Jump to content

Don't know how to interact with new professor


SymmetryOfImperfection

Recommended Posts

My professor has given me a project related to magnetic nanostructures. I noticed, however, that these had applications in other fields and that we could utilize the magnetic properties to control other, seemingly unrelated properties of the material. There have been other articles written on this, and the field seems to have large potential in applications. My professor has emphasized before to not deviate from the "big plan" and to focus only on things we have the equipment to measure. I've done extensive reading to confirm that all materials and equipment are things we already have in the department.

 

However, during the group meeting, when I presented my research proposal, the professor reacted rather cooly and said "Its true that when we read papers, there's alot that we can do, but we can't do everything." He kept emphasizing that "We have limited equipment, so you have to do a realistic project." I said that "I think that this research won't use any equipment we don't have, and it does not deviate from your previous research on magnetic nanostructures at all. Indeed it is just exploring another aspect of these structures that has strong application potential.“ He said "Ok, show me" so I drew a diagram but apologized for not drawing it correctly, there are better pictures in the papers. He said it was interesting; so then I said "I'll send you a copy of the papers I was talking about." So I wrote a brief summary of 2 papers that were important, attached the original papers, and sent it to him. No response so far.

 

In undergrad the professor that I did research with encouraged me to first read articles, find those of mutual interest, and discuss what we could do. As long as the research did not deviate from the "big plan", we could pick our own target. For example in semiconducting polymers we could pick the specific nanostructures to test, and for which combination of properties, as long as it involved electrical properties.

 

I'm not sure that I handled this correctly with my new professor. It seems that he doesn't really want students doing things that deviate, even a tiny bit, from his plan, and I'm afraid I offended him by thinking critically about the subject and offering my opinions. What should I do?

Edited by SymmetryOfImperfection
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are some details missing here. Are you in a PhD program or a Masters? What year are you in? What is the project for - is it a class project or an advanced year qualifying project; or are you an RA working on your professor's project where he has funding and needs to follow a specific plan? Is the professor tenured, up for tenure soon or new? All these things might lead to different interpretations of this situation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

just got done with my first semester. if it goes well this will be my thesis topic. there is no funding for this outside the school's internal funds, so I'm TAing at the same time. the professor is a tenured associate professor, has 3 students and hasn't had a grant since 2009.

 

the thing is, i believe the direction my professor is going in has already been done. i have a paper from before that showed something very similar to his "big plan". i believe that it'll be repeating that paper's techniques for a different material.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK, so it's something worth following up and pursuing; but you're still new in the lab and you need to be careful how you do it. Can you find a way to show (not tell) the professor what this paper says and ask him how his big plan will be different? Good ways in my opinion are either presenting the paper in a group setting, e.g. lab meeting, or setting up a meeting/guided reading session to talk about this work. If you work through it together, either he will realize that it's doing the same thing or you'll learn how it's different.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

OK, so it's something worth following up and pursuing; but you're still new in the lab and you need to be careful how you do it. Can you find a way to show (not tell) the professor what this paper says and ask him how his big plan will be different? Good ways in my opinion are either presenting the paper in a group setting, e.g. lab meeting, or setting up a meeting/guided reading session to talk about this work. If you work through it together, either he will realize that it's doing the same thing or you'll learn how it's different.

 

thank you greatly. i've asked and he said something that i couldn't understand. whatever.

Edited by SymmetryOfImperfection
Link to comment
Share on other sites

thank you greatly. i've asked and he said something that i couldn't understand. whatever.

 

Hey, giving up is never a good strategy. Make the effort to confirm that your advisor doesn't understand what's going on, or maybe it's you who is misunderstanding. Maybe it's time to discreetly ask around and consult with more advanced students - this could be a "known" issue (of the kind everyone knows but no one talks about). If you decide it's the advisor, not you, then I think it may be time to start exploring ways of extricating yourself from the situation, preferably by finding a new advisor who you trust and can work with. You're only one semester in, so it's not too late to find a new advisor and project, if necessary, without it affecting your progress in your program.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey, giving up is never a good strategy. Make the effort to confirm that your advisor doesn't understand what's going on, or maybe it's you who is misunderstanding. Maybe it's time to discreetly ask around and consult with more advanced students - this could be a "known" issue (of the kind everyone knows but no one talks about). If you decide it's the advisor, not you, then I think it may be time to start exploring ways of extricating yourself from the situation, preferably by finding a new advisor who you trust and can work with. You're only one semester in, so it's not too late to find a new advisor and project, if necessary, without it affecting your progress in your program.

 

no its me, i don't understand what the purpose of the project is. indeed, the other students also are having trouble understanding; my project is sort of a new spinoff that this other guy has been doing for a while and he's graduating in a few months. i'm leaving after the MS anyways so i just need to publish *something* to write a thesis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use