Thursday, 18 October 2007

One of my fellow labmates is, at this moment, conducting a loud conversation on the phone....with the phone on LOUDSPEAKER. Come on. Seriously?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Ding dong, the witch is dead…..

….ok, not dead, but out of my day-to-day life at least, which is pretty fantastic.

So I’ll admit it. I’m a bad, unreliable blogger.

For the past couple of months, my own research has been going slower and slower, and then I hit the inevitable completely insurmountable brick-wall. Advisor A and I were barely communicating. Despite all the crap Ad A has been throwing my way over the past months, deep down I was hoping that everything would work out, that I wouldn’t really need to implement an escape plan.

But, in our last meeting together when I tried to talk to her about how I was feeling completely and utterly stuck, she told me that her role as an advisor was to ‘stand on the sidelines and occasionally cheer, not provide conceptual or content advice’. If I had more than one study idea, Advisor A suggested that I run them all, and work out which one was best on my own.

I walked out of her office, for the first time really knowing that I couldn’t go on anymore if she was going to remain my supervisor. I could try, wasting more time and money in the process, but ultimately I would never finish my dissertation. After that last meeting it felt like it was only a matter of time before her supervisory relationship with me completely broke down.

So, Boss returned and I started making appointments with the appropriate graduate coordinators, administrators and potential new supervisors.

Telling Advisor A that I no longer wanted to be her student was tough. I really had no idea how she would react to the news. I was half expecting her to yell and throw things (most likely at me), and I was sure that it would be a bitter and hostile end to a pretty shocking experience with her. As I knocked on her door, I felt almost queasy.

She had her head in her hands as I walked into her office, and was lamenting that she was having an absolutely horrible day (I should note that it was only 9:30am, which is a bit early to be making such statements, but that is beside the point). I had carefully chosen my words to try and make what I was saying as least confrontational and personal as possible. As the words were coming out of my mouth, I saw her complete demeanour change. She went from slouching to sitting up straight and her expression went from all twisty and angry to almost one of relief. At the end of my spiel, she actually smiled at me. I couldn’t believe it. Then she started talking, and admitted that her supervision of me had been much less that satisfactory, she wished me all the best, gave me a little pat on the shoulder and ushered me out of her office.

Out of all the scenarios, her behaving in a dignified and professional manner was not even close to what I imagined.

And now I’m free. And it feel like someone has taken off my blinkers, and things that were impossible two weeks ago are almost possible.

Boss asked me whether I could see myself doing work in his area of expertise, and offered to take me on. I was surprised and honoured.

So all in all, things are slowing falling into place. I now have to start again. Although Boss and Advisor A’s research interests do overlap to a certain extent, they come from theoretically distinct points of view. I’ve jumped fence into Boss’s camp, and as a result, am saying goodbye old plan and reading and reading and reading hoping to come up with something new. Starting again is not where I expected to be at this point in time, although the extra spring in my step and new found motivation both tell me that it was the right thing to do.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

I have a big presentation to give in the next few weeks and I have spent the whole day avoiding it. It is very time consuming trying to think of things to do that don’t involve the one thing you actually have to do. However, at this late point in the day I think I have exhausted all other avenues and the reality is I am going to have to at least start this damn talk. The thought that members of the department will be invited isn’t even enough to scare me into starting, which along with the fact that I am already planning in my head what DVD I am going to watch tonight, is bad news for my presentation.

Saturday, 25 August 2007


I'm sick. I hate being sick, but I took the day off uni yesterday and it was really nice to just mooch about my room in a feverish haze knowing that I was going to get a long weekend. Ha - that's me, always looking on the bright side!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

My Boss called from Europe today, and I had a really great chat to him. He always says such thoughtful and measured comments in regards in Advisor A. He reminded me of the importance of knowing when to leave a (bad) situation, and when it's worth fighting to stay.

Secretly I wanted him to say ‘ditch Advisor A’s sorry ass and come over to my research group’ but I know that for him, politically within the department and professionally, it’s not that easy. Taking the place of ex-Advisor B was a generous step for him, and I can’t ask for anything else. I’ve always found the thought of someone swooping in and ‘rescuing’ me, without having to take any risks myself, excruciatingly tempting. But part of this kafuffle is working it out on my own, otherwise I guess the whole experience would have been worthless. Damn, I hate responsibility!

Monday, 20 August 2007

A glimpse at freedom

I felt a little bit shaky when I opened up my Inbox this morning and found an email from the postgrad-student mediator. My first thought was that Advisor A has had enough with me and was attempting to leave. But alas alack - it seems that Advisor A was only in a bit of a panic over her behaviour regarding the meetings at Rival Uni and thus emailed the mediator a ‘progress report’ on her supervision of me. He proceeded to forward the email to me, and ask me how I think/feel about the emerging situation. I bluntly told him that I can’t see myself continuing with Ad A as my primary supervisor, whether the break comes now or in the next few months, it is enevitable.

As I was writing these words to him the realisation that I would no longer have to deal with this crazy woman was so exciting. It has been almost 2 years of drama with Advisor A and the thought of an Advisor A-less world is indeed a bright and shiny one.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Get back in my corner Advisor A!

Advisor A replied, which is a small miracle within itself. The gist of her response was that a) she doesn’t feel the need to keep me up-to-date on her relationship with Rival Uni whether or not the seminars are directly related to my research; b) As ex-Advisor B helps organise these special collaborative meetings, and she no longer is my co-advisor, she doesn’t want me there; c) Rival’s application was rejected because it was too similar to mine – which is precisely the problem I have been trying to have heard for the past 9 months.

What I took most offence at in Ad A’s email was her blatant untruths. Actually, maybe a better way of saying that is that many of the things she uses in her defence contradict things she has said to me in the past. I have no idea what is true or not true from her anymore.

Boss says the most important thing in an advisor is not that they are in your exact research field, or that they like you, rather it is that they are in your corner. They stand behind you, extol your virtues to visiting scholars, fight on you behalf for research space and resources, stand up for you in committee meetings, and generally try to make the experience as fulfilling as possible given the restraints on their own time and resources.

I feel that Ad A is going out of her way to make this more difficult for me, that if push comes to shove she has no qualms in shunting me to the side in favour of others. The fact that she would knowingly organise a seminar in my broad research area and better still, invite a specialist to speak on a topic that my first study is directly investigating, without informing me, is completely disheartening, and just shows how far out of my corner she really is.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Dear Advisor A,

I understand that [my research field] group meetings between [Home uni] and [Rival Uni] have been going ahead for the last couple of months. I was unaware that these collaborative meetings were occurring and am concerned that you did not think to include me in these meeting. I believe that one of the outcomes of our meeting with [mediator] was that you would continue to provide me with networking opportunities, and links to the other research in my field going on at [Rival Uni]. Why was I not invited to these meetings?

Also, I realise that [Rival] has been having difficulty gaining approval to conduct her research with [special population], I trust that your request today for my successful application does not mean that you are passing along my application to her.


As evidenced by the above email, which is merely the most recent problem in a long list of ongoing issues with Ad A, things are continuing to deteriorate. Although Boss has taken the place of Ad B (only after some intensive mediated meetings with Ad A, myself, the postgrad coordinator and of course a mediator), he is out of the country for 2 months, and as a result Ad A is back to her old tricks. The way I see it I either quit my PhD or quit Ad A. I can't imagine myself doing anything other than research. This is my passion, so although it's probably the harder option in the short run. I think I have to leave Ad A. Now if only Boss were in the country I would do it now, but with both him away, and the postgrad coordinator, I think I'll have to stick it out for a few more months. I wonder what Ad A will surprise me with next.

It's gotten to the point where I am no longer surprised by how she treats me. I am a hard worker, and I am committed to this research. I don't know why she is making this so difficult.