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Abuse of Power -- Professors/Grad Students  

 

Dave Jensen
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Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 874
May 28, 2019 6:37 pm  

Hello,

As anyone knows who has read our forum over the last 15-20 years knows, there's a lot of gnashing of teeth and frustration between grad students and their advisors. It is SO important to establish a good potential for the future when you select a lab and a mentor. Not doing so can create all kinds of downstream issues.

I'm starting to gather stories and details now for an article that I am writing about the abuse of power between the Professor and his/her graduate students. I'm not talking about abuse in the sense of nasty headlines . . . I'm talking about the power imbalance, and the great difficulties this can cause you when you are a graduate student counting on a certain amount of mentoring, and the mentor relationship was never fully established. One case I am exploring now takes place at Bucknell University. Can anyone who has such a situation please write me (my email address is readily available via Google search) and we can keep it anonymous if you'd like, Thanks!

Dave Jensen

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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PG
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Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 389
June 18, 2019 9:15 pm  

I used to be the chairman of the PhD student association at the Medical University that I did my PhD in and were in contact with several of these cases. Some of them got very complicated especially when the PhD student came from a non democratic country and were expected to come back with a PhD. In some cases the family was left behind resulting in that there was a lot more at stake than only a PhD. This was some time ago and I am no longer in Contact with the different parties so I have difficulties with giving specific information. However during my time the University started a function as PhD student ombudsman and I know that this is a function that exist in several other universities around here. That type of person should be a good contact for the type of information that you are looking for.

 

 


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Colleague 45751
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June 29, 2019 9:26 pm  

Boy, Dave I got a story for you. I can tell you and the other readers that potential PhD students should seriously consider: avoid doing a PhD with a MD who does not have a PhD and/or significant basic research training (beyond 2 years of residency training); this means avoid MDs with significant clinical or administrative obligations. Only MDs in academia who are good at research are those who have retired from the clinic and devoted their efforts full time to research; on average MDs with only a MD degree will never appreciate the experimental and technical skills to be a good scientist(which is essential); therefore, they will never fully appreciate and reciprocate the efforts of a PhDs due to the differences in the nature of their training. Further, this is also why I would suggest PhDs avoid MD only professors for a post-docs (i.e. they don't have the basic training to be good bench scientists or educators and will not appreciate your goals as a scientist in training). It should be noted that there are significant cultural differences between comprehensive universities (e.g. Univ of Michigan, UCLA, or Duke) versus a stand alone medical school (e.g. UT Southwestern or Medical College of Georgia). In my opinion, avoid the medical schools if you are getting a PhDs to minimize the potential for conflict.  

Dave: I will post that story soon.  

This post was modified 3 weeks ago by Colleague 45751

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Dave Jensen
Prominent Maven Moderator
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 874
July 3, 2019 9:28 pm  

PG, thanks for the suggestion - I agree, there are often people assigned to this detail and to helping the student - being their advocate. In the case of the Bucknell story I am writing about though, the "Dean of Students" and team seem to be more worried about protecting the school and the professors there than helping the student.

The situation I've been investigating is horrendous . . . this was a Masters program, and not a PhD of course. But still, when you have a mentor and you're essentially doing a research degree, that mentor should be rigorously teaching you what is necessary to get out the end with your diploma. In this case, the professor missed three out of every four meetings (scheduled weekly "review your work" meetings between student and mentor). Not until nearly two years went by did the advisor ask to see the work. There were numerous instances where the professor spoke about the student (as if she weren't in the room) in front of other people, expressing disappointment. The students work was destroyed in a lengthy power outage at the greenhouse and they wouldn't give her a break and allow the work to be extended . . .Etc! Nasty, horrible situation on all fronts.

New colleague -- hope to hear your story soon!

Dave Jensen

This post was modified 2 weeks ago by Dave Jensen

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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