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Please help me out of the dilema

Hi all,

One and a half years ago, I got a PhD fellow in Math in a European country. I've worked hard to learn background toward the project which my supervisor gave me, although I'm not interesting much in the field. After one year passed, I've got enough backgroud to deal with the project. But I quickly discovered that the problem my supervisor gave me was too bad to work out, in fact it is dead end. My supervisor admitted this fact and gave me another problem to do, but three months ago I discovered this problem was solved by other mathematicians six years before. Until now, my supervisor seems not able to have any nice problem for me to do, his research is focused on another direction which is far away from what I'm studying with him. I'm disappointing now.

I made several applications to other places. Some of those informed that I was selected and they are waiting my answer. I'm very confusing now, I don't know should I stick in my current PhD or leave? Am I guilty if I leave? Will my supervisor angry at me if I leave? I've been told some excellent students can find out the good problem themself but I'm afraid that I'm not at that level. Thank you for any advices!

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marked as duplicate by Noah Stein, Bruce Westbury, Andrés E. Caicedo, Felipe Voloch, Will Jagy Apr 13 '12 at 21:32

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

@tomhaw, your English is difficult to understand, but if I understood well, it seems you don't trust your supervisor, so you shouldn't continue working with him. This thread will be probably closed soon, since it's not appropriate for this research forum. – Fernando Muro Apr 13 '12 at 21:06
up vote 2 down vote accepted

That sounds like a personal decision you will have to answer on your own, but here are just a few things to consider as you make your decision.

  1. Have you already obtained a Master's degree? If not, you could finish that and leave for the PhD program elsewhere with fewer problems.

  2. It is okay to change advisers if one is not working out. You don't necessarily need to leave the school you are at to do that.

  3. If you are comfortable with it, talk with your department chair. Explain what is happening, and get his/her advice. Another alternative would be the graduate committee chair. They want you to succeed, and can offer advice on ways to change advisers.

  4. It is a normal part of research to find out others have done the work before you. Some options include: generalizing what was done, researching similar but different questions, communicating with the authors of those other papers about other research avenues, etc...

Whether or not your adviser will be angry with you depends a lot on how you deal with this situation, and what your adviser is like. My advice: be honest and talk with your adviser.

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The word advisor looks misspelled. – Daniel Parry Apr 13 '12 at 21:32
@Pace, things like the "graduate committee chair" do not exist everywhere. Also, in some places you cannot change of advisor without loosing your stipend or cancelling your contract. – Fernando Muro Apr 13 '12 at 21:32
@Daniel: Fixed I hope. @Fernando Muro: Good points. – Pace Nielsen Apr 13 '12 at 22:13
Most (online, at least) dictionaries allow either spelling. There's a nice take on it at . Can we agree that "superviser" is wrong? – Barry Cipra Apr 13 '12 at 22:24
@Daniel: It's correct in British English. – David Carchedi Apr 13 '12 at 22:47

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