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PhD supervisor is ghosting me


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I graduated a while ago with a PhD and have since completed postdoc 1 and I'm currently doing postdoc 2. Last year, my PhD supervisor recommended I apply to a position, which I got a phone interview for but didn't get an on-site interview for. I've updated my PhD supervisor and asked him to write a recommendation letter for another position. In his email response, he agreed and wished me happy new year, but since then he hasn't written any recommendation letters and hasn't responded to emails: I've since applied to more positions, notifying him and giving him friendly reminders to write letters for the other positions. I was puzzled by this, so I looked up his current status and saw that he is doing a sabbatical abroad. If he weren't my PhD supervisor, I would just ask others to write recommendation letters for me, but leaving out your PhD advisor looks very bad. As far as I can tell, we're on good terms, so I'm not sure why he stopped responding. Is it a no-no to call him in this case (I am >1000 miles away from him and he's not attending the same conferences I am this year)? I vaguely remember trying this before and it wasn't received well. However, it is not uncommon for employers to call your references anyway, so why is this such a big deal? I wasn't just a student in one of his classes anyway, I spent several years in his lab working for him and interacted with him one-on-one. Thanks for any advice.

Edited by puzzled1123
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Things to try: 

(1) one more email, *saying* that you'll try to call next if you don't hear back. (Say it nicely, not as a threat, obviously.)

(2) shoot an email to the admin person where he's at, see if they can't get in touch with him in person and see what's up. 

(3) browse the People page where he's at to see if there is anyone you know. Talk to them and get them to personally show up at office hours to try and help you. 

(4) talk to your other recommenders or someone else at your PhD school to find out if there is any reason why your advisor has stopped replying to email (maybe there's a personal crisis you're not aware of). Also ask what they suggest you do if you don't get that letter -- I would guess the answer is add another recommender so you have a complete application if it's past the deadline and get that letter from your advisor as a supplemental. 


I'm sorry this is happening. I think getting another letter as a backup is wise so your applications aren't tossed for being incomplete. Maybe that could be another person from your PhD institution, a committee member who can explain that there is nothing wrong with you or your relationship with your advisor, that letter is missing for reasons outside of your control. FWIW I replaced my committee chair with a committee member one year because my chair had some personal trouble that made him very unreliable. It doesn't seem to have caused any problems, although I do know that this is field specific. Good luck! 

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