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[Need suggestions] Current 2nd year phd student thinking about transferring to the Master program and reapply to other phd programs.



Hello everyone,

Hope you are staying safe and healthy.

I currently finished the 1st year of a phd program in the U.S.. I love the field I am specialized in, but am frustrated by the PI of the lab I am working in. I am thinking about transferring to a non-thesis master and re-apply for ph.d. program elsewhere.

My current PI is 4th year into the professorship and hasn't been approved for the tenure track. Multiple students (and post docs) quitted the lab before I joined the lab, due to conflict with the PI. There was one remaining student who is about to start the 3rd year. All lab members are international.

I really appreciate that the PI offered me an opportunity to work in this field that I never imagined to be working in. I feel I developed a strong passion and solid skills after working on the field while collaborating with the post doc I followed. I would love to spend a few years taking the research challenges in this field. Actually, I expect myself to at least have one co-first author paper, and one leading author paper by next May. On the other side, I really dislike the management style my current PI uses. It is energy-draining for me to think about how to manage-up all the time. I am frequently worrying about being accused of something just because I don't have results expected by the PI(which happened to us all the time). I am also worrying about being unable to further develop my research career after graduation. I can imagine the PI has way many methods to impede me from doing so (delaying my thesis proposal(already happened to the only third-year student)/dissertation, refusing to write a good letter(happened to two previous members), e.t.c). I am currently thinking about opting out from the phd program and re-apply for other phd programs in similar fields. The PI actually contacted quit students' new PIs to accuse them for plagiarism, so I don't think transfer within department is doable.


The pros I can think about are:

1) I have a master's degree, with at least two published paper.

2) I have a better idea about what I want to pursue in the future.

3) I have developed solid research skills.

4) I have a strong recommendation letter from my collaborator.

5) I can focus on the research and (hopefully do not need to deal with stressful and energy-draining managing-up).


The cons are:

1) I need to quit a phd program, which the future admission committee will definitely have suspicion on.

2) I will spend 3 + 4 or 3 + 5 years in total for a ph.d. degree. If I compare this with a very possible 6-year phd here/ 5 + 2 phd and postdoc, it actually does not sound too bad.

3) I do not have a recommendation letter from my current PI.

4) I could possibly experience other types of unhealthy mentor-mentee relationship.


I will really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions! :)

Edited by kkg1234
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