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I'm considering a PhD and asked a professor at my university. I suggested a topic to him that he accepted. I applied and he offered me a position but I didn't accept yet.

Later he changed my project's topic to one that suits his interest. I said I would like to do the original topic that I got accepted with. Then I asked more about the project and it turns out he works in collaboration with another university. They divided the work up between themselves, but what the other university researchers is a lot closer to my personal interest than what he works on.

I asked my professor their contact details, so that I could ask them if I could work with the other university. He explicitly prohibited me from talking to them. He told me I would give bad reputation to him if I contacted them.

I am extremely confused as to why he prevents me talking to people. Even a simply inquiry email is not allowed. So I contacted the other university anyway. They told me that they would be happy to see me but they don't want to poach students from their colleagues.

I keep asking my professor if I could do my original topic with the other university that works on that exact topic that I'd like to do. But he keeps telling me that I either do his topic or I should do my PhD somewhere else.

I am utterly confused now and have no idea what is going on. Can someone please explain?

1 Answer 1

I don't really see why you are concerned at all! When you apply for PhD admissions, you have can always suggest who you want to work with, based on their and your research interests (you have to like them and they have to like you). I guess my question is how did you get paired up with him in first place and why?

You make it sound like you are stuck with him, but you aren't. Now if he hired you to be on his project (remember this is his project/funding), you are to work for him and do it the way that makes him look good, (he has expectations to meet too and he wants to do a good job and look good to his superiors/sponsors). If you aren't interested in his project (and it clearly looks like you are not), don't west your time or his staying on his team. Approach your program and request to be teamed up with a different adviser and provide your reasons.

I hope you understand that, in most cases in research based universities, you don't get a PhD admission offer unless at least one of the professors in the department you apply to is interested in your research topic. Now it would be unfair of you for a professor to hire you (recommend you for admission) so you can be in his team and then expect him to let you work for someone else. While he doesn't own you, he also feels that you would be an asset to his team upon your admission into the program, otherwise he could've recommended a different candidate whose interest matches his research/project.

The bottom line is however, you should get out there. Approach your department Dean's office and request to be teamed up with a different adviser and explain your reasons. Keep in mind however that in most cases at PhD level, a professor will only agree to work with you/serve as your advisor if he feels that he is familiar with your research interest and that you will be of a great asset to his team. hope that helps. Remember that your tuition weaver and other monetary benefits (monthly stipend, medical insurance, etc) you receive while you are pursuing your PhD studies is covered by the money that is allocated to his project. So it is important that have interest in the work/project he has for you and you are confident you would succeed doing it.