Grad School – As anyone had an advisor that got denied tenure? Help!

posted 3 years ago in College
Post # 2
Member
373 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2015

Oh, that is terrible. This did not happen to me, but I have some friends who dealt with this. Are you a PhD candidate yet, and are you in science or in the liberal arts? I know many other scientists who switched labs and even departments at different points in their graduate programs. The year you are in makes a big difference in terms of how much you have invested. Do you have a committee, and could you easily switch to working with any of the faculty on that committee? Did you do rotations as a first year, getting exposure to other labs, or did you have a great time being a TA for a different professor? Did you do an amazing job in someone’s graduate seminar? Faculty who are impressed with you will want to help you. It all depends on the details; the makeup of your department, the research you have completed, the financial assets of other advisers, etc. I think there’s no need to do the lit review just yet. If you have good relationships with any other faculty members in the department, you should be talking with them about a possible switch. A professor who likes and values you will try to get you as a student. See if you can get a summer RAship with somebody to get a head start on a possible new project.

How much more investment would it take to turn your research project into a manuscript for submission to a journal? If you can at least get a paper out of what you have done so far, or could get done this summer, your work won’t be lost.

I really feel for you and your adviser. It is demoralizing & scary, but I hope you can find a good solution. 

Post # 3
Member
3693 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

It’s bad news. Typically when someone is denied tenure, they’ll have a really hard time just going to a new university — many times it’s a one-shot deal. Without knowing what your graduate work is in and how it’s different from the rest of your department, I’d recommend not trying to follow your advisor. Even if the stars align and he gets a new job immediately at an institution with the resources you’d need, moving a scientific lab (I think I remember you being in science) is a nightmare and takes forever. You’re basically guaranteed to lose a year in the process. When things like this happened at my institution, other labs would open up a spot for the displaced students and in most cases, the students were able to continue their previous research and finish it up. If you can find a lab to step into that has all the equipment that you’d need, I would do that in a heartbeat.

Post # 5
Member
180 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: February 2015

That really stinks, academia can be really awful sometimes. We haven’t had anyone in our department get denied tenure lately (although it’s going to happen in 2 years I’m pretty sure) but we have a huge turnover issue and basically we are down to our program head and a not yet tenured (and probably wont be tenured..) junior professor. They also will not let us hire any new faculty for at least 2-3 years, if ever. So a lot of students have been freaking out and we’ve had tons of meetings with the higher-ups. They told us that the school is obligated to give you your PhD, even if every single faculty in our program left. They would have to break rules to let the students graduate, but they are forced to let you get your degree. Hopefully this is the same for you. Maybe you can keep your advisor on your committee, get a new chair “on paper”, but your advisor is still your main research advisor? I know that is probably breaking a ton of rules but I don’t know what else they expect if your advisor is leaving academia!

Post # 7
Member
4810 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

Ok deep breaths, it will be ok! I’ve known probably 4-5 people whose advisors have moved for different reasons and they did not have to follow! If they’re further along, they can just work remotely and finish their dissertation. Since you’re only in your second year, you will likely have to find a new advisor. I’m sure someone will stretch their research a bit to be a closer to match to your background. Meet with your department chair and see what you can do, but just tell them you can’t move (although if your advisor leaves academia it’s a moot point anyway). Are there any other universities, hospitals, etc closeby where someone may be able to be your advisor from a different institution? I’ve seen that happen too.

Post # 8
Member
2675 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2014 - Madison, WI

Ugh that really sucks! I hope the university is able to not just leave you high and dry with no where to go.

I actually heard the most stories about situations like yours from my professors. One of them took eight years to get his PhD because during his second year his advisor moved thousands of miles away after she got married. He was also married and had kids so he couldn’t follow her to continue their work. He basically had to start all over.

There was another case where the students turned in their professor for falsifying data even though it meant all of them had to start over again.

It’s kind of horrible how you’re at the mercy of one person and if they decide to leave or it’s decided for them, your life is so greatly affected.

When I was doing my research my advisor and all my committee members were up for tenure. Every single one of them said if they didn’t get it they would be gone the next day. No wrapping up for a year, they would be gone. Thankfully, they all got it. But just thinking that in one day years of work could be almost worthless is horrible.

I hope you are able to keep up the positive attitude and hopefully something great works out for you!

Post # 9
Member
4810 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

To add, I think your husband is very right! I took a post-doc last year and it was a disaster- I ended up quitting after three month (a week after I got back from my honeymoon!). It felt like my career was over, I was a failure, etc. Fast forward a few months and I have an amazing job, I’m getting paid twice as much, and I’m SO happy. I know it’s hard, but try to keep your chin up! It will work out 🙂

Post # 11
Member
373 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2015

It sounds like you have some good plans. 

I hope, for your adviser’s sake, that he can calm down and decide to stay in academia. As one of the FEW winners of a CAREER award, he is going to be seen as an asset at other universities. If he can recover from the shock, he could still keep going. 

But for you, I hope you get to stay and have as easy a transition as possible.

Post # 12
Member
1169 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I am so sorry. I am not surprised that your adviser wants to leave academia, and I think you are smart for wanting to make other plans inside your department rather than counting on him, especially if you already don’t have the best working relationship as it is. I feel for you, though — this sounds scary. 

When I was getting my PhD, one faculty member in our department left after his pre-tenure contract was not renewed. He did not stay in academia and his students managed to find other advisers within our department. Several other friends of mine also had to find new lab “homes” after their advisers moved to different schools, or because of toxic student-adviser relationships, etc. — what you are describing can be done, and it can even work out to be a better situation. You sound like you know what you need to do and are resilient and well positioned to make a switch. So, no advice from me, just wanted to chime in and tell you that you got this! it will be okay… somehow. But I know it sucks when the plan does not look the way you expected, especially after all that personal investment in your project.

On a side, note: Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the departmental meeting where members vote to deny tenure to a CAREER winner with externally funded and publishing students… I mean, wow. Not helping my continually souring feelings about academia.

Post # 14
Member
1169 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

FutureDrAtkins:  That is GREAT news about your candidacy! I’m so glad that what you’ve done so far will count towards your ultimate dissertation and that you aren’t being penalized by your adviser’s departure, at least not in terms of your degree progress. Now here’s hoping that you find a great lab to transition into… as a candidate!

I am more and more intrigued about your adviser’s tenure decision, and it’s probably a good thing that new hires are being warned… I certainly wouldn’t want to join a department with that kind of track record. Although it’s probably tough at this stage in the job cycle for those new hires to rekindle any alternate offers they may have had, if any (multiple offers being about as common as unicorns these days). Rough situation all around.

Post # 15
Member
3693 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

I’m confused as to how your program works. In my program, you take your comprehensive exam in year two and after you pass, you become a “PhD candidate.” Then you have 2-5 more years of research monitored by your advisor and a committee of faculty members in order to publish one or more first-author papers in a peer-reviewed journal before writing a thesis and orally defending it in order to graduate. I can’t imagine a scientific PhD program that would allow someone to graduate in three years.

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