and I've come to conclude that it's healthy to view the knuckleheads as just a test of my perseverance. But at the same time it is necessary to take an objective look at myself. Did I miss the deadline? When I reread something after it sits in a drawer/file for a few months do I wonder what the hell I was thinking? Until I get the time/distance perspective, it's just a test to see if I keep going when it gets tough. I know from an old acquaintance this definitely happens in law school, they'll ridicule you in class just to see if you can take it, and you have to be cause you will have to take it from a judge and keep composure and on message. Just the same in science in preparation for a dissertation...

I know it sucks, but depersonalize it, make is about the work, and don't loose composure. If the knucklehead persists in personal degradation then see his boss.


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#12 mlle

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 07:38 PM

It's so funny to me that this thread was started almost 2 years ago, the OP has not posted any other messages ever since, and yet the thread keeps getting periodically resurrected from the gradcafe forum catacombs. I guess it's just one of those timeless topics, the fragile student-advisor relationship...
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#13 Postbib Yeshuist

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 06:32 PM

Any advice?


Only what my Mom & Dad always used to tell me: "consider the source." If he's really what you say he is (arrogant, strange, rude, little), then every time he tries to beat you down, just tell yourself "a strange, arrogant, rude, little man just said <insert comment here>." This will take the immediate sting out of it (and might make you laugh, so be careful) and then you can look through the comment for anything meaningful. The bottom line is that some profs are intimidated by students, for a host of reasons. The only thing they have to "fight back" is the sense of power derived from their position. Once you realize that, you start to pity them instead of fearing them...
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#14 Pireviews

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 05:32 PM


We need to reveal the unfair (and sometimes even illegal) behavior of our advisors.

An attempt to reveal the skeletons in the cupboard: http://pi-reviews.blogspot.com/



Send your stories or PI reviews to pireviews@gmail.com to let people know about your advisor.
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