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GJA

Potential Adviser Leaving..Now What?

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Hi everyone,

I would appreciate any advice, comments, or recommendations to my current predicament. 

 

A couple of weeks before I found out that I was accepted into the PhD program, my potential adviser called to let me know that he/she will be leaving for another university for the upcoming fall semester (i.e. my first semester). 

 

My spouse is already a PhD student at this university, so this is the only program I applied to. 

 

Unfortunately, this professor is the only one who studies and is an expert in the area that I am interested in (consumer behavior). All other professors study very different topics, not related at all to consumer behavior. 

 

The way I see it, here are my options:

- Find an alternative professor to work with, and change my research interests

- Find an alternative professor to work with, keep same research interests, with understanding that my adviser will not be an expert in that area

- Wait another year, apply to the university/program where my potential adviser will be moving to. 

        - My spouse would need to come with. However, she is already in year 3 of a PhD program, so she will have to apply to her program at this university (and potentially start over..)

- Forgo my pursuit of a PhD (with the understanding that I wasted two years, and money to receive my Masters already)

 

I'm leaning towards sticking it out, and finding an alternative adviser. However, this would possibly mean that I would have to change research interests.

 

I feel like I could be content studying an alternative topic

 

Does anyone have any experience with having to change research interests?  If so, how did this go for you?

 

Any insight would be very helpful. 

 

Thank you, 

GJA

 

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I feel like you're being really pessimistic here. There are lots of potential options. For example, could you find a new advisor, keep the POI (the "original" advisor as you described him) on your committee potentially as a co-advisor, and do research in the area you want. Or, you could wait and try to join the original advisor at the new university after your wife has finished her coursework (assuming she's in a field where working remotely is a possibility). Those are just two possibilities that you didn't describe originally. FWIW, I would also see if the university is planning to replace your original advisor with someone in the same field because, if that's the case, that person could potentially become your advisor in Year 2.

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I would tell my husband to kick rocks if he expected me to leave my phd program for his career goals after 3 years in. He would be welcome to move ahead of me alone for the rest of my degree, but no way would I drop out and transfer. But we've been married ten years and four of those he was active duty and two of them I was so we're used to separations for work.

I agree with the first suggestion rising star made--take the offer, work with a PI your poi collaborated with while he worked for that university, have your poi serve as a cross university advisor/committee member, and do what you're interested in. If that isn't an option for whatever reason, then wait. What's the average time to degree for your wife's field/how much longer does she have?

Edited by BiochemMom

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I think rising_star makes excellent suggestions.

 

I also want to point out that what people go into doctoral programs wanting to study isn't what they necessarily end up doing their dissertations on. That is, interests change and evolve. The fact that your POI is leaving my not be bad. You have options and time to figure them out. The first year or two I suspect you'll be focusing on course work so fit with advisor may not be as important. When it's time to begin to think about your dissertation that is when it really matters. At that point, if your research interests have not shifted, potentially you can have your former POI serve on your committee for the content and have another advisor who provides different expertise. That's just my two cents.  

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I say stay at the same university and find an alternate advisor even if he's not in your specific area. If your original advisor is willing, you could keep in touch with him by email for specific questions relating to your research area. It's actually not all that uncommon for advisors to be somewhat removed from a student's topic area (as long as it's not an incredibly wild stretch of research interests). So if you had someone at least willing to supervise research in your area (even if they're not personally an expert), they could serve as an "in person" advisor and your original one could stay in contact with you by email for specific questions along the way that you would need someone in that direct area to answer. 

 

If your wife wasn't already a student there, I might think differently, but since she is, I agree BiochemMom, I don't think it would be beneficial for either of you for her to start over at a new university. So then your options would be to go to new university by yourself or make it work at the original university. If possible, I'd say choose the latter. 

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My research as an undergrad (and what I'm currently most passionate about) is in drug delivery for cancer immunotherapy, but I'm joining a medical biocides group (all the way across the world, where my girlfriend is rooted) that focuses on bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Cancer is where I'd like to end up later on, but the tools, experiences, and network associated with this group are invaluable. 

Interests are ever-changing, and I wouldnt rule out working with a different PI just because they're not an expert in your field. Especially if it means staying at the university with your spouse. I wouldnt even dare ask my SO to drop PhD study 3 years in. I'd be killed or kicked to the curb. Hah.
 

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I would tell my husband to kick rocks if he expected me to leave my phd program for his career goals after 3 years in. He would be welcome to move ahead of me alone for the rest of my degree, but no way would I drop out and transfer. But we've been married ten years and four of those he was active duty and two of them I was so we're used to separations for work.

I agree with the first suggestion rising star made--take the offer, work with a PI your poi collaborated with while he worked for that university, have your poi serve as a cross university advisor/committee member, and do what you're interested in. If that isn't an option for whatever reason, then wait. What's the average time to degree for your wife's field/how much longer does she have?

"Kick rocks" is a very nice way to put it!

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Thank you all for your insight, your input is very helpful. 

 

My wife didn't tell me to "kick rocks", but she was nice enough to entertain the option (for like a day) lol. 

 

I just spoke with my adviser who is leaving, and he/she did warn me that I would be more or less by myself in terms of understanding the topic. However, she was gracious enough to offer to assist as much as possible while at another university. He/she even suggested that if possible, she could be a co-chair for my dissertation.

 

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly flexible and would be willing to change research interests. However, the alternative research areas are not that appealing.

 

But you're all right, I should have an open mind going into it.

 

The deadline to decide is this Friday, so I'll let you all know what I determined. Very much 50/50 at this point. 

 

Thanks again. 

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