Monday, February 01, 2010

The Silence of the Adviser

If someone who supervises graduate students ± postdocs is considering a major career move, such as leaving for another institution or leaving academia entirely, what should s/he tell the advisees and when should s/he tell it?

If an adviser is definitely going to leave, one way or another, in the near future (i.e., in a time frame that will definitely affect the advisees), s/he should alert the advisees to the imminent situation. Then it is the responsibility of the adviser and the department to have a plan in place that minimizes the negative consequences for the advisees.

If, however, there is great uncertainty about whether a move will take place and the adviser is merely checking out some options or responding to some feelers from other universities, the adviser should not necessarily alert the advisees to all these possibilities. The advisees will likely hear rumors, but unless there is something definite coming down the road, there's no point in being on constant alert for something that may never happen. Of course, if an adviser wants to be open about all this with the advisees, that is fine too, as long as the situation is clearly explained and the information doesn't add unnecessary stress.

When I was applying for jobs to leave University 1 (owing to there not being a job there for my husband), I didn't tell my advisees anything specific because one strong possibility was that I would stay at University 1. They knew I was looking around, but I did not give them constant updates about my applications or interviews.

Once my husband and I both had tenure-track offers from University 2, I delayed telling my advisees because University 1 came up with a counter offer of a tenure-track position for my husband. We agonized in indecision for weeks. There were days when we were definitely staying at University 1, and then there were days when we were definitely going to University 2. Once we made the final decision to go to University 2, I told my students, and I made sure to tell them before they heard it from others.

Even so, I did not pack up my office and leave that instant. In fact, I stayed another year at University 1. The offer/decision came so late in the academic year that I didn't want to cause problems for University 1. I had teaching commitments and I had one grad student who was going to finish his thesis that year. My only other student had failed his oral prelims long before my decision to leave. He decided to switch advisers, and later dropped out for reasons unrelated to my departure. A new grad student who had not yet started at University 1 was quite content to do his grad studies at University 2.

At University 2, I have not discussed with my advisees my possible opportunities to leave because there have been no opportunities that advanced to the stage where this was necessary. There were rumors about my leaving, some of which made me laugh, they were so bizarre, but I really had nothing specific to tell my group. I wasn't actively trying to leave, and I didn't see the point of going through the complex details of the many different ways that some other universities were exploring the possibility of luring me away.

As I mentioned on Friday, my university was proactive about giving me some reasons to stay; I never got to the point of bringing an offer to the table and asking for a retention package. If I had, then it would have been appropriate to inform those in my group who would be affected by a possible move.

So, in my opinion, a general guideline for what/when to tell is to consider the likelihood of your departure. If it's very likely (even if not definite), tell your group in time for plans to be discussed. If you are in the midst of an indefinite process involving varying degrees of seriousness that may or may not result in something at some point, then the stress to your group of keeping them informed of all the twists and turns of the complex process might not be worth it.

I know of cases in which an adviser did decamp rapidly and without warning, leaving others to deal (or not) with abandoned students and postdocs, but more typical is for adviser and advisees to work out a plan. The more senior advisees will either stay where they are and be advised remotely (possibly involving some visits back and forth) or will physically move to the new university but get their degree from the original one. Other advisees may be at a stage at which they can switch institutions and get their degree from the new place. Others may choose to stay where they are and switch advisers.

I'm sure it's annoying to hear rumors and to not know what's going on, but if it really bothers you so much, you could ask your adviser a direct question about it. Either you will get a non-answer, in which case you should respect the fact that you don't have a right to know everything about your adviser's professional decisions despite the fact that they affect you, or you will get some information that will either be comforting or disconcerting.

Academics are mobile, just like people in other professions. It's stressful for advisees to live with the uncertainty of a possibly departing adviser, but I recommend trying to keep the level of paranoia about this particular issue as low as possible and keep the focus on research until you it's clear that a move is actually going to happen.

33 comments:

Geeka said...

I know my current boss was looking to leave last year. He didn't feel like his job was going to remain during budget cuts. It was kind of a weird situation, because while I had a feeling he was doing it, I wasn't sure if I should be looking for a job or not. And if I did get a job, was that going to hurt him since I was the only person in the lab at the time.

I did, however, really mind, that someone I was in the beginning stages of interviewing with, didn't tell me he was moving during the process until the very end. I was intrigued by his research, and the location where he was wasn't optimal, but could be made to work. After I told him that I was going to take a different position, he actually became belligerent with me, and told me that he was moving somewhere bigger and better, and that with him moving, this was going to be the best position that I could possibly have. Where he was moving was actually worse for me, and I told him such. He was still looking for a post-doc for that position a year later.

The thing that really annoyed me about that situation was that I was going to uproot my life and move to a different state (3 away) for 3 months and then move across the country if I had taken the job. I think that he really should have been out with him moving in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering lately what the procedure is for professors to leave one place and go to another. (I'm on the advisee side of the fence, but I've seen a lot of profs leave lately.) Sometimes it seems they just disappear into thin air all of a sudden -- isn't there some minimum notification time to the university or something for such a move?

Anonymous said...

This is the anon who said their adviser was open about the process in the comments on Friday.

I guess I just don't see what the harm could be in keeping your students up to date. I found it really interesting to hear about the process from my adviser (feelers, stealth interviews, two body problem negotiations, etc), because I didn't know these sorts of things happened in academia. I feel like these lessons in "careerism" are part of what an adviser can teach his/her advisees, so why hold back?

Plus, if the move ends up being more abupt than yours was, it allows the students a bit more time to prepare (begin building a relationship with a potential replacement adviser, etc), which will probably minimize the amount of dead time that would result.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad for moving somewhere for the money/benefits/location.

John V said...

I think once an offer is made, the students and post-docs should be informed, and before once an offer is certain. Rarely are offers made without consultation with the offeree, and implausible offers are rare. I've followed this policy.

Just because it is sometimes possible to hide offers from people directly impacted doesn't make it ok. Graduate student are very vulnerable to disrupted thesis projects or forced moves to distant cities.

The only exception would be in the case in which the home faculty are being also kept in the dark, but it is very hard to keep them in the dark for long. I would still view that as somewhat nefarious if the potential move undercuts people or programs.

rocketscientista said...

I've seen this happen this year-- though the students were told somewhat in advance, it has still been jarring. Said professor had a pretty big research group. I know of at least 5 students who have had to make some decisions, and many postdocs. I think telling your students sooner than later is a good deal, but also tempering it with letting them know your intentions/likelihood of leaving.


If you know you'll probably be leaving, tell them ASAP. Sometimes they have a lot of things to consider re: staying/going, too. Some of them may have spouses or families, or hell, might be on the verge of buying a house. If said student would really want to move but just got themselves in a predicament at University 1, it'd be super crappy to leave said student high and dry.


Also, from a student's perspective, it's nice to let your advisees know if you're thinking of leaving the collaboration that you've been in for years. Leaving a student a few years into research, having to start from scratch is just as bad as deserting them when you move.


Not saying that you'd ever do any of this FSP, but relaying what has happened to some friends. And it's been brutal and often could have been handled better.

HGGirl said...

"...you should respect the fact that you don't have a right to know everything about your adviser's professional decisions despite the fact that they affect you."

This is very unfortunate for advisees. I know of many cases in which advisees were grateful for being kept in the loop, and I don't know of any cases in which the advisee wished s/he knew *less.* Of course this has a more profound effect on advisees with families and other particular ties to a geographic location.

Katie said...

"...you should respect the fact that you don't have a right to know everything about your adviser's professional decisions despite the fact that they affect you..."

I love your blog, FSP, but I don't think you could be more wrong here. If something is going to affect an advisor's students, they have EVERY right to know. Just because a professor doesn't WANT to tell them for whatever reason doesn't change that fact. Graduate students are people with families, spouses that work, kids that go to school, etc. If an advisor is going to make them drop everything and move, or lose years of research to stay, they have a right to know as soon as an advisor is at all considering making such a move. The rumors of the possibility of a move will always get out before the professor wants them too, and the rumors and speculations will cause more problems than the truth would have.

Anonymous said...

"...you should respect the fact that you don't have a right to know everything about your adviser's professional decisions despite the fact that they affect you."

I'm a postdoc, and I agree with FSP on this one (but it depends on how much you trust your boss). I know someone who interviewed for a chair position out-of-state and did not tell their lab, in large part because they were also a short-list candidate for the chair at their home school and were using the interview to gauge (and hopefully increase) their marketability (as FSP discussed last week). This person knew it was extremely extremely unlikely they would actually take the far-away position, but it was at a peer institution and they wanted to look into it. In this case, I think telling the lab would have created a lot of unnecessary drama for something with an extremely low probability of happening. And I can understand why an adviser might not want to pour their heart out to their lab, since if they are *not* offered the chair position at the home institution it could be awkward/embarrassing, and since it would stress some lab members unnecessarily. (Also, the bargaining thing is kind of useless if word to gets around to the Dean that so-and-so told his lab not to worry as he/she has no intention of going to the other school...)

That being said - as has been mentioned several times, if such a move is at all probable, the lab really must be told as soon as possible.

Geeka, your story re: interviewing is not okay. I totally agree that he absolutely should have been up front with you. On one of my postdoc interviews, the very first thing the potential mentor told me is that he was negotiating for a position elsewhere, and that he wasn't sure how it would turn out and he'd be glad to have me join the lab either way, but he wanted me to understand the situation. I really respected him for that.

S. O. said...

Thank you, FSP, for this entry! I have been waiting to read a "moving" topic. I'm a graduate student whose adviser is very likely leaving in a few months. The whole situation and group dynamics have been strange (to say the least) since he officially told the whole group about his potential move about 6 months ago.

The adviser is going to take a position back in his home country (at Institute X). Before he gave the official announcement to the whole group, he told those who are of his same nationality about this (as they told me they knew beforehand once I was officially allowed to know). I was able to know before his announcement since I had a few colleagues at Institute X. Right now, there are two subgroups within the group. There was a group who knew (and has now become those who are going with him), and the group that were not supposed to know (which became those leaving the group very soon). I am in the latter. I find that the group who is going with him is somewhat secretive about the whole move (even though it’s out of the bag, and the whole department knows now). We can talk about a lot of different things (even some personal stuff), but when it comes to their immediate future and impending move, they shut down. I guess people don’t want to address the big elephant in the room.

From a colleague of mine at Institute X, I was told that my adviser officially signed on there and would start this summer. This would coincide with my supposed graduation. Last week, I asked my adviser about his week-long trip to Institute X (wanting to know how this would affect my timeline), and instead he gave me a 5 minute explanation about the weather there.

I understand that this new position for my adviser is much better than the one he holds currently (although now, he wants to hold onto both). But it felt like he only thought about (other than himself) those in the group who are of his nationality first, regardless of any other attributes/qualities of the other group members. [The months leading up to the announcement, he would first talk about Institute X while speaking in English and switch to his mother tongue to talk to the other group members when another post doc and I were also standing there!] After he officially announced his likely move 6 months ago, I was the one who had to go to him and work out a plan for my graduation. He was indifferent to what would happen to me if he moved, and when I should graduate. I feel a bit rushed to finish within the next 6-7 months, but I find this to be my best option. I also feel disappointed in how this situation unfolded, and I think that my adviser could have done some things differently.

Anonymous said...

I began my postdoctoral position unaware that my new advisor had been looking for new positions -- shortly after my arrival, he actually accepted one and moved the entire lab shortly there after. I found this disregard for those in his laboratory apalling, particularly as I had moved my family and spent our savings to start the position. This experience marked the lowest point in my time in academia thus far, and I have had some crappy experiences. I nearly left academia because of this experience. I am glad that I didn't and as an advisor now, I know that if I were to ever move, I would do it slowly and with individualized plans for all my students and post docs.

John V said...

I think the reality is that 9 times out of 10, faculty get an overture from another school, then turn it down for retention upgrades. Only sometimes do they need to get the actual offer to get the upgrades.

In FSP's 1st case, she was hoping with her application for her home institution to make a second job. They did, and only later in the process did she take the offers from the 2nd institution seriously, and she then told her students.

In her 2nd case, current proactive retention upgrades in response to recruiting overtures, she even says that she is not taking them seriously. But she is taking them seriously enough to pass along to her administration so as to get the retention perks.

So which discussions to pass along to the students and postdocs and when is not an easy question. Hearing late in the game about moves is disturbing, but so would be hearing the constant chatter about who is in play for which search, which is much more talk than action.

Ewan said...

My grad advisor would tell us every 12 months or so that he was thinking about leaving. The first couple caused great angst; iterations 3 and 4 we figured he was crying wolf. Iteration 5 he left, but that worked fine for me.. [not so well for the one poor grad student who followed him to place 2; then to place 3 a year later when place 2 didn't work out (losing a fiance in the process), then was told to leave the lab a year after *that*..] - still, I think overall we were all happier to know what was going on in the advisor's head.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the people who think students have a right to know if their advisor might be moving also believe the professor has a right to know if their student or postdoc is considering the possibility of leaving? I understand their is a difference in the degree to which people are affected in the two scenarios. But a (especially pre-tenure) professor can be hurt quite badly by a postdoc or student that leaves suddenly without completing work. Obviously, all parties should be considerate of one another and do the best they can to minimize negative effects. But we also all have rights to privacy when exploring options and/or making personal decisions, even when they affect others.

female Science Professor said...

Exactly. Thanks for that comment. I knew that some would disagree with the statement that advisees don't have a right to know everything about their adviser's professional decisions, but I stand by the statement. If a move is quite certain, the advisees should know. If uncertainty is greater and a move is even unlikely, the adviser can tell or not depending on the particular situation.

BTW, I didn't pass along any info to administrators about being approached by other universities. The dept chair heard the rumors, figured out via some means that the overtures were serious, and was proactive. He never even asked me how serious I was about leaving.

Katie said...

"I wonder if the people who think students have a right to know if their advisor might be moving also believe the professor has a right to know if their student or postdoc is considering the possibility of leaving?"

Usually. My boss knew when I was considering leaving and why - it was not only the right thing to do, but also allowed her to help me work out the issues and stay on to complete my degree.

But surely, Anonymous and FSP, you both can see that this is a ridiculous comparison due to the power differential. What recourse does an advisee have against and advisor if the advisor decides s/he is leaving? Whereas, if an advisee shares that s/he is considering leaving a group, s/he can usually expect some sort of retribution: loss of opportunities, funding, recommendation letters, or even loss of being allowed to make the decision at all (ie being fired).

If a professor is considering another offer, and not just using it as leverage, s/he should tell the students. Period. Often times the professor won't be fairly certain of a move until less than a month out, and this is not sufficient time to plan a move (I've seen this happen). In addition, I've seen a professor tell his students he's leaving (for another country) 2 months in advance, only to find out he really was only trying to use the move as leverage for a promotion. Both examples are unacceptable.

This would appear to be just one aspect of the larger problem of graduate students being viewed as cheap, exploitable labor, rather than colleagues whose training is the primary responsibility of professors. My experiences are from one department at one (top ten) university, but the disregard some professors have shown for their advisees is ridiculous. Graduate students are people too, and deserve to be treated as such.

Anonymous said...

A slight variation on this topic that I would like to know your thoughts on: What if the professor is thinking about leaving because they are very uncertain about getting tenure? I am in this situation (I am supposed to go up for tenure in the fall) and am looking for another position either in industry or academia. I have not received an offer (or even an interview) at this point, so, at least for the time being, I am stuck at my current university. I currently have one PhD student who is very productive. I don't really want to discuss my tenure situation with him for both personal reasons and because I don't want him to panic and go work for another advisor. If I lose my one student, I certainly won't receive tenure. Even though I am continuing to look for other opportunities and will likely leave if one is offered, I do feel guilty about how this will impact my graduate student. However, I reconcile it somewhat by reminding myself that he will be in the same boat whether I leave or don't receive tenure.

It will be a hardship on the department if I leave, as our department is very small, and if even one person leaves, there won't be enough people to cover all of the required classes.
My department does not have a Ph.D. program of it's own. Students have to get a Ph.D. in one of three other disciplines, two of which are interdiscplinary between multiple departments, but can do research with faculty in my department. This situation plus our teaching load (2 per semester) make it difficult to sustain a high level of research productivity, hence the doubts about tenure.

John V said...

I stand corrected - you didn't mention it to your Chair. Not that would be a problem - that's his/her job to know who is being chased in order to make preemptive and counter actions.

For my current job, my wife didn't tell me that she'd thrown our names in the hat. I only found out by accident weeks later due to an indiscrete letter-writer. Off topic, unless you're considering a Silence of the Spouse discussion.

Hope said...

But surely, Anonymous and FSP, you both can see that this is a ridiculous comparison due to the power differential.

I agree w/Katie. I have a friend (grad student) who was heavily recruited by a tenured prof. Three months after joining his lab, he told her that he was leaving for Nearby U. He offered to take her w/him or to continue mentoring her long-distance. But neither arrangement was really ideal for her, so she found someone else to work with at Current U. Boy was he pissed!

I think that if anyone had a right to be pissed off, it was her. She came to Current U primarily to work w/him. The program at Nearby U would not have suited her at all, which is why she did not apply there in the first place. Why on earth did he recruit her, knowing that there was a very good chance that he’d be leaving? Or maybe he even knew for sure at the time?!

Everyone is entitled to their privacy. But some profs really need to re-think what they do or don’t owe their students.

Kevin said...

"What if the professor is thinking about leaving because they are very uncertain about getting tenure?"

This is a very common scenario, ans assistant professors should definitely be discussing the tenure process and their hopes and fears about tenure with their grad students. Grad students should know when they accept an assistant professor that there is some risk. Being open about the possibilities is part of the training of the grad student.

female Science Professor said...

I agree that an adviser within a few months of leaving should tell the advisees. This is also the responsibility of the department once it has been alerted to an upcoming departure. I do not agree that an adviser who is fielding various inquiries of uncertain outcome needs to disclose this to advisees unless the process reaches a serious level.

I know there are examples of irresponsible advisers whose career moves cause inconvenience (at best) or harm to their advisees, but generalizing from these cases is not reasonable.

How about this:

If an adviser is >55 ± 5% sure of leaving, whether or not it ever happens, advisees should be apprised of the situation.

If an adviser is < 44 ± 5% sure of leaving, s/he can disclose or not, but is by no means obligated to do so.

It is absurd to say that every time another university contacts a professor to say "Would you possibly be interested in maybe considering a potential future offer to come here?" that we have to tell our advisees about this.

If anyone thinks we are obligated to inform our advisees of this possible opportunity, do we also need to tell our department chairs, or should we swear our advisees to secrecy?

Re. the power differential: I have had students and postdocs depart suddenly, for various reasons (some good, some not), in the midst of research projects, leaving me stranded. They have a right to do this, although it means that I may have wasted tens of thousands of $$ in grant funds that I don't get back. The power differential means nothing in these cases.

Anonymous said...

"But surely, Anonymous and FSP, you both can see that this is a ridiculous comparison due to the power differential."

that's very true. As with everything else about academia, the power differential between PIs and their students/postdocs means that whenever there is a big change in the status quo, the students/postdocs are the ones who suffer more. When a student or postdoc leaves suddenly, the professor may be out of a lot of grant funding, but their careers and personal lives are not upheaved nearly to the same degree as when the tables are turned. have you ever seen a professor move to another university to "follow" their postdoc? Or switch to a different department? Or change projects thereby losing what could be years of work? of course not. yet postdocs and students may have to do that if their advisor leaves. Having to find a new student/postdoc to replace the departed one and resolve the loss of some grant money doesn't even compare.

Anonymous said...

A good professor always has students. Does this mean that they should never change jobs because it will disrupt students? That seems unecessarily harsh. I have variously - taken students with me, supervised from a distance (half way round the world in several cases) and handed students to other supervisors. Its costly for advisers too - new institutions typically dont recognise supervision done for students who choose not to move, but I always offer that option. In all instances it causes stress, which I think good advisers attempt to mitigate - but it also causes opportunity! Some students get travel and conference opportunities that were not previously going to happen. It wasnt necessarily the same thing you thought you signed up for, but was your final research output the same thing you thought you were going to do at the beginning? Really?

female Science Professor said...

Why all the hostility about the adviser-advisee power differential? Would you feel the same way about being in a job with a boss who can fire you even if you are doing excellent work? Or are advisers somehow special?

Katie said...

"It is absurd to say that every time another university contacts a professor to say "Would you possibly be interested in maybe considering a potential future offer to come here?" that we have to tell our advisees about this."

Of course it's absurd to say that an advisor needs to tell his/her advisees every time an offer comes around. If like in your original example, however, the offer has progressed to the point that advisees are hearing rumors about the advisor leaving the current institution, the advisor should be giving the students some idea of what is going on.

Regarding the power differential and students who up and leave with no warning: My point was not that the power differential prevented advisees from having an effect on advisors (although this effect is very clearly less than the reverse situation). It was in response to whether students should tell advisors when they are seriously considering leaving - in this case, the power differential is clearly relevant.

"Or are advisers somehow special?"

Well, they're supposed to be. It's supposed to be a training experience above all else. That's why students put up with the extremely low pay and ridiculous work hours. Similar to the way in which professors take a pay cut to stay in academia - for the job freedom and security.

And, again, your comparison is apples to oranges... While a student can suddenly be fired just like any other employee, we were discussing relocation - which, if the student was a "regular" employee and not a student, would include notice as well as money for relocation, not to mention a higher salary to begin with to offset the costs associated with a move.

Finally, for the record, I don't think anyone has said that professors should never move (at least, I surely didn't), just that advisors shouldn't keep advisees completely in the dark about the process.

Hope said...

@FSP: Well, I like to think that my adviser *is* special, and I view working with him as more than just a job. But maybe that’s my mistake….

Would you feel the same way about being in a job with a boss who can fire you even if you are doing excellent work?

I don’t know what to make of this question. In industry, when your boss decides to leave, you usually don’t find yourself out of a job. You don’t have to go hunting for a new supervisor/project, either; management typically takes care of reassigning you.

You can, of course, get fired in industry even if you’re doing an excellent job. This can happen to a grad student, too. At least in industry, they have to give you official notice. In grad school, your advisor can just decide to blow you off – and very few people, if any, will come to your rescue.

I suspect the “hostility” you’re sensing about the adviser-advisee power differential is a response to the implication that when someone departs, student or advisor, the consequences can be equally bad for the remaining party. I don’t see it that way, but then again, I’m on the student side of the fence right now. And given your position, I’m not that surprised that you disagree with me.

Anonymous said...

FSP: "Why all the hostility about the adviser-advisee power differential?"

Because the trainees usually have to endure serious disruption to their personal lives when their "boss" (advisor) leaves for greener pastures. This rarely happens in industry. yet in the reverse situation when it's the trainee who leaves, the advisor's personal life is rarely affected.

And actually there are advisors who 'fire" students even when the trainees are doing excellent work, I've seen it often. And unlike in other large organizations, no written notice or reason is needed.

It's pretty scary how much advisors hold their trainee's lives in their hands.

Ana said...

I'm in the boat where my adviser is leaving. He couldn't take us (or didn't want to?), so was making provisions for us. Unfortunately, the higher-ups in our department didn't agree on various things and were playing politics, so now I am just being jerked around! Everyone just seems to be looking after their own self-interests. I thought this kind of thing didn't happen in academia and that people would make logical choices, but boy was I wrong.

Anonymous said...

Ana, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Academia is ALL ABOUT self-interests especially when it comes to the advisor-advisee relationship. That's what happens when you have the huge power differential relationship structure with no in-between or third party to provide any checks or balances.

Dr Spouse said...

I had to tell one grad student about an interview because I did part of the interview process by phone while I was visiting the grad student who was carrying out fieldwork overseas.

At the same time I had been awarded funding for a new grad student but hadn't appointed them yet. I discreetly enquired of the funding body but didn't tell anyone else (though we weren't yet interviewing so it wouldn't have affected anyone directly).

Madscientistgirl said...

I completely agree that, within reason, graduate students should be informed as soon as possible about disruptive events an advisor knows about and can predict. But students can be the source of gossip. Students can hurt their advisor, even if they mean no harm, with their loose lips.

Some judgment about the student is necessary. If you have only quiet and discrete students, you can probably discuss it with them pretty early in the process. If you have gossipy students, you probably can't. And I've known many people who would think the world were ending if there were a possibility that their advisor would leave, even if this possibility were remote. Those students would hurt more by knowing that universities were trying to hire away their advisor.

Of course sometimes grad students are the source of wrong rumors because their advisor hasn't actually been upfront with them, and then telling the student the truth would probably help swelch rumors.

It's difficult for me to see an algorithm for every possible scenario. But I think advisors who have their students' best interests in mind will do just fine and most reasonable students would understand completely, even if they'd rather know sooner.

Deepak Roy Chittajallu said...

Hello Guys,

Great discussion and very appropriate for my current situation.

I tookup a postdoc in one of the top-five schools in the US and today was my first day at work. During my chat with a few fellow postdocs, i came to know that there is a very strong (credible) rumour floating around that my supervisor (PI of the lab) is planning to move to a lower-tier school as his wife couldnt get a faculty position in the same university.

Now, I am really scared about what would happen to my career if the rumour happens to be true and he does make the move. I already left postdoctoral offers in several other top-tier schools and narrowed down to this. And, i also have a couple of offers from good industrial R&D labs which are still outstanding for which i havnt said no yet.

What would you advise me to do in this situation? Should i ask my supervisor directly if there is any truth in the "rumour" i heard?

Because, if it is true, i can still quit and take one of the other offers i have and save myself from putting my career in danger.

Please help me.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the position where I have a faculty position and have been offered a position verbally at a different University (University X). University X and I are in the initial stages of discussion so I don't believe notifying really anyone is appropriate at this time. If the full offer materializes and it's something I'd consider, at that point I would discussing this with my students/postdocs/staff.

When these conversations occur do faculty talk to with each student / postdoc 1-on-1 (lining up outside the office?) or hold group meetings? lunches? Any thoughts?