Evaluating a professor
October 19, 2011 9:16 AM Subscribe
I am an advanced PhD student in an engineering discipline. I have been sent a presumably routine email from the department chair asking for comments on my research advisor's interaction with me to be submitted as an email, as a part of a multi-faceted evaluation.
My advisor has tenure, but I think he or she is not a full professor. How are these letters used? I am ambivalent towards my research advisor--there has been some good and some very, very bad.
By "bad" I mean severe failings as a scientific, intellectual, and PhD mentor/advisor. As a human being this person is appropriate, pleasant, and supportive.
How do I write something constructive that isn't so politically correct as to be useless? And is that smart for me? My career is intertwined with my advisor's, and I can't send this letter anonymously. (Presumably my letter would be kept "confidential" but...)
By constructive I mean I would like my advisor's behavior to changed, as I pity future unwitting students who end up in the lab.
One anecdote: My advisor didn't read my dissertation proposal. I couldn't get him or her to do it, with excuses of recovering from gallbladder surgery (which was scheduled in advance but I found out was happening a couple weeks before my exam), and just generally being ignored, it went on and on.
I presented my proposal and passed my candidacy exam, barely, after much drama. He or she got a little spooked after that and has been much more attentive and cautious with other students in the lab. But I doubt his or her behavior will stay changed for long.
That's one example. But it's such an insane example that... do I put it in the email? I never told my graduate chair because, I don't know. I joke with another student in the lab about all the weird co-dependence issues between my advisor and all the students.
Summarizing another way: he or she is an abysmal scientist but a brilliant grant writer and charismatic communicator. It's all smoke and mirrors and a hodgepodge of either handwavy papers, or relationship management and piggybacking on, frankly, real scientists. The lab brushes up against medicine, so it's easier to get away with handwaving on grants and papers.