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Advisor Stepped Down: Don't Really Know Why


User: amilo - 02 November 2016 08:06

Hello,

My chair for my project has stepped down. I have begged him to reinstate himself (twice) as my advisor and allow me to finish the degree. My coursework is complete and my advisor, despite saying that my thesis was at a dissertation level, refuses to mentor me any longer. I am at a loss as to why. I was an extremely insecure student and I teaching aid for three years at my university, but I know I blossomed (as per my student evals) and my own internal feelings toward my thesis (which I grew to love). I had 3 objectives one of which I was in the process of both defining and getting results for and the other 2 had (IMO) publishable results and a fairly decent start on the manuscript with respect to all of the sections. I had been given a fairly large set of data which I transformed into my project with at least 1 novel concept and 2 concepts that although had extensive publications on, had never really been applied to our location. As many can attest to, writing a thesis/dissertation is not exactly a linear process where you define your project, then establish an experimental design, obtain results and discuss the implications of all of it. I worked on all parts simultaneously depending on where I felt comfortable with at the time and in the end never really even got a proposal passed to continue on to finish my thesis (despite being fairly advanced in the stages of my writing). I never was able to obtain funding and so I worked almost voluntarily in my advisors lab.

He was a good advisor and then he simply began to withhold information and point out my flaws in front of my committee members. For example, he only sent me half of the edited pages for my thesis from another committee member. He also would not tell me how he wanted the thesis formatted, and any time I sent him a clean edited version of my draft, he would (I think?) put odd references in my reference section and delete some of the citations I had utilized. I in return became confrontation about it and demanding of the time and information that I never received from him any more and this back and forth ensued until I felt we both became stagnant with the project. Now I am left with no one to edit my work, advise me or bounce ideas off of. I do not understand what to do. I went to the head of the department and he told me to find a new advisor. But there is no one at my university that specializes even remotely in what I wish to pursue. I have attempted to contact other advisors at other universities to continue my work (or work in a similar area) but I keep getting rejection after rejection (and I do not know if it is because my advisor is giving me a bad rap with them) or because I am going about it all wrong. My advisor told me to find a mentor first before he would recommend me to someone and this to me seems so a** backwards.

User: amilo - 02 November 2016 08:06

I find academia to be riddled with extreme impliciticity and enigma so there is a lot of grey area that I have been unable to navigate. I am a straightforward, concrete thinker and I have never really been intimidated by others in my program because I always felt maybe aloof to a certain extent but also that collaboration was better off; and the fact that everyone had their own different projects was enough for me to steer clear of that rash behavior. I trusted easily, shared freely and helped without quid pro quo (or even considering it). My eyes have opened since then.

Couple all this with the fact that I had a kid, and although I don't believe I suffered postpartum psychosis, others believe I did when I felt my computer was possessed while working on my thesis. I had to be hospitalized because I became suicidal and I had no evidence for proof of my sanity.

I know I am an intelligent girl. My creativity, my writing ability, my knowledge and thirst for it demands attention. I am not arrogant. Quite the opposite I still am extremely (most of the time) lacking in confidence and grounded by insecurity. But mostly because I am humbled by the world of knowledge. Oddly, while I feel, that the wealth of knowledge academia holds is insurmountable, it has been a place where I was set up to fail in learning. Because I navigated the book smarts of academia fairly well but fell apart in my social endeavors; I really honestly don't know. I have never been formally diagnosed with asbergers but while institutionalized the psychiatrist and psychologist hinted at it several times. I know that a formal diagnosis holds no clarity or a degree for me. It has almost little to no relevance I think unless if others understand or see it or help me cope through it. But I feel that no one has and in fact they have dropped me...I can't say it is because I am an odd girl....I honestly do not understand why..but aren't we all in higher knowledge simply odd people in general?

Anyway, I don't know what I am looking for from you all. I guess simply an ear. Maybe advice. Maybe sympathy. In the end I am just a lost person left to work fast food I'm sure for the rest of my life...

User: kikothedog - 02 November 2016 09:53

Regardless of why he stepped down, if you have results and can write a thesis, what's preventing you from submitting? Surely you still have supervisors who can advise you with what you have left?

User: IntoTheSpiral - 02 November 2016 11:11

There are all sorts of reasons why your advisor may have stepped down, some could be to do with you, many others could have nothing to do with you at all. A friend of mine's supervisor stepped down a few years ago because they themselves had a breakdown and were hospitalised for depression. They couldn't cope with being a PhD supervisor so went teaching only and no longer had supervisees. My friend (the student) wasn't told at the time the explanation, just that her supervisor needed to step down due to ill health.

Whatever the reason your supervisor has withdrawn doesn't really matter. You need to accept it has happened and is not going to change, and ask for support in finding someone else who can supervise you to the end of the process. Do you have an internal committee member who could possibly step up?

User: Mattfabb - 03 November 2016 12:34

You believed your computer was possessed? I think that is a clear sign of delusion. Something similar happened to friend of mine, and she also had to be hospitalized for some time because of that.

Sometimes the stress gets too much and its important to know when to switch off. People in academia may be odd in some ways but I also feel that people outside academia are even odder IMO. Nowadays in academia you need to be able to attract fundings and collaborate with others, and its unlikely to achieve either goal if you dont know how to get on with people.

One thing however: you speak of academia like its one big thing, but it's not! Academics are a varied bunch and universities are all different. Science deptartments are different from Humanities. Supers are individuals and unique. There is no such a thing as 'academia' - there is your super, there are examiners, there are secretaries who you deal with on a day to day basis. Everything else is irrelevant for a PhD student. You are not writing for academia, you are writing for 2 examiners. Nobody else will assess your thesis.

Hope this helps. I just wanted to say that you should not think about academics in too abstract terms at this point, or it may become another source of delusion.



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