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Professor disappeared on me

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Hey everyone,

I need your opinion/advice on something...

This is my first semester in a PhD program in Political Science.. As soon as I arrived in town and got settled in, I contacted a professor I had been in touch with during the application process, who had expressed a lot of interest in funding me as RA and possibly becoming my thesis supervisor in the future. The prof is on leave for a year, but when I emailed him, he showed up at university and we talked.

He had earlier told me that he would like me to work on components of a book he was writing, but during that meeting, he did not mention the book at all, and when I brought it up, he said someone else was working on it. That was disappointment #1. I felt like he had backtracked on his "promise." :angry: Then, he said he was writing this grant proposal, and that he had some money (very little, about $1,000) that he could give me if I worked on his proposal for about 50 hours). I said ok. He didn't give me what he had written for the proposal thus far, so I only had to rely on the 5-minute presentation he gave me about the proposal... He told me to write a "brief" about what I had discovered after researching two cases...

I started with the first case study, and then I sent him a brief about it (and actually put in more than 50 hours for that one case alone). Considering that I'm taking my core courses this semester, my reading load was so high that I probably didn't do as good a job on the brief as I would've liked to, even though I spent quite a bit of time on it.

He had told me that the deadline for submitting the proposal was Oct. 16, and there was an internal university deadline one week before that. I finished the first one quite early, and we met and discussed my findings. He then told me to start working on the other case (this was in the first days of October). Oh, and then he said, let's fill out the payment sheet for the hours you've put in so far. He put in the number of hours, and his grant #, but he said I need my employee # and the HR hadn't processed that yet, so I didn't know what my employee # was, and he also said I needed to give a void cheque so they will deposit the money in my account. He said, get those by next week, and I'll come and sign this thing so you will get paid... But since that day, I haven't seen him or heard from him. He just disappeared on me.

I worked on the other case, but again, coursework was even heavier than ever before, and since I had a lot of assignments due every week, I could only finish working on it on October 8 and sent it to him by email, apologizing for the delay and telling him I'd be willing to work (without getting extra pay) the same amount of time I had put in for that, if my delay rendered my brief useless. So far, he hasn't replied to my email. It's been like 3 weeks or so.... I haven't emailed him again, because I am not sure what to say... and also, I have started worrying that he thought what I gave him was pure crap, and he doesn't want me to work with him anymore...I don't see any other reason why he wouldn't reply... he has always been prompt in responding....:unsure:

Also, see above about the payment - he never showed up to sign the payment sheet, so I haven't gotten paid for the work I did, even though I rushed through some of my other assignments in order to meet his deadlines. I feel so disappointed and used. :(:angry: Is this how it usually works? I hope not. I just hope this guy's the exception and not the norm. :angry:

I am not sure what to think... I'm currently suffering from a severe episode of "impostor syndrome." :(

Any ideas ? Could it be that he's just busy? Or am I in denial? Is it the "end of the world" (i.e. is my academic credibility down the drain?) :unsure: Any ideas on what to do? Email him again or not?

I would appreciate your input...

Thanks a lot.

Edited by TheSquirrel
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I'm not in grad school (yet, hopefully) but if I were in your situation I would email him again just to say that you are following up on the situation. It is possible that he has been busy, although I think he really should have got back to you given how much work you put into this. And no I don't think your academic reputation is down the drain at all. If you're aware that you're suffering "impostor syndrome" then you're also probably aware that practically everyone, if not everyone, goes through this at least once in grad school. Just hang in there and keep putting your best effort at what you do - eventually you'll start to get the hang of things more and not feel like you don't fit in.

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First rule of academia: Don't take what people say and do to you too personally. Everyone looks out for their best interests, meaning that the professor probably wanted to get that book going and didn't want to wait until you came to work on it, so he (presumably) gave it someone who was already available. At least he gave you another opportunity. I'm actually surprised that he gave you a proposal to work on, for a first semester PhD student.

Professors do get exceedingly busy and things come up all the time. There were times that I almost lost patience with one or two of my professors because they didn't get back to me in a timely manner. But somehow, I'll find their e-mail within a few days or a week after fuming over it. 3-4 weeks is the norm wait time in academia (as it seems like it, and as opposed to 1-2 weeks in Real Life) so if you hear back from him by Friday, e-mail him to say what you've done and this is where you are now. And THEN move on with your own life. You've done your part and now let him take care of his part. Remember, it's on him.

Also, he is on LEAVE, meaning that he doesn't have to be accountable to anybody. He's got his own mysterious schedule that may involve travel and you don't know when he's out of town. It's very hard to deal with it as a graduate student, especially if you're supposed to be working directly with the professor. I've been there with my thesis adviser and, I tell you, there were TIMES that I wished my adviser would be on campus and use her office hours. Instead, I've had to be very patient and give her wait time. And when she did get back to me, she always apologized and gave me the advice that I wanted.

And that brings me to the 2nd rule of academia: Patience, patience, patience. If you lose it, you might just lose your reputation in a small way.

Right now, you're good.

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