Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Death of an Adivosr - the unserious Early Thirsty

I'm glad that some of you contributed to Sunday's thirsty about the loss of your mentor or advisor.  This profession takes its toll through daily annoyances by students and greater events like these.  If that Thirsty helped in a small way, I'm very pleased.

However, advisors are not always sprinkling fairy dust so that we get tenure track jobs and it wasn't rainbows they were shitting on us when we asked for some help.  Face facts: at some point you wanted to kill your advisor, maybe you still do, and you certainly wouldn't feel bad (unless you got caught).

Let's hear about your imagined plans in the comment section.  Bonus points for incorporating your discipline into the scenario.  Try to be creative, but if you really just want to write gory details about smacking him with a shovel, go ahead.  I'll be slowly moving towards the door now...

How do you dream of causing your advisor's death?


  1. When I read the question in the Sunday Thirsty, "How did you deal with the loss of your advisor?" my first thought was "I changed out the carpet that lines the trunk of my car." BOOM. Now I see I get bonus points because that happens to align with my current discipline, i.e., automotive technology.

    Probably my thesis advisor could have been better, but I didn't ever actually wish him harm. I could have been better in many ways myself. After I'd left his lab, we published one last thing together. On the way to his lab to go over the galley proofs, I picked up a case of my favorite craft beer, which I then presented it to him. I didn't tell him outright, but I was trying to demonstrate in some way that I now understood that I could have avoided some of our troubles if I'd sacrificed of myself sooner. If he gave me less guidance than I needed, he also have me more breaks than I deserved.

    (OK, so, that last bit is not quite teh funneh you were looking for. Give me a few moments to get back on my game.)

  2. I would imagine forcing my MA thesis advisor to grade a year's worth of developmental comp essays over a month during which time the advisor would interact only with snowflakes.That should ideally be justice for the agony of having to revise a chapter in my dissertation several times (first to incorporate a theory the advisor really liked that didn't quite fit,but for which I enacted academic and literary acrobatics to make it work; second to take out that theory and incorporate another one that my advisor found more fitting, third to then revert to the original text because neither theory really applied, and fourth, to simply cut the chapter altogether. A year later, I found my cut chapter published in a journal, with my advisor's name at the top. My name did not appear anywhere. I was smarter for my PhD and picked an advisor with tenure who wasn't really invested in my topic and who left me alone.

    1. FYI: overseas, a dissertation was at the MA level.

    2. Did you just let your advisor get away with plagiarism? S/he'll just be carrying on in the same manner, year after year after year. You can still inform the university, you know.

    3. No, I filed a complaint with the dept. chair and was able to show that it was my work and the journal was notified of this "change" of authors. The journal didn't do anything about it (i.e. no retraction or correction). The advisor was not fired, but their contract was not renewed for the next year. No other sanctions were taken, as far as I know.

  3. [Rrrrrriiinnngggg] Oh, hi! Doctor Theseus Mentaur? It's Ogre. Right, Hep. Thanks for returning my call. Fine. You? Great. Anyway, you know those intriguing predictions we got from those numerical simulations we were doing a lot of a few years back? Turns out we overlooked a typo in the Runge-Kutta code. Well, yeah, I know we validated it several times, but that was a thousand datapoints at a time, and the error really adds up after a million integrations. Even in double precision. No, I don't accept that. You proofread it, too. Yup, the conclusions for all three papers. Complete bullshit, yes. Most embarassing, but what can you do? Oh, don't worry about that. Already retracted. Yup. I'm well aware, the premise for your grant. No problem, I already told them too. Yes. All five specific aims shot to hell, so all of it, of course. Well, no, in fact I don't think I needed to consult you first. What other course of action is there? You do believe in scientific integrity, do you not? Then the university can just give it back; they've got more, right? Theseus? Did something just crash through your window? Theseus?

  4. The region in which I was living at the time had plenty of bogs and a lack of bog-bodies. It became quite the lab ritual to develop elaborate plans for getting our PI to eat the ritual gruel, walk up the mountain, allow their hair to be braided etc. etc. We even discussed the music to be played whilst trampling on the hurdles... it was pretty cathartic and too far-fetched to be taken seriously by even the most humourless of accidental eavesdroppers...

    Our PI is still alive and as well as one can be when bathing in the rays of Negative Vibes from everyone in your lab (said PI was an equal-opportunity advisee-stressor, there was no golden child or favourite, we were ALL far, far short of their standards).

  5. Well, if I'd had an advisor in any real sense of the term, I might have gotten to the point of imagining hir death. As it was, I had to content myself with imagining the deaths of upper administrators who were so concerned with making sure their faculty members were the absolute "best of the best" (but couldn't fire a rapist promptly) that they had severe problems hiring anybody, or retaining the excellent faculty they had. Looking back, I realize that part of the responsibility falls on me for not realizing that I really needed an advisor, any advisor (with personality quite possibly being more important than exact specialty, as long as there was some sort of plausible match), and finding one. On the other hand, the older I get, the more outraged I am on behalf of my 25-year-old self that nobody seems to have noticed that students whose advisors who left were falling through the cracks, and there were no institutional procedures in place to prevent that (it was a very informal system, with the advisor-advisee relationship the primary context in which anything, including such very basic things as writing a dissertation prospectus and getting it approved, was accomplished).

    That said, the campus and environs offered bodies of water of assorted depths, currents, and degrees of marginal muck.; numerous gothic buildings, some with climbable towers and/or roofs with the tendency to shed enormous sheets of ice at certain times of the year; and a woodland in which bow hunting was sometimes permitted. If I'd ever gotten to know an advisor well enough to want to kill hir, I'd have had options (and probably would have turned to Dorothy Sayers' Oxford-based mysteries for inspiration).

    As it stands, all of my erstwhile semi-advisors are still alive, some still working, some emeritus (but still researching/writing). They did their best in the circumstances; the circumstances were just, on an institutional/structural level, a real mess.