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I have had PDs mentor grad students. It's important to check with both to make sure the mentoring is going well. Also let the student know the PD won't write the letter of Rec if the student doesn't want that.
Also, to any PD who abuses students this way: you suck. Stop. Never joke to an international student about deportation. It's not funny, ever. If you are someone who sees this behavior, don't encourage it, and if possible, report it.
Student 15: I felt that my MS advisor was verbally abusive. I frequently felt like a failure and it made it so that I was scared to go to him if something went wrong. Which of course made him more mad. 1/3
S15: Some of his emails made me feel like I was awful at science. I still have severe anxiety around emails. I check email often, thinking to myself, “better make sure no one is yelling at me.” 2/3
S15: I see him at conferences sometimes and the interactions are fine, but I’m always scared one DAY he going to tell me that he thinks I don’t belong in my position or I’m not good enough, bc that’s how it seemed he felt about me in grad school, based on our interactions.3/3
Student 16: my grad school program went from 25 candidates to 3 within 3 years. A new hard line prof came in and wanted to change the school's reputation for not being a great school. Advising was only offered to the 3 chosen students everyone else was not given help. 1/3
S16: The comps were hand written & subjectively graded. I helped...3 students pass...In my review, the prof said, "your answers weren't wrong, they just weren't what we were looking for....2/3
S16: You could appeal this, but even if you appeal & win, you will never get a Ph.D, so it's probably better for you to drop out now." Ouch. 3/3 (Kat says....don't be this PI. Like, ever. This is a horrible way to run a program.)
Student 17(TW: suicide): When I arrived to the US for my PhD, I was not well-informed of all the issues I would have. My arrival caused a stir...before my arrival, bc the incoming chair wanted to bring a student, & my recruiter recruited me before they had time.1/12
S17: There was room for just one more student. After some effort, the incoming chair brought a student, with partial funding. I had full-funding. The chair made the ENORMOUS mistake of telling that to the current students, who told it to the chair's student. 2/12
S17: Within a few months, the students conspired to make me quit grad school, something that took years for me to find out. I was also admitted to a sub-group in the same program, that had two more derivative branches that didn't communicate between each other. 3/12
S17: I asked if I could work with my recruiter. They said no, & gave me enormous research projects that were too hard for me in my 1st year. Between classes, research, & other personal problems I landed on probation after my 1st semester. 4/12
S17: My committee used that to say that the PhD was above my head. I passed the qualifiers to everyone's surprise. For my research, my boss told my advisor that I was too slow & that I should do something good for a major conference to convince him I was capable. 5/12
S17: I did a good job at the conference & got lots of positive feedback. At the conference I did side work for a PI. I was not told that I couldn't miss the presentation of another member of the group. 6/12
S17: I missed that 10-minute talk, & my boss didn't want to pay me, because I had "used the money to take a vacation". I had receipts & proof that I did my duties, which in the end saved me. 7/12
S17: My advisor convinced me to voluntarily be demoted to MS from PhD, so that I could "prove that I could do PhD-level research". I accepted a project, without knowing another PhD student had turned down the project bc it was too difficult. 8/12
S17: When I had the same problems, my advisor told me that I wasn't smart enough for grad school, & that no one would want me for a PhD. I tried to commit suicide that day, but failed. Against expectations, I succeeded with the project & found ground-breaking results. 9/12
S17: Part of the success was going back to the recruiting PI & asking if I could work with that PI as soon as I was done with my MS. The PI said yes, w/out hesitation. That support gave me motivation to not quit, & I was lucky/blessed to get good results. 10/12
S17: When I was about to finish, my MS advisor wanted to keep me, so he took 7 months to give me my 1st set of corrections for my thesis, so that my incoming advisor would get exhausted, drop me, & leave me w/the MS PI. 11/12
S17: My PhD advisor didn't get tired, & instead pressured my MS advisor to finish corrections. I am now again a full-time PhD student, w/a MS degree. I have no friends in my dept, since my other friends all dropped out due to the bullying of the same former dept chair. 12/12
Student 18 (TW suicide): During my first grad school experience, no one took me seriously or saw the warning signs. Profs and Deans were all about themselves and the school. Meanwhile I was becoming agoraphobic & suicidal. 1/2
S18: I made an attempt at taking my life and in the end left the school for another. They knew what happened and never reached out or helped or anything. Never heard from them when I was released from hospital or when I withdrew from the school or my dorm. 2/2
Departments need to keep an eye on their students. The fact that no one contacted this student either before the attempt or after is appalling. PIs, Deans, Department heads: This is not acceptable.
Student 19: My phd was a total mess and pretty complicated. First advisor was a drunk and going through a very rough time with family, left that lab. Started in another lab with less similar interests in an effort not to leave the department. 1/4
S19:Lead a VERY intensive field project for years while my co-advisor watched from afar & had 2 kids. We had a good relationship until PI was close to tenure. He swooped in & demanded 1st authorship in 3 of my dissertation chapters arguing it would be important for his tenure.2/4
S19: He claimed I wasn’t productive enough & would no longer pay me from a grant we wrote together. Sent terrible emails daily. Verbally abused me constantly. Delayed my graduation by a year by refusing to look over my final chapters (while I was pregnant no less). 3/4
S19: Needless to say, he is not a reference and it is odd to be missing one from him given that he is on many of my papers. 4/4
I find that I can't comment on all these. I am going to post them here, and in the future write a list of things that departments can do to improve experiences with students. If anyone wants to write this with me, please DM.
S19: I’m still here because I want to change the system. I want to do better for students. They deserve so much more. Still, I don’t think it’s going to happen. After all the trauma of my PhD I was so unsure of myself I was scared to write, so my publication record suffered. 5/4
Student 20: As a first-year GS, I feel like I'm doing simple, avoidable things wrong bc orientation was focused on the broad strokes of the university & dept, but I had no opportunity to learn the ropes of my lab, & I've had to learn just about everything by making mistakes. 1/2
S20: I'm really frustrated by how often I do something wrong purely because nobody made the right or wrong way clear. 2/2
Student 21: I left my PhD program a year ago due to supervisory problems. I was a student pursuing a PhD in two related fields. About 18 months into my PhD I was diagnosed w/depression partly due to a toxic “bro culture” workplace cultivated by my supervisor. 1/7
S21: While the PI initially appeared to be sympathetic, PI told me that everything I was unhappy about was my fault, I was worthless as a researcher, & I deserved to be punished for writing in my self evaluation that PIs lack of management & supervision was causing problems. 2/7
S21: I took a semester off & came back when I was healthier, only to decide that there was no way I would ever get a PhD from the PI. I experienced bullying and gaslighting because it was such an “honor” to work for a PI that was so cool & down to earth. 3/7
S21: I did do everything I could before to raise the alarm about my experience. The ombudsman told me my only option was to start over with a new supervisor. The newly formed bullying committee said they couldn’t do anything because I was the first complaint against the PI. 4/7
S21:The dept had prominent bullying & sexual harassment cases recently, but they only made non-english language papers. I found out after I left that I was the 7th woman to quit working for him in <4 years. W/in dept admin, he has a reputation for being difficult with women. 5/7
S21: My experience with University HR was that they existed to protect the professors & encourage struggling students to quit. Most recently, my former advisor has become the poster child of the dept in support of gender equality & parity, which has been hard to swallow. 6/7
S21: He had publicly and repeatedly said that he won’t hire women of a certain age. 7/7
Student 22: I spent five years walking... past the office of a senior prof about whom, at my 1st social event after joining the dept, an older grad student said to me, "You know you have to sleep with him if you want a phd in [my research area], right?" 1/2
S22: He'd slept with students and/or other inappropriate behavior bad enough to get him sanctioned (not fired though) in the 80s. I was told by another faculty member not to worry about him because "he's old now". 2/2
The student asked me to delete part of the tweets.
Student 23: There warning signs from the beginning that I should've been weary of, but being a first-generation student, I was excited for any opportunity. The 1st sign was that the department lost my application to their graduate program. 1/9
S23: The 2nd thing was my fellow lab members. Something happened before I arrived that split the lab in half to the point where some lab members moved their stuff into a recently vacant lab. 2/9
S23: The next was my advisor mentoring style. The style was basically to put you in the lab & see if you succeed alone. And if you couldn't, oh well. I worked on 3 projects. Each time I hit a stumbling block I would go to the PI for advice & just got shrugged shoulders. 3/9
S23: The PI was mentally abusive. The PI would talk about my weight, the clothes I wear, and my heritage. I couldn't report the PI because PI was also the head of the department & was best friends with the Dean of our school. 4/9
S23: Fellow GSs stole my project ideans & someone erased my data from the shared lab computers. My last semester, my PI lost most of funds & told me I had to leave. I convinced him to give me 1 more chance. He allowed me to come up with a new thesis proposal. 5/9
S23: What I proposed was a project based on data & a new direction the lab was going in. I even presented experiments based on conversations he & I had. After reviewing the proposal, he said my ideas were complete crap and I never belonged in a graduate program. 6/9
S23: I had no one to turn to. I reached out to the ombudsman, but because I wasn't an UG, they couldn't help me. I was forced to leave the Uni w/nothing. I had enough negative results to write a MS's thesis, but my PI said that he wouldn't sign off on any negative results. 7/9
S23: One thing (that failed) is the recruitment for graduate school. The minority programs I was apart of tell you about the perks of GS & that you can get stipends, etc. But they really need to tell us what to look for in and advisor. 8/9
S23: Department leadership shouldn't be internal (ex. Chair coming from someone in the department). I felt like I couldn't go to anyone because of my advisor's influence. My advisor said to me that he would never support another student coming from my Alma mater. 9/9
Student 24: I felt completely unsupported by my PI as I spiraled into a seasonal affective disorder brought on by my 1st low daylight winter. Things went so bad that I left GS w/a MSc. My PI has had another PhD student change course in her 3 year. 1/3
S24: I wish I had another supervisor to go for support. I told the person handling my file that my boss should have never been the only supervisor, turns out that’s been a thing that was being whispered by other academics as well. 2/3
S24: I wish I had the support of the department. Instead it felt like I was meant to suffer on my own. 3/3
Student 25: I saw red flags from the 1st year of my PhD program and because of fear I would not move. As many other students I don’t have support from my community. There are many political strings that cannot be touched. 1/2
S25: I am afraid of 2/3 committee advisors because whenever they are angry they insult me and mention misrecommending people, and they are a couple It is impossible to be supported. I am afraid I won’t graduate. 2/2
Student 26: There's a huge lack of accountability for abusive people and no protection against them lashing out for students who push back. Needs to be a far better system for making formal complaints where the student is protected. 2/2
S26: In the UK students aren't classed as employees, so you can't raise a bullying claim with HR in the same way you would with an employer. 2/2
Student 27: A PI was super toxic & a poor leader, so much so that multiple GSs left with a MSc or switched labs several years into GS. 1/6
S27: Not only has nothing been done, PI was awarded a mentor award a few times bc PI made friends with the program director at the time, even though it was supposed to be GS only nominated. 2/6
S27: PI was also a horrible committee member who wasn’t supportive & just pushed everyone down. It’s pretty well known PI’s like this & yet nothing is done. 3/6
S27:There are diff standards that students w/in the dept are held to. In my sub field our quals are extremely rigorous while other sub fields were fairly simple & the committee were much easier. Not saying either way is right or wrong, but there should be standard practice.4/6
S27: Finally, my grad advisor was better than most but when it came to advocating for me when I needed it, PI backed off. I have always been unafraid to advocate for myself, which I did, but things would have been much better ifPI had advocated for me too. 5/6
S27: Instead the onus fell entirely on me making my already stressful situation much worse. Thankfully it all worked out but could’ve not worked out just as easily. 6/6
Student 28: Personally, I feel invisible. I can honestly say that if I quit, my prog and committee won't even notice until they had to fill in the stats for the year. That pretty much sums it up. 1/1
Student 29: If you want any change to happen here, you have to put in the labor. Yes, it's possible to have a large say at my Uni, but what it also means is that so much of the Uni runs on GS and PD labor, even beyond the actual doing of research...1/2
S29: ...(every kind of dept committee from admissions to alumni organizing, teaching, career development, etc.). I'm so tired, & others are doing even more. 2/2
Student 30: I open up to my advisor about my issues with anxiety and the PI called me weak repeatedly then threw a quarter at me unexpectedly to see if I would catch it (presumably to check if I was being to emotional to react to the situation?). 1/1
Student 31: there is so much lateral bullying that goes on, and just like middle school, other students and faculty/admin treat the departmental bullies like gold. It’s weirdly triggering to be essentially back in middle school as a grown adult. 1/1
Student 32: I am extremely unhappy in my PhD program right now. My advisors are overall very supportive, but I'm also required to do a lot of side projects unrelated to my dissertation. 1/4
S32: There's not much my immediate supervisor can do to intervene because my PI doesn't want to hear about how overwhelming it is. To make matters worse, my dissertation project isn't going as expected. 2/4
S32: It's aggravating my imposter syndrome, & I just started a completely new project most of the way through my 4th year. It just seems so unfair that some members of my cohort have multiple first-author publications & are getting out soon, but I just... Can't. 3/4
S32: The project I chose, which looked straightforward on paper, just isn't giving the results we expected so I can't carry it forward as designed. It feels really demoralizing. 4/4
Student 33: My PI allows all the freedom in the world for my studies, which has functioned as a playground for my anxiety. I need a lot more structure, set hours, deadlines, fixed meeting times, consistency. 1/1
Student 34: PI told me that I wasn't as good as another student who started after me as they published 1st. 1/5
S34: Postdoc said my degree was from clown college as I didn't go to the uni the rest of the lab did. Said in front of every PhD student in the lab & neighboring lab. 2/5
S34: PI unwilling to help get access to historical project data needed for new analysis yet was given freely to another student. Eventually given bad data by other student, costs 6 months work but is my fault. 3/5
S34: PD prepared lab protocol w/major errors, & is only source of help for protocol as PI trained in different field. Upon discovery of last error requiring total reanalysis & rewrite of entire thesis, PI slips in phrase at every meeting about "suck it up and get on with it". 4/5
S34: Sitting on thesis afraid to find something else myself or have examiner find mistake I have missed at viva as PI hasn't a clue about project past the basic idea. 5/5
Student 35: The pressure to prove myself/have a novel or field-changing discovery WITHOUT guidance or legitimate support. One faculty member said GS were "peers" of the faculty, so we better start writing and producing like one. 1/7
S35: But I still felt like a student who needed to talk out my ideas & receive some guidance from faculty!! I was not at the stage where I could operate alone in the library and emerge, clear-headed, with brilliant ideas (and honestly, do all faculty really work this way?). 2/7
S35: When I went to faculty, they steered me toward doing the kind of work they thought I should do. It was like not being able to breath, feeling so constrained/under so much pressure that I could not create good work, or work I could have even a small amount of pride in. 3/7
S35:Working 80 hrs/week was explicitly expected. Students felt like we were constantly trying to one-up each other intellectually. All of this on top of being away far away fm family & my partner-the isolation was so intense I started drinking heavily & making bad decisions.4/7
S35: I had a habit of ruminating on the realities of the job market & how I'd never get a position in academia; my student debt would never stop piling up & I'd never feel like an "adult"; my public speaking skills would never improve etc etc. 5/7
S35: An old mentor told me GS was the best time of an academic's career, it would be all downhill from here! If I was struggling this much then how the hell would I survive further down the line?! I had a mental breakdown & left the program. 6/7
S35:A family member died & her death changed something in me. I had to walk away fm the toxicity of GS. Some of my profs begged me to stay; for others, I was inconsequential. Now I'm a professional collaborating w/thoughtful, engaging, & respectful colleagues outside academia.7/7
Student 36: When I was accepted, I was the ONLY (Person in students' URM group, PSG) in the program and it seems like the ONLY PSG in a while. Now there are 2 PSGs in the whole department. 1/3
S36: There is minimum effort to support a student run organization to educate GS on career choices other than academia. Lastly, and this one bothers me the most: My department has many labs, but only 2 are in my field, X. All of our seminars are unrelated to field X. 2/3
S36: I feel excluded from everything... I'm always referred as the X field person....I have fought for multiple years to not feel like I have imposter syndrome but...it's amplified when I'm the only PSG in my field in the program. 3/3
Student 37: Nearly all faculty and my department explicitly state they want to do whatever they can to support my disability, but expect me to tell them how, otherwise they will not do anything. 1/3
S37: When I experience mild to medium symptoms, this behavior makes it more difficult to get everything back on track. When I have severe symptoms (rare), support goes out the window & I am taken to task by faculty for not managing my symptoms well enough OR...2/3
S37: ...my symptoms are interpreted as examples that I am not dedicated to science. Trying to put myself back together while advocating for myself in these conflicts at the same time is exhausting. 3/3
Student 38: My supervisor assigned a project out of the group's own area of expertise. Despite knowing that the group did not persistently explore that area of research, the PI demanded I write a literature review in that area. 1/7
S38:PI completely disregarded the complexity that comes w/an entirely different area. The lack of evaluation & support makes it impossible for one trained in field X, for example, to explore a sub-field of field Y.. 2/7
S38: As any good student, I tried to read and understand the details of another field. However, the failure of meeting the supervisor's expectations eventually turned into a toxic cycle of verbal abuse over the course of a few months. I felt insulted. 3/7
S38:A PhD student should learn on their own of course, but it doesn't mean that we can do it all. This all comes down to the proper evaluation of one's own capacity for knowledge & skills. This likely is also my own responsibility; not knowing whether I could do the project.4/7
S38: We had a senior PhD student that kept on saying certain topics or ideas are 'garbage'. Surprisingly, nothing has been done to the rude member of the group for a year despite disciplinary actions should have been valid under a professional setting. 5/7
S38: Due to this, some of our group meetings were toxic exchanges. People were literally at each other's throats, so we now don't have group meetings anymore. To make matters worse, the group that I'm in is already not a very specialized group, w/no common research theme. 6/7
S38: Our supervisor encourages us to work alone. I think this has to do w/the number of pubs our PI wants to publish each year. If everyone publishes a paper of their own, the group has more papers. 7/7
(Kat's comments: I think the student meant that by insisting everyone works alone, there is no cohesiveness in the group, which makes for a toxic environment.)
Student 39 (actually PD): I was privileged to have an amazing PI/co-PI in GS as well as a wonderful & supportive department. My postdoc has been the exact opposite of that experience. 1/2
S39: Seeing how terrible it is to work in a toxic environment w/in academia makes me feel terrible for GSs who have to go through it to get a degree. Luckily I was able to leave my PD & am starting an industry job, but I can't imagine how truly awful it must be for GS. 2/2
S40: Former Student. Told by my advisor that I was a bad writer. Not what I could do to improve, or different approaches to take, just a bad writer. I guess I thought grad school was still supposed to be a learning experience with your mentor. 1/1
Student 41: My PI tells me I shouldn’t go down the traditional academia route & do a PD because I clearly don’t enjoy research, but also says I should focus on publishing & defending my thesis so I can leave the program. 1/4
S41: She does not support anything career-related whatsoever & denied my request to go to a conference this year because I need to focus on finishing (I haven’t presented my work to a conference at all). 2/4
S41: My spouse is in city A & I wanted to do a PD there before applying to fellowships. She has told visiting faculty that I needn’t look at their labs because “my interests lie elsewhere”. 3/4
S41: I finished a MSc before this in a more supportive environment & really enjoyed my research. It wasn’t until I joined this lab that I supposedly “lost interest”. 4/4
Student 42: I tried to access mental healthcare from my University and was told "We're full this semester. Go try yoga." I think I might (still) have undiagnosed X that caused me to spend 2 years longer on my degree than I needed to, & that's with a supportive advisor. 1/1
Student 43: It is hard when advisors play favorites and when you're not a favorite, they ignore or put down your research or goals. 1/1
Student 44: I'm sort of lucky to be in a school that offers support, but I'm not sure how to take it, and what questions are "useless". Can I still ask domain based questions when I have the internet at my disposal, or is it deemed as too dependent on advice? 1/1
Student 45: My supervisor constantly ignores my emails & requests for help. I had a timeline, & because PI is constantly ignoring my own personal & departmental deadlines, I am months behind. 1/4
S45: I sent the PI several suggestions for my committee, & PI ignored them all in favor of putting PIs spouse on my committee. PI spouse research is no where in line w/mine, & I constantly feel like my MSc’s degree is not worth PIs time. 2/4
S45: I have tried reaching out to other students in our lab, but because of the supervisor, there is an atmosphere of “everyone for themselves”. At this point, I only have X months left if everything goes to plan, so I am doing my best to stick in there. 3/4
S45: My school offers a few free therapy sessions for grad students, so I have taken advantage of that, but I have received no other support, and I’m not even sure where to look. 4/4
S45: Oh, and my supervisor is constantly putting me down for working outside of the lab, and suggesting that I’m not working as hard as everyone else. Unfortunately without this job I wouldn’t be able to pay tuition. 5/4 (Kat: my bad I missed that last part of the DM)
Student 46: GSs in our lab can't trust our advisor with our ideas. Often PI will tell us to hold off on them, & later present them to someone else PI thinks is a better 'fit' for the project, w/out telling them it was another student's idea. 1/8
S46: This leads to funnelling of ideas to 'favorite' students & generally giving women's ideas to men. PI has a history of forcing pregnant GSsto defend immediately when it is not in their best interest. Parenting dads still receive support and can arrange their own timeline. 2/8
S46:PI wants us to hold data & projects close at all times until PI makes sure the results will fit in with past results & the narrative PI's working to build. But this means it's very hard to get advice/networking/mentorship fm anyone, since I am not allowed to talk abt work.3/8
S46: PI doesn't not protect our time. None of us are ever on RA bc it is a waste of💰in PIs opinion so we TA all year. All students must register for every class PI teaches, including undergrad classes, even if it is far outside our area or we are already experts in the topic.4/8
S46: On top of all this we do RA work maintaining a lab animal colony & collecting field and lab data that is used for papers that we don't get authorship on. 5/8
S46: Sum of all this is that student progress is very slow, but this is always blamed on individual student. I am told I am just not efficient and that this is more than 40 hr/week job (obviously I am working more than that), and that maybe I am not cut out for this. 6/8
S46: This is my 2nd toxic lab. I took a MSc in my 1st-different problems there--just screaming & emotional abuse, but oddly more support in that I felt like PI actually did care about my career & took steps to advocate for me. 7/8
S46:In my 4th year w/no chapters published. I don't know if I will have a career & it feels too late to start over a 3rd time. I really do have a lot of dedication & talent. I think I would thrive in a good environment but it's too late & it seems like they are rare. 8/8
Student 47: I’m a PhD doctor and I’m working hard to secure a good place to help my people in (Non-Western/European country). In the education department, they lack very basic things. 1/1
Student 48: PI held to a completely different standard of conduct than students, students receive evaluations & feedback every year from PI that has to be submitted to department head, but there is no established means to convey feedback on the PI to the department head. 1/2
S48: The dept graduate program coordinator should be who students go to to discuss PI/advisee issues, but often that person has limited training in how to mitigate situations, leaving the student with little hope for improvement & again leaving it on the GSs shoulders.2/2
Student 49 (TW suicide): I feel unsupported bc there is no adequate mentoring for someone like me (1st gen GS, low income background & URM). I also have PTSD & no one in my department knows. I feel like they barely know what to do with me as is, how to provide support, etc. 1/5
S49: We do all this outreach to small disadvantaged kids & sometimes it outrages me bc nothing is being done to RETAIN diversity (i.e., me and others like me). I am not connected to any mentors that have a similar life. 2/5
S49: All the financial, cultural, & mental health battles I have had, I have had to conquer alone, almost. Thank God for supportive family/partners. Most days I cry out for help but just get labeled as "angry". 3/5
S49: I almost committed suicide during my 1st year bc this is SO isolating to be the 1st. My loving partner's tears upon telling him talked me out of it and it's a long gone thought now. I am also on the upswing of recovering from my PTSD diagnosis. But it has been hard. 4/5
S49: I wish other students and faculty would just be kinder to students like me. We aren't angry. We are alone. We are frustrated. We need your help and your kindness. 5/5
Student 50: One thing that I have thought about a lot over the last few years, is that all of these toxic PIs were once GSs themselves. What was their experience that led to them being the kind of PI they are now? 1/2
S50: Are the toxic behaviors they have now the things that led to them being successful in grad school? I wonder if the behaviors persist (o become more pronounced over time) because at some point in the past (or presently) they are rewarded for them? What do you think? 2/2
Student 51: I am a grad student who is actually leaving my PhD program with a masters because the environment is so toxic. My advisor is emotionally abusive and cruel to his students and I’m the third to leave in a row. 1/1
Student 52 (fm PD for GS): PI physically absent during 7 first months of new PhD student´s project, w/no guidance whatsoever. Student still doesn´t know what their project will be about & has no committee nor any summer support, almost a year from starting. 1/7
S52: PI is manipulative & psychologically abusive, has had many GSs & PDs quit before, has been forbidden from taking on students in the past. I have been trying to support GS as much as I can, but nowhere to turn to as a PD if I want to preserve current relationships w/PI. 2/7
S52: Dept head aware of the situation & seems to have been supportive of GS & encouraging changing lab (instead of quitting altogether), but hasn´t been actually doing anything other than listening & verbal support as far as I can tell. 3/7
S52: Almost a year in and student has not found a new lab & has panic attacks before every meeting with PI. Why is a PI who was previously forbidden from advising students suddenly allowed to have students again w/absolutely no check on how they are advising them? 4/7
S52: Why not impose a co-supervisor, enforce a thesis committee during the 1st months of student starting? Depts should have systems in place to help students change labs when obvious abuse exist, particularly when the dept already knows of previous problems w/that PI. 5/7
S52: Pressure shouldn´t be entirely on student to make that happen when they are stressed about current situation. Recent NSF guidelines make it mandatory for depts to tell NSF about any current investigations on PI (i.e. seems to be aimed at sexual harassment, etc). 6/7
S52: Investigations should be launched at the 1st complaints of a student & reported directly to funding agencies, including for psychological abuse, only way to stop PIs from being abusive is to hit where it hurts: funding sources. 7/7
Student 53: I was a high performer & got very little attention fm faculty b/c of that. I was expected to succeed so I got no further investments fm faculty. When I became faculty, I was completely lost b/c I had really been socialized into the profession beforehand. 1/2
S53: The better prepared ppl were actually the lower performing students who needed LOTS of handing holding just to get through their theses and dissertations. 2/2
Student 54: I am a non-traditional PhD student & am on the verge of leaving the program. My institution offers minimal financial support so I teach high school part-time to make ends meet. 1/3
S54: Institute just started new guidelines where I’m not allowed to work beyond a certain number of hours each semester outside the Uni without special permission. I don’t know how to navigate this- I don’t meet the guidelines for the special permission, but...2/3
S54: if I don’t work outside the university, I won’t be able to feed my kids. The program is explicitly creating barriers for students who support others. 3/3
Student 55: Despite its prestige, my MFA program was pretty easy and needed to challenge us more. 1/1
Student 56: My program faculty as a whole are unwilling to provide support to students seeking clarification on work/life balance. The PIs in the program say how important that balance is, but many of them expect 60-80 hours/week from their students. 1/3
S56: Some labs the students aren't expected to have one day a week off, or sometimes even evenings. Talking to the PI often does not result in a compromise. 2/3
S56: When we approach the dept for support on what a reasonable work/life balance is, the consistent response is 'oh ask your PI' and a refusal to address it any further. There is no active (or even passive) support for this to be a discussion. 3/3
Student 57: I’ve just quit GS & I’m heartbroken. Have essentially been gaslit by my department/faculty about my health. No support for disabled/chronically ill students. No return to work process after long periods of sick leave. Not allowed an extension because of sick leave.1/3
S57: For the last year I’ve been telling my supervisors that I’ve lost my confidence and they simply reply saying that I’m running out of time so didn’t have time to indulge in that type of thought. They told me it would be better for my health if I wasn’t doing the PhD. 2/3
S57:A male PhD student has been given an extension for ‘personal & compassionate’ reasons. I apparently don’t fit the criteria. My PIs refused to fight for me. I was told academia is about the work & not the person. That it shouldn’t have to make accommodations to health. 3/3
Student 58: Exposed to toxic chemical a year after being exposed to a different toxic chemical due to improper training. After first incident, PI asked us not to talk about it. I voiced my opinion that that was the exact opposite approach to prevent further "accidents". 1/2
S58:Still had medical issues when PI decided to stop funding me & thus insurance even though I still had experiments to do.Had to decide if I wanted to complete phd while working in a what I felt & voiced was a dangerous environment with no health insurance. Now am abd w/ptsd.2/2
Student 59: Not a research degree but it was a masters. Boredom, lack of mentoring, lack of career guidance, did not help me understand what the profession was really like. Best class was in the biology department if that says anything-either about the field or about myself. 1/1
Student 60: I had serious problems with anxiety that were largely brought on or at least exacerbated by having to share enclosed lab space w/a student from a neighboring lab who had a history of being extremely violent towards/assaulting women & queers, inc my friend.1/5
S60: There was no way for me to do my research without risking being alone with him in an isolated space. His behavior was in a downward spiral compounded by serious substance abuse issues. 2/5
S60: A group of students raised the issue to leaders in our dept & up to the provost, but everyone kept passing the buck saying it would be someone else’s responsibility to discipline him or remove him from the program. 3/5
S60: After months of a group of us going to meetings w/all levels of administration, he ultimately was expelled (after many more outbursts) & I switched labs. I was still having a lot of panic attacks even in my new lab, & the only thing that helped was starting medication. 4/5
S60: So long story short, what my department/university could have done to help my mental health would be to take it seriously when I said I felt unsafe at work. 5/5 (Kat: Unis clearly need to have a designated person who makes these decisions, & it should be clear who it is)
Student 61:My advisor was super slow in reading my thesis. I was about to be kicked out of my program, so I complained to the head of the program. PI asked questions in my defense that made the audience feel so awkward they left. PI obviously didn't want me to have it. 1/2
S61: I passed, but in order to get my diploma I still had to publish & PI gave me a hard time and talked behind my back with friends and colleagues. During this, I had to survive for several years in a foreign country with no funding. 2/2
Student 62: The hardest thing about grad school has been having an advisor that I feel doesn't support me. PI has let me down multiple times. I am at a highly religious school in a religious state as an atheist, which made it incredibly difficult to get through the program. 1/2
S62: I almost dropped out last year. If given the choice on whether to apply again, I would choose not to come to grad school at all. This has been the toughest few years of my life. 2/2
Student 63: My main supervisor has been seriously ill for the entirety of my GS experience, which is a twofold problem. 1st, I just don't get a lot of contact hours, & 2nd, there are no PDs so I am left to train/supervise all the younger GS in the lab. 1/2
S63: Fortunately I have a co-supervisor I see every few weeks who helps me stay on track. The dept just says "if there's anything we can do to help let us know" w/out letting me know how they're capable of helping, or what 'help' even looks like. 2/2
Student 64: So many issues from the PIs. Mostly totally ignored and neglected. Inappropriate talk and toxic male leadership qualities and barriers. 1/1
Student 65: When it comes to paper writing processes some supervisors are very passive and they give the least amount of time for a detailed review. This often leads to ruining the motivation of students and makes students go through unnecessary review iterations. 1/1
Student 66: When I asked my ex-advisor about a vague comment that PI left on my performance eval, PI said it "cost the lab resources" when I took 3 days of bereavement leave when my grandmother passed unexpectedly. PI explicitly wrote about my family on job eval docs. 1/1
Student 67: I’ve been bullied by my female supervisor. She denies information, equipment, and contacts despite ample project budget and reasonable requests. Co-supervisor won’t upset her by taking over so we now have 3 way meetings. 1/2
S67: I never could have imagined that I could be so vulnerable to an insecure woman. I love most things about my PhD experience but I will finish as quickly as possible. 2/2 (Kat: I have been leaving gender out, but have heard about both male and female PIs.)
Student 68: In my 1st semester of GS, my advisor encouraged me to pursue one particular topic for my dissertation, which I was receptive to. Flash forward to the top of my 4th year & I spend several weeks feverishly putting together a predoctoral grant that my PI agreed to. 1/2
S68: My PI pulled support w/out warning 2 weeks before the deadline & told me to get a new PI. I started 4th year w/out a PI. PI was the ONLY reason why I came to this Uni & I lost my purpose. I've been limping along, but the damage to my morale & enthusiasm is irreversible. 2/2
Student 69 (TW: physical abuse): PI was physically abusive to GS. Would smack students for saying/doing the wrong thing etc. This was even caught on camera. They also placed students in danger by not following recommended safety precautions, & students were harmed. 1/3
S69: The PI knew the safety issues were a problem, but did not fix them. There was a paper trail from (specific incident). But we could do nothing as GS bc this PI was the chair. When we asked the Uni if they kept records of these kinds of infractions they said they did not. 2/3
S69:This PI may have been abusing & placing people in danger for YEARS & there was no way to know because there was no record. Needless to say, many students left the lab & left academia. There should be laws that universities keep records of complaints against professors. 3/3
Student 70: I have been repeatedly told by my mentor that I might not get my PhD and should settle for the "consolation prize" (MSc). I don't know if this is a threat that PI won't graduate me. 1/2
S70: I don't know if I should keep powering through or if PI does know best. I don't know if my anxiety is real or if I'm just weak-willed. I don't know if this is abuse or if this is normal. I just don't know anything anymore. 2/2
Student 71: I had an "adviser" who refused to work with other faculty in the program except for PIs spouse (whose research interests were far from my own) which made forming a committee nearly impossible. 1/3
S71: PI wouldn't give feedback on any dissertation proposal ideas or meet with me once I passed my comps until after I submitted a complete draft. When I got married PI admonished me that grad school wasn't a "hunting ground for marriage partners." 2/3
S71: When I told PI I was thinking of taking a summer job because we didn't get summer funding, PI said I was insufficiently committed to the life of the mind. Is it any surprise that only 1 of PIs students finished in the 10 years I tried to work with PI? 3/3
Student 72: My PI only had interest for about the first 3 months and I spent the next 2 years trying to figure out what to do on my own. Then he quit suddenly and left me without a stipend and without a lab. What fun 1/2
S72: Due to being given almost no help when I went to look for a new lab I realized that I was about 18 months behind where I should be and I didn't want to be one of those 7/8 year PhD students so I just quit. 2/2
Student 73: My mentor ignores massive problems when I bring them to their attention. I approached program director & that seemed to make things worse. I was excused from my committee meeting, but never given reciprocal opportunity with my mentor. 1/2
S73: After, I was referred to student support network to get therapy. Now my mentor is writing a manuscript that I disagree with using half my data; other half conflicts with the story. Now Uni administrators are involved, I'm hoping for some resolution. 2/2
Student 74: Currently TT faculty. In GS I struggled with lack of access to affordable mental health services, but was lucky to have a supportive committee. It was scary for awhile before it got better. Life is pretty good on the other side, so I work to pay it forward. 1/1
Student 75 (TW: self harm): In my first semester of GS, I was humiliated in front of my classmates for not doing an assignment correctly by a tenured/senior/established professor. I didn’t think of saying anything to the faculty head right away due to the Profs standing. 1/2
S75: I stepped out of the class in order to not burst into tears, to collect myself. I thought of dropping out, of smashing my head into the wall until I lost consciousness. Somehow, I’m graduating with an MFA this spring, but I’ll never forget how low I felt. 2/2
Student 76: I'm a graduate research assistant. I got my position because the PD they had doing experiments needed more help since they couldn't complete all the work. I was set to do my MSc on the side. Deadlines had to be met, MSc project was constantly pushed to the side.1/3
S76: 1 year in, postdoc quits. I now hold all the responsibilities of PD, myself, & supposed to be doing a MSc's. Basically I work a full time job, almost 1.5 years in, still unable to start my MSc project. 2/3
S76: My advisor is basically on full time off campus work, doesn't teach classes, and has never responded to an email. I report to a consultant they hired to run the project who works 2 days a week. 3/3
Student 77: I’m absolutely broke, despite being given a fellowship my Uni told me was “enough to cover the cost of your degree”. It isn’t. After Uni fees, health insurance & room/board, I have 3-4k/year for food, medical expenses, literally everything else. 1/2
S77: I’m told to be grateful when I point out that as a first generation student, I can’t make ends meet. 2/2
Student 78: I have crippling anxiety about finishing my PhD a reasonable time & navigating my departure from the lab. My PI fusses over minute details of experiments but hasn’t offered guidance about which experiments I should prioritize or the directions to take the project.1/6
S78: My PI insists on keeping our projects separate & prohibits collaboration even with other people in my lab. I wrote a paper that my PI asked me to write - it’s been years without feedback from my advisor or submission to the journal that asked for the paper. 2/6
S78: Students in my lab typically finish their work & write their paper w/out guidance from my PI, then wait months before getting any feedback on the manuscript. If the paper gets submitted, it’s an average of about two years after the work has been completed. 3/6
S78: GS & PD often leave without having a paper published. I’ve seen former GSs pause their PD to come back to our lab to finish experiments that reviewers asked for because my PI threatened to damage their career otherwise. 4/6
S78: My PI has funding, but it is a struggle to convince them to pay for certain experiments & I’m told to continue doing the same 3/4 failed experiments. My PI is negligent most of the time & then has episodes where everything is a crisis & they are questioning why... 5/6
S78:...a,b,c...,z has not been done yet...which adds to my anxiety. My PI does everything they can to avoid confronting issues, which makes communicating about expectations & finishing our time in the lab quite difficult despite our best efforts. 6/6
Student 79: I had to deal with a fellow GS->PD who ticked all the boxes for high fuctioning sociopath. Lying, gaslighting, tampering w/experiments, & general politicking to undermine everyone else in the lab was normal. My PI was unable or unwilling to address the problem(s). 1/5
S79: The were not departmental avenues to address the issues, so students were left to fend for themselves. Those of us who didn't quit the lab or do an abortive MSc have all observed that it took us nearly a year in a more "normal" workplace to de-condition. 2/5
S79: Eventually you stop photographing your bench before you leave each night so that you don't feel like a crazy person when you come in & things have moved. You don't walk in to the lab each morning wondering what contrived & scenario was e-mailed to the PI... 3/5
S79: ...making you look incompetent, like the aggressor, or stupid. True sociopaths/psychopaths only constitute ~1% of the population.For those of us who have dealt w/& recognized at least 1, there are clear warning signs we now look for in just about every social situation.4/5
S79:What I want is an existent reporting mechanism for internal bad lab behavior & some sort of 3rd party evaluation mechanism. This was one of those cases where it wasn't the PI who was horrible, but another student who seemed to have power over the PI. 5/5
Student 80 (TW:suicide): PI never used the methods they were asking me to do, so I had to teach myself; when asking which variation the reply was "what's in the literature". PI was never in lab with me even when I was asking for help. 1/9
S80: No PD in lab, no other PhD students, only MSc students & UG I had to teach w/out payment, to the detriment of my work. I wanted help because the experiment the PI was supposedly expert on didn't work. Only response I got was "oh well these things happen." 2/9
S80: Apparently supervisor found protocol from a PD friend (I was her 1st PhD) & lied about having experience. I was told by PI to write 2 review articles, which she didn't bother paying for, so no pubs. 3/9
S80: I was offered publication at a conference, but the journal wasn't good enough. Meanwhile PI continues working on & publishing w/PI's old PD group, not caring about current mentees. 4/9
S80: I got screamed at for not having enough data, I'm the worst phd student PI ever had, & nobody likes working w/me as I never listen (nobody had ever worked w/me, even though I'd asked; later found out PI had been telling lies to cover her lack of knowledge for methods). 5/9
S80: I was called useless, & told I wasn't cut for research bc of depression I developed because of the PIs behaviour. I was then asked for proof of my depression. I spoke to the Dean around the time I was suicidal. Dean was buddies w/PI. 6/9
S80: Dean tried to say PI was having a bad day & that PI behavior was acceptable. PI lied again saying my studentship would be extended, so for the past year I've been living off of savings/loans from friends, as I'm not allowed to work over 6 hours/week/. 7/9
S80: PI also "forgets" to send references, or lies about sending them, costing me conferences & course participation. Only thing I was offered was 1h/2 weeks counseling sessions w/someone from the occupational therapy team, who cannot do anything but offer me timetables. 8/9
S80:No repercussions for PI. I'm broke & my depression is spiraling, but I'm too close to the finish line to quit, & PI told me I’m too old to start again. If I could, I'd have quit the moment I realized how toxic the people & conditions at my Uni are. 9/9
Student 81: The sense that GS were actually valued by HR & admin was just completely absent. Several of us went through periods of bullying & ghosting by our PI (the same one). None of us felt comfortable going to anyone to report it bc we were sure they'd take the PIs side. 1/
S81: PI was in a management position & on his way to becoming head of department. We just felt disposable & like there would be no consequence to PI if we dropped out. We had to support each other & so we did, but that's not a sustainable system. 2/2
Student 82: There are cultural biases I wasn’t aware existed. My UG training was in another country & it was very integrated. I knew a lot of the PhDs & PDs & everyone seemed unified for a cause. 1/3
S82: I am now in the US there are a lot of unwritten rules & power structures that I simply didn’t see in my home country. 2/3
S82:The work ethos of having time off being akin to some type of sin from which one shall never receive a PD position etc. is terrifying. I miss time w/my family. I know the time is there if I take it, but I’m scared to bc I would hate to look like I work less than my peers. 3/3
Student 83: Over the past 3 years I have presented/published (huge number) papers, received several research/travel awards. Only one short conference paper has been published as a collaboration with my advisor. My PI is the worst mentor one could ever imagine. 1/2
S83: PI has never read any of my research ideas/proposals & now she is putting me in a position that I may fail my PhD! Many friends & professors advised me to change my advisor & I am sorry that I didn’t. My advice for PhD students is to work w/someone who cares about them. 2/2
Student 84: The hardest thing for me is working 80+ hour weeks without weekends, support or incentives. I have been trying for years to attend an international conference or workshop in my field, going so far as to self-fund, but I have yet to get approval. 1/1
Student 85: The hardest thing for me is being a young parent while getting a PhD. I can't socialize the way I normally would and I feel constantly behind my cohort mates who are reading for their diss and writing articles. 1/2
S85: In addition, my uni pays lip service to caring about "non-traditional" grad students and yet their infrastructure and support systems aren't all that helpful. 2/2
Student 86: I was just hit with the end of a 3rd long term relationship since I started my MA years ago. The first one ended in divorce, & this last one I moved away from the university for & is ending just over a month shy of when I am supposed to defend my dissertation. 1/2
S86:I'm exhausted & feel like giving up. I'm looking for motivation & tips for how people move forward & focus on research & writing when the work takes so much concentration. I'm doing counseling/mindfulness but interested in anything more tailored to the academic experience.2/2
Student 87: I joined a program in the middle of transitioning from ‘run by group one and generally good people’ to ‘run by group two and garbage people’. I didn’t even know this was happening until my third year because I didn’t have the capacity to understand it. 1/2
S87: My advisor was going through a personal crisis for my first two years and I was shunted around between assistantship projects. I have been miserable for years now and working on my own to find something I believe in enough to write my dissertation on. 2/2
Student 88: Lack of funding in the summer is the hardest part. GSs are given an opportunity to teach a summer course but that isn't guaranteed. I had a colleague whose class didn't make numbers so he missed out on 3k. Only PhD students can teach so the MA students are SoL. 1/2
S88: Some of the faculty care about the grads, some don't, but most are too busy to consistently help us w/stuff. We're basically left on our own to pursue opportunities outside of classwork or non-academic $$. Like someone else said in your thread, aid can be very passive. 2/2
Students 89: I had many problems with my previous PI/supervisor which ultimately ended up in me talking to an Associate Dean for a year, getting the head of my department involved, and then me switching labs/programs so that I could finish my degree. 1/7
S89: My field crew and I were repeatedly put in danger while in the field bc it was more important to get the data than it was to have the appropriate gear for our field site. We worked in unsafe conditions on & off throughout the season, despite voicing our concerns. 2/7
S89: I was told to stay on after everyone else left, to wrap up work, even though it was against safety protocol. There was a lack of supplies & organization around the entire season that resulted in crews taking incomplete/incorrect data &...3/7
S89: multiple several hour trips back & forth between field sites & town to pick up supplies. We were severely short-staffed & overworked. We were in the field all day, doing data entry & camp chores on our own time, & didn't end have a day off until >2 months into the season.4/7
S89: The crew positions were not paid. There was a serious lack of communication & presence by my PI in the field & lab. Crew received minimal training pre-season. Feedback was sparse & often late, so I missed several important deadlines for grants/proposals. 5/7
S89:When the crew spoke up, we were told we were complaining too much, & we just needed to do our (unpaid) jobs. When I spoke up post-season, PI told me that I needed to take ownership of the project & its problems, that my lack of motivation re: the project was concerning...6/7
S89:...& that I needed to re-evaluate whether I should be a GS anymore. My dept was supportive & let me switch to a different program/PI, but I don't think any real changes were made in the lab. Still full of students. PI is now tenured. No repercussions. 7/7
Student 90: My first advisor had an intense reputation, but the current group members advised that all students that had left the group previously simply hadn't tried hard enough. 1/3
S90: My original project was physically unattainable, and I spent an entire year unsuccessfully soliciting support from peer students and the advisor. When I deviated from his vision, I was chastised. 2/3
S90: Consequentially, I left the group with an incredibly warped image of my intellectual potential and sense of belonging in the field as a whole. It was damaging beyond my project alone. I wish there had been a sense of oversight from within or external to my group. 3/3
Student 91: I am in a program that has Masters & PhDs in the same classes together. It’s pretty obvious that classes are geared towards PhDs. Though courses are rigorous & fun, it leaves MS’s students w/out a clear idea of what we should be doing to further our careers..1/5
S91: It’s always assumed we're going in academia. Every faculty I have spoken to has told me it is impossible to have healthy work-life balance in academia & I will not get any kind of job if I am not constantly producing & presenting work. 2/5
S91: As someone w/multiple diagnosed mental health issues, this isn’t possible, so I am terrified that I’m not doing enough, even though I’m doing a thesis in a non-thesis program, & that I’m wasting my time & getting further into debt for a dead-end degree because I’m not...3/5
S91: running myself into the ground. Support is passive (“reach out if you need anything”). Though my request to have a female professor I am comfortable w/as an extra committee member (the rest of my committee is male) was granted...4/5
S91: ...it is often commented on as if I am burdening the dept with silly, fanciful requests. It’s odd because beyond this my dept is very warm & welcoming * feels very safe, just...benevolently negligent, I guess. 5/5
Student 92: Most of the advisor problems revolved around saying "I have high standards", yet not articulating what those standards are. Many people left the lab with no degree. One was expected to present him with a complete draft, which was accepted or rejected. 1/3
S92: PhD committees there were non-functional, never heard of a dissertation meeting before this thread. Attempted to talk w/dept. chair to establish expectations with a 3rd party. Transferred work to another advisor, (sane). Wrote a quick paper (together), finished. 2/3
S92: This was complicated by many other things in my personal life. Now that I am a PI, manager, & PhD committee member, I am doing everything completely the opposite, but years of uncertainty don't just leave you. 3/3
Student 93: I'm lucky to have a very supportive advisor, & grad school still sucks. We are expected to present ourselves as fairly affluent in order to be "professional" or to participate in the social expectations of the academy, but I barely make ends meet. 1/3
S93: While some fac are supportive & constructive in their critiques, others are needlessly derisive & take the attitude that if you can't handle "the pressure" (i.e. condescension from superiors, high publication expectations, the need to always be cutting-edge)...2/3
S93:...you simply don't belong. I have some great mentors & lovely experiences, but just a few toxic authority figures can make the whole experience much shittier. I know the default reaction from many will be "It's a competitive profession. Suck it up, or get out." 3/3
Student 94: For me the biggest is a lack of emotional support from colleagues. I spent well over a year in a deep depression, was a danger to myself, & showed many obvious outward signs of being a wreck. Not once did any of my colleagues reach out and ask me if I was ok. 1/2
S94: When I finally called someone out on this, they admitted that they clearly saw that I wasn't ok but didn't say anything, because, "if you needed help, you could've always asked." 2/2
Student 95: I had a hard time as a father in grad school, especially when my wife ended maternity leave & was working to support our family, so that I needed to be the caregiver of a young child. 1/2
S95: The (too-slow) movement towards helping moms in grad school is important, but the dads sometimes need support as well. 2/2
Student 96: 1) In a ranked based TA funded system, there's no advice or information for what to do if you don't get funding. We don't find out till a couple of weeks before classes begin whether we even get funded. Some people take out loans. 1/4
S96: I have $$$ in debt... that's not an option for me. If I don't get funded next year I will have to drop out. Maybe there are other options, but no one shares them. 2/4
S96: 2) Dept & grad student organized events social events often revolve around alcohol. There is little acknowledgement that students demographics are changing & often include parents, "nontraditional students" & their families, those of different means...3/4
S96: & those w/dietary restrictions (including recovering alcoholics and addicts). Sometimes it feels like departmental events are only for the young or tenured, single, financially stable, and those with disposable time. 4/4
S97: I had a committee member who didn't read my dissertation until after the defense, then after passing me with minor revisions required, finally read the dissertation & demanded major improvements. 1/3
S97: They were improvements, but it took much longer for me to finish. Since I had already defended, I was forced to pay full tuition for the extra time, while the reviewer took sometimes more than a month to respond to my emails + followups with my corrections. 2/3
S97: My chair said that there was nothing they could do to force the reviewer to sign off, and then refused to push the issue, since the requested changes were "reasonable". 3/3
Student 98: For some reason many PIs are allergic to giving feedback unless it's negative. This habit creates a very negative work environment that stifles motivation and productivity. 1/2
S98: IMO productivity increases when students know they're on the right track! Unfortunately, my PI seems to prefer grad students having a certain level of anxiety about being in lab and succeeding, and I find this environment suffocating. 2/2
Student 99: “If you don't feel comfortable posting from your handle, PM me, I will post for you.” This is everything, right here. 1/3
S99: If I had a good relationship, I could just say “hey, could you not do that” and it wouldn’t be an issue. Not being able to speak freely & give honest feedback about what adviser can do better is SO critical. Otherwise, w/out a doubt, I work FOR my PI, not with. 2/3
S99: The most frustrating aspect of this arrangement is when PI wants me to do something, gives minimal direction, & w/out fail if I ask follow up questions, I get told I am being “infinitely frustrating” because I am not just doing what PI says without question. 3/3
Student 100: A huge lab with mostly PD w/out strategies of integration for GSs makes life more difficult. People are scattered & supervisor does not promote cohesiveness. People are friendly & willing to help but only if you know exactly to who and what to ask. 1/3
S100: We also have zero lab training. We must figure everything out ourselves. After years of struggle in the lab I just found out (from someone in another lab) about a practical lab class that would have been useful. No one in my lab knew about it. Why?! 2/3
S100: It bothers me that my supervisor has been aware of my struggle in the lab and never suggested anything to help (except let someone else do it, which was very demoralizing). 3/3
Student 101: PI expectations are rarely clear, re: anything fm conference abstracts, to purpose of a qualifying exam, to project management. I learn by trial & error. Unfortunately there aren't always clear patterns. This leads to me feeling like I don't belong in academia.1/1
Student 102: I joined my lab as a MS student & quickly found out the only PhD student (referred to as PhD) in the lab was/is very manipulative & mentally abusive. PhD seems very nice at first but you soon realize that PhD is not who they present as. 1/7
S102: I have had talks with PhD about their behavior & how it made me uncomfortable & thought the talk went very well until they shamed me to other students. Some examples of PhD behavior: 2/7
S102: PhD agrees with all my PIs opinions & ideas to my PIs face, but then trash talks PI to other members of the lab, using derogatory terms to describe the PI. PhD is always ready to call out other peoples mistakes & brings it to my PI. 3/7
S102: When there is a lack of reagents in the lab, it's always someone else's fault. Talks trash about other students as a means of "bonding". Has a power insecurity. In front of lab, told me she is technically my boss and doesn't need to listen to me. 4/7
S102: Intentionally creates conflicts between students & pretends to resolve it. Very passive aggressive. Does the minimal work in lab & uses standing as the only PhD as leverage against other students. My PI is extremely supportive & very soft-hearted. 5/7
S102: I took this issue to my PI who then asked other students re: the issue & they affirmed. However, there was nothing done. There is a lot of pressure for Tenure and losing a PhD student in my PIs timeline would look undesirable. 6/7
S102: As someone who suffers from depression & anxiety, I have come to a point where I can no longer stand being around this person and I don't know what else I can do regarding the situation. 7/7
Student 103: My fiancee was diagnosed w/a disease about a year into my program, after a lot of build up, lots of stress and lots of time spent trying to get her to seek help. We lived together with no one else, so I became her primary carer. 1/2
S103: Her illness was germ-based, so I spent a lot of time cleaning and re-cleaning the house so she was comfortable. When I discussed what was going on with my PI he was the opposite of supportive, & suggested I break up w/my fiancee since it was impacting my work.2/2
Student 104: Our program offered a counselor on staff. I went to see him for a few weeks over my comprehensive exam period & he spend majority of time talking about himself & was very judgemental. 1/3
S104: It was my 1st experience trying to access mental health care & I had no idea how to find community mental healthcare. Nobody in my program spoke about MH so there was not a conversation about bringing someone better to replace him. 2/3
S104:Uni MH center resigned itself to not reaching GSs, only UGs. Fast forward to post-GS & I have the motivation & resources to access MH care. Diagnosed w/generalized anxiety & seasonal affective disorder. GS MH care GS needs to improve so GSs can get real diagnoses & care. 3/3
Student 105: GS is hard for me because I have several kids ranging from toddler to pre-teen. No professor in my department seems to understand exactly how this impacts my ability to work and, frankly, none of them seem to care. 1/4
S105: I can’t work a 14 hour day like I did earlier in GS, bc I’m getting up twice a night to nurse a baby & when my kids come home from school my workday stops (we’re ignoring the fact here that asking students to work 14 hour days is unhealthy & unreasonable). 2/4
S105: The solution to my lack of time, suggested by my advisors, is to stop doing anything that isn’t either a family obligation, or my dissertation. No coffee w/friends, no walks in the park, no watching TV. 3/4
S105: This is a 1-way ticket to anxiety & depression, but I worry that if I don’t follow their advice then I won’t be allowed to graduate. I’m very seriously considering leaving my program. I’m in my X year, but I feel further from graduating than when I was in my 1st year. 4/4
Student 106: I had to drop a class for the 1st time in my life, & finally managed to make myself seek therapy. I work full time in a physically demanding job which I love and don't want to quit to be an TA/RA. I don't think I could afford my mortgage on a GS salary. 1/5
S106: I only take 1 or 2 classes at a time but I always feel as if professors assume that everyone is a full time student w/tons of time to dedicate to classwork. I often struggle to complete all the homework & take-home work & still have a life between work & school. 2/5
S106: My advisor is also very reactionary. I always have to reach out to PI, PI doesn't check in with me. I'm really grateful that PI was willing to help me do what I wanted, but I don't always feel like she is there for me. 3/5
S106: I dreaded having to email PI to tell PI I still haven't finished my thesis proposal edits & was failing a class. Lately the stress anxiety has just been piling up. 4/5
S106: I AM able to get free therapy through school, but their really bad website actually made it difficult for me to seek that out - though I did tell them when I went in for the 1st time. 5/5
Student 107: I was a part-time student, working full time & the first in my family to go to grad school. I am also the only person in my close circle who has done any kind of graduate work. Needless to say the impostor syndrome was strong. 1/4
S107: My supervisor was a nice person, but that is it. I had to send email after email for any kind of time, and because I was working, I could not just hang around after class or visit PI at PIs office. I think PI initiated one, maybe two check-ins my entire time there. 2/4
S107: I emailed PI with a problem around the theoretical underpinnings of an entire paper & PI responded back one month later. Needless to say I figured that part out on my own. That was PIs one job -to advise. 3/4
S107: I love research & feel like its my only creative outlet (as bizarre as this sounds my heart soars when I am in the middle of research) and I can't help but think of research question after research question, but the whole experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth. 4/4
Student 108: Lack of support for grad students with disabilities, plus attitudinal barriers in academia as a whole. 1/1 (Kat edit: Yes. This. Also, I am back at work, so these will be coming less frequently. I see you students in my DMs. I promise I will post.)
Student 109: Mine was a drug addict who refused to give me advice on experiments or thesis writing and sent me solo to international conferences. 1/1
Student 110 (TW: suicidal thoughts): I finished my PhD but I only felt regret. I was failed during my PhD by my supervisors who allowed me to go forward with my comprehensive exam, but then decided at the exam that I was unprepared. 1/4
S110: I worked through this as I thought it was a one time event, but when I defended one of my supervisors & both of my committee members voted to have me not pass unless extensive changes were made to my thesis. 2/4
S110: They said I defended well, but they did not like a framework for 1 chapter, which I presented to them for at least 3 years. This happened after at least a year of severe depression where I had frequent suicidal thoughts (managed to write half my thesis during this). 3/4
S110: I enjoy my research, but wish I had spent all this time doing something else which did not affect my mental health in such a negative way. That I did not have my worst fears materialize and my imposter syndrome reinforced in such a way. 4/4
Student 111: I acquired a physical disability before I could finish my thesis project. My adviser & lab are very supportive but they literally cannot get rid of problematic entryways & tight spaces. It would cost $$$$ to make our current lab/building truly accessible. 1/2
S111: Luckily I can manage w/mobility aids, but I don't know what a disabled person would do if they were a wheelchair user. Disabled people are never considered when designing lab spaces. 2/2
Student 112: The hardest thing I’ve found is having a belligerent PD I have to work under, who has been with my PI for years. Our advisor is lovely, but so advanced in their career they’ve lost touch w/the day-to-day of their students. 1/4
S112: The PI leaves us at the mercy of this PD who belittles us constantly but acts falsely helpful in front of advisor & takes all credit for our ideas! The PD often shouts us down in meetings & group situations but as soon as advisor arrives, is sweet as pie. 2/4
S112: A few of us have tried to speak up but PI isn’t going to lose their “right hand” over the plight of some PhD GSs. Some people suggested lodging formal complaints. At the end of the day this will achieve nothing but bad blood w/somebody I will have to work with anyway. 3/4
S112: Not sure what the solution is in this situation but things that might help are: two-way feedback encouraged for students and advisors and clearly outlined consequences for aggressive behavior in the academic setting. 4/4
Student 113: There's no training for professors regarding neurodivergent students or neurodiversity. A professor literally told me that it was good I had an anxiety attack when I disclosed this, that it would "toughen me up." I was completely shocked. 1/4
S113: Anxiety is wrongly used as a tool by some professors. We were told an exam was in a specific stress-inducing format so that we learn to deal w/stress & "think on our feet." You shouldn't have to be anxious to be a good professor. 2/4
S113:People who disregard my anxiety are people who have never experienced my anxiety levels. I tried to warn my profs about my anxiety (though not officially disclosed to the institution) but profs completely disregarded it & then I had an anxiety attack during the exam. 3/4
S113: These same professors then are somehow surprised by my anxiety & suddenly take my anxiety seriously. How about just do that the 1st time? Anxious autistic people are rarely believed. Misinterpretation of autistic body language/tone of voice is a whole separate thread...4/4
Student 114: I had the same problems as many others mentioned, lack of support or guidance from supervisors. I changed advisors 3 times. I stated to each clearly that I was lost & unable to progress only to be blamed for that & offered no help even though I was very clear. 1/3
S114: I was battered by my own supervisor throughout my entire defense. Advisor insisted on getting my MA thesis rejected although they gave no such indication during the months before submitting. In fact they insisted I submit it even though I wasn't certain I should yet. 2/3
S114: My supervisor accused me of making up data which was actually data from an unpublished source & was the whole premise of my thesis. Any time I complained to professors about the situation I was in I was told "Do you think we had it easy?" Like that is a valid excuse. 3/3
Student 115: I am the 2nd (specific URM group, SUG) to finish their PhD in field X at a Uni with a lot of students from (SUG). I entered as the first, but left second. I survived two toxic, abusive dissertation chairs in the past 8 years. 1/1
Student 116: When I was a PhD student, I was also an adjunct because my mentor could only pay half the stipend I was supposed to get & I had to teach to make up the rest. However when I decided to leave the PhD, I stayed on as an adjunct. 1/3
S116: The department decided mid-semester that adjunts who AREN'T PhD students get paid half as much for teaching, so not only did I lose 50% of my stipend (the half coming from my mentor) I also lost 50% of the other half for no functional reason. 2/3
S116: I didn't notice until my pay stubs came in (late...9 weeks later) & they were 1/2 what they should be. Nobody gave me any warning about dept pay policy. If I had known, I would have worked in the grocery store bc I'd make more $$, but they pay so late & communicate. 3/3
Student 117: Last year I finally got the nerve to find out how to remove my supervisor from my PhD. The final straw was PI yelling at me in a meeting to the point of me crying so hard I couldn't breathe & PI continuing to berate me. 1/3
S117: This happened bc I told PI the lab work PI added to my X PhD gave me panic attacks & I was trying to get better but couldn't do things quickly in the lab. That wasn't acceptable to PI. 2/3
S117: Luckily I have a good relationship with dept head & had support while going through admin. Others in my lab don't feel they have this support and stayed and deal with PIs abuse. It's painful watching them and knowing I can't do anything. 3/3
Student 118: (Kat: This next student tells about being a member of a specific subgroup within a larger specific URM group. Student's PI was a member of the same URM group the student was, but discriminated against different a sub-group. I hope that makes sense.)
Student 118: While living with the failure & enormous debt of quitting GS on a fellowship that required payback if you didn't finish, I have never fully expressed it to anyone. Back home & among my family, I feel the failure of not finishing graduate school every day.1/9
S118: It has taken me a long time to just pick up & carry on but it still brings tears to my eyes bc I know I could have done it. I wish I had switched advisors after year 1 but I didn't. 2/9
S118: (student is member of a specific URM group, SUG) In some weird twisted sense of 'SUG loyalty' I stayed w/that SUG advisor even to the bitter end of my own demise. PI watched me fail. The other SUG students left PIs lab & finished. Myself & another student did not. 3/9
S118: I realize now there was a lot of discrimination towards the SUG students & also from my own advisor who did not like a sub group of SUG but I just went along with it. 4/9
S118: A non-SUG student in my lab befriended me. Her relationship w/PI was very different. Very flirty & they would use offensive language to tease each other. One time she told me that PI was a 'fake SUG' bc she knew PI before PI put PIs name on this "Great SUG Grad program".5/9
S118: At that time I just didn't have enough support. I started drinking more, my personal relationship suffered because my partner was alcoholic & abusive. I had no one in my corner & I let it all slip away. After I ended the program, other advisors approached me. 6/9
S118: A PI from another SUG said she really wished I could have continued & that I had so much potential. Another PI told me that I should have switched PIs & he helped me write my thesis bc I wasn't getting help from my PI. He told me not to tell my PI that he was helping me.7/9
S118: Siiighs. Feeling isolated w/in a program was not good. Whether I isolated myself or if it was a combination of factors, I do not know. I look back & when subgroups of SUG mocked other subgroups of SUG I stayed silent. 8/9
S118: Our lab was studying SUG specific topic & it almost killed the importance & passion of research for me. 9/9
I've been thinking about this one all day. A better way to explain it: I'm Alaskan Native (SUG). There are 200 AK Nat tribes, so my sub-group would be Napaaqtumiut. This student was dealing with a PI in the same SUG (for me AK Nat) who bullied other sub-groups (not Napaaqtugmiut)
Student 119 (TW: Suicide): While grad school has been mostly a good time thanks to a wonderful department, at the end of my 2nd year I lost a parent to suicide & at the same time my advisor went on sabbatical (they were aware of the death). 1/3
S119: For whatever reason, my advisor went unresponsive for 2-3 months during this period (and barely responsive otherwise) & I was completely lost. The lack of structure, support, & just contact at this time was crushing, & I began abusing several substances at the time. 2/3
S119: I'm amazed I didn't drop out or suffer worse consequences. Now I struggle w/guilt about that time & I don't think my advisor is even aware bc it is hard to bring up these issues w/your immediate superior. We have a generally good relationship, but the system failed here.3/3
Student 120: Passive support. Young and insecure PI that didn’t want to publish my work if it didn’t met PIs unrealistic ideals. Feeling PI was keeping me hostage because PI needed me to secure PIs tenure. 1/1
Student 121: I was a student in an interdisciplinary PhD program who had bad advisors. Talked with many staff at the university, in the departments in which I was housed, & my committee. 1/2
S121: Although all agreed my situation was unfair & shouldn't happened, there was no recourse when they forced me out of the PhD program by failing me on my preliminary exams. So more recourse for students on PIs/more accountability for advisors would have helped my situation.2/2
Student 122: I quit my 1st thesis lab as a 4th year & started over in a 2nd lab. I still managed to finish but it took an incredible amount of therapy & the support of my new PI. 1/4
S122: PI#2 admitted they were scared to take me as a student bc they were afraid of repercussions from PI#1 when it came time for PI#2s tenure review. Would love to see Twitter discuss the repercussions of quitting a thesis lab & starting over. 2/4
S122: It was a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone but something I wish I could share publicly so others know it’s a possible (albeit painful) route. What I needed was to see that the admins held PI#1 accountable for PIs actions! 3/4
S122:Gaslighting, micromanaging, emotional outbursts, manipulation...PI got a semi-stern talking to but still took students, got funding. I was shunned by many faculty in my department & was warned to never speak badly of PI#1 else it hurt my career. Reprehensible. 4/4
Student 123 (postdoc, but similar experience): In my experience, good advisors offer commentary on your work that helps to build it up & strengthen the analysis or arguments. Harmful advisors dismiss your work without giving appropriate guidance or teaching. 1/4
S123: In my PD role, I couldn't do anything right (in the same way that others in this thread have talked about unclear expectations, lack of communication, & shifting the goalposts). 2/4
S123: It got to the point where my supervisor held a 'secret' meeting w/lab members where they tried to get the students go around the table saying things that they didn't like about me. 3/4
S123: Thankfully, I have good relationships w/the students & they not only didn't have bad things to say, they tried to stand up for me. I am gone from that lab and now some of the students are afraid to stand up for themselves because they don't want to end up how I did. 4/4
Student 124: I was my PhD advisor's first PhD student. I had real trouble in PIs lab, and no real mentoring at all. I felt excluded & not respected every single day. PI stood by while a PD picked on me daily. Years later, my stomach hurts thinking about it. 1/5
S124: My last year in grad school, PI announced that I had pay my own way. I had no resources to do so, & PI had just been awarded a Big Grant. I had had my own funding, but it had run out, and my advisor didn't want to support my last year. 2/5
S124: I thought I was going to have to leave with a MSc. I went to the Department Chair. I will never forget the look on his face. He stared at me, & then he put a hand on my shoulder. "No student will ever have to pay for earning a PhD here." 3/5
S124: I don't know what he said to my advisor, but the PI was quite angry with me. My last year was paid for. I have lots of stories of running into my former advisor over the years, and not being treated well. 4/5
S124: When my career was going well, my PI was great; when my career wasn't going well, my PI ignored me. All of this fueled my own feelings on mentorship, & treating people kindly. That is why I push my students so hard to find mentors who will treat them properly. 5/5
Student 125:
-The pervasive attitude that "I had to suffer this and survived as a grad student, so you should too." 1/3
S125: -
After multiple years of being away doing fieldwork abroad, often under stressful & even traumatic conditions, the only response to your return was a "Hi, you're back. When are you going to start writing?" 2/3
-Faculty instigating and feeding competition between their students by controlling access to resources (including themselves) through imposing intangible/shifting/non-professional standards (favoritism, dual relationships, etc.) 3/3
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