Quitting Grad School without a M.S.
July 24, 2012 11:23 AM Subscribe
Should I quit grad school? Or would it be "the worst mistake of my life" as many feel and/or have told me. Should I suck it up/grow up? Or is it as bad as it seems?
posted by anonymous to Education (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have been wondering for a long time about whether or not quitting my Master's of Biochemistry program is the best decision for me. I am a 23 year old female student.
I had told my PI from the beginning that I wasn’t really sure if this was program for me as I had never had any research experience and I didn’t realize how intensive it would be. My passions lie more closely to physiology, anatomy, and nutrition. My PI always seemed to be decently understanding of the situation though he kept telling me that I would make a great phd and that I would love it. I had the potential to be his best student yet, which is saying something since he has “ridiculous expectations.”
I joined my lab late November last year right after some tragic personal issues had occured. It made me emotional at work for awhile so I decided to let my new PI know what had happened so he'd have an understanding that I really wasn't crying just because PCR happened to not work out my first try. Since I was new to the area and didn't have friends and because I told him about what had happened to me, he decided he was going to be my friend. While it was somewhat nice at first to have a lot of attention from my PI (it was easy to ask him about my project and to get his view on many things etc), things began to get weird when I realized how much time we were having more personal-type conversations. We would talk for maybe 10-20 hours a week in his office about my life growing up and our opinions on different things. I kept mentioning how I thought these conversations were maybe not appropriate for the workplace and that I felt uncomfortable being distracted from my work. He said it was no big deal and that I seemed like I needed to talk to him so he was willing to postpone his duties for my benefit but that maybe we should go out sometime and talk about things away from the workplace.
The first time he asked me out for drinks and dinner I felt extremely awkward and wasn't' sure how to respond. I sat in the lab office for 3 hours trying to figure out whether or not I should go and eventually I told him that I would, after his assurance that this was normal behavior and partially because I felt like I owed him. We only went out twice and it was a little awkward but ok. It was when I started to turn down his offers to go out or to come to his house for games (other members of the lab would be there as well) that things began to get weird. He accused me of manipulating him one time when I didn’t show up for a game day. Granted, I didn’t call him to tell him I wasn’t coming but it was also because I had taken a nap that went too long and because I had 3 finals the upcoming week. I tried to ignore this as his typical somewhat controlling personality and maybe some cultural differences (He is from Eastern Europe).
Eventually, we were going to a convention about an hour away and he insisted that he drive his own car, while a PhD student in our lab drove his own. He then insisted that I come with him, as he needed a conversation companion for the drive, while the rest of the lab rode with the PhD student. I felt so controlled by the situation that I decided to go to the chair about the situation. Things eventually got worked out and we had an understanding that would hopefully help us communicate. That was 2 months ago.
I am now in a situation where I don’t feel like anything has changed. After the meeting with the chair, he put a new project on me which was supposed to be my last project before I could write my master’s thesis. However, 1.5 months into working on it I’ve been told that its more along the lines of a PhD project and that I could maybe turn it into one eventually if I would like. The whole situations just makes me feel manipulated like he’s continually trying to get me to stay and making decisions for me. Especially since he has the reputation of keeping people in his lab way past their intended graduation date. And, while I could attempt to switch labs, I've already decided this isn't a field that I really want to be in so I'd rather not start up something completely new in a field that I really dislike, especially in an area I don't have a support network. (My current lab is more microbiology related whereas all other labs in the dept are more genetics)
There are too many examples to really go into and I’ve already typed too much. Basically, this guy has me thinking that if I were to quit, I would have no future in pretty much anything. I wouldn’t have recommendations or it would be difficult to appeal to either any sort of employment or a future school if I apply (I have some dreams of maybe being a doctor but still uncertain). I can’t shadow/volunteer/explore new possibilities without quitting because my PI wont’ let me alter my hours (I HAVE to be there at least 9-5). If I were to quit, my parents would let me move back home and figure myself out though. I have a Bachelor’s in Biology and Pre-med with a minor in Chemistry and I’ve completed my graduate courses with a 3.8 GPA.
Basically, am I overreacting because I think I’m in a bad situation or due to my dislike of the material that I am studying/researching? How much of this seems normal? Should I stay one more year and get my Master’s? Or should I quit? Will I still be ok if I quit grad school and can’t ask my PI for a letter of recommendation? If you’d like any more information, just ask. This is my first post and any objective advice would be overly fantastic.