A Change of Plans

Joseph came back from a brief summer vacation convinced that he would be able to finish up his Ph.D. in one more semester. Though he had not discussed the status of his thesis with his adviser or any other member of his thesis committee since the spring, he was sure they would agree that he could finish up quickly. In fact, he had already begun drawing up a list of companies to which he planned to apply for a research position.

However, when his research adviser heard about his plans, she immediately objected. She told him that the measurements he had made were not going to be enough to satisfy his dissertation committee. She said that he should plan to spend at least two more semesters on campus doing additional measurements and finishing his dissertation.

Joseph had always had a good working relationship with his adviser, and her advice had been very helpful in the past. Plus, he knew that he would need a good recommendation from her to get the jobs that he wanted. But he couldn’t help but wonder if her advice this time might be self-serving, since her own research would benefit greatly from the additional set of measurements.

  1. Should Joseph try to change his adviser’s mind? For example, should he review what his measurements already show and compare that with what the new measurements would add and then ask his adviser to reconsider?

  2. Should Joseph talk with other members of his thesis committee to get their opinions?

  3. What actions could Joseph have taken earlier to avoid the problem?

  4. What actions can Joseph take now to avoid future disappointment?

Beginning researchers also have responsibilities toward their advisers and mentors. They should develop clear expectations with advisers and mentors concerning availability and meeting times. Also, beginning researchers have a responsibility to seek out and work with mentors rather than expect that potential mentors will seek them out (though potential mentors often do take the initiative in establishing these relationships). Readily available guidelines that spell out the expectations of advisers, mentors, advisees, and mentees—whether provided through individual research groups or through research

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