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PhD student wants to suspend studies for 12 month research assistant post

(11 Posts)
10601723A Fri 20-Jan-17 10:15:46

What would you say in response to this? She's about half way through and has been offered a research assistant post at a (more) prestigious institution. Is this sensible/or not, typical/or not?

It seems rather odd to me, I am not sure why she wants to do it, and am not sure whether she is being honest with me - I think she may see this as a route to transfer her PhD to that institution, which would be a shame, but I think I could understand. But maybe I'm being defensive. Any thoughts? We're in social sciences if that helps and her PhD is fully funded.

HamIn Fri 20-Jan-17 11:24:15

I would encourage the student to go ahead if that's what she wants to do. It might be a good break for her from PhD, she might come back more motivated, and plus it'll be a good way for you to contacts with the department she is working with.

I am at the other end looking for a job post-PhD, I also had an opportunity similar to your student but I didn't feel it was fair on my supervisor to take such an opportunity. But I wish I had, as it is very difficult to secure a job post-PhD, and this would have been a good route into a relevant department. I'm sure even if she does transfer her PhD across to the other university, you will stay on as a supervisor, so you shouldn't worry.

I want the best for my students, and if I can see benefit for her, I'd happily give her my blessings.

PlushVelvet Fri 20-Jan-17 11:39:45

I can't see a problem (But I worked full time as a teaching fellow throughout my PhD which was also full time) as long as ...

* she gets the proper permission & leave of absence from your institution
* you & she are clear about the level of support/supervision over this period (ie very little and your choice not hers, as you won't get the workload allowance)
* you discuss "re-entry" plans, how she'll pick up her research again, etc etc

The danger is that she'll get distracted and think that work for money in academia is the thing, without realising that the PhD is the keystone of that! And let the PhD drag on & on.

But otherwise it sounds like a great opportunity. I see your concern is about her being "poached" - I'm afraid you'll just have to live with that. If a "more prestigious" university offers her a fully-funded studentship, then - that's life and as PhD supervisors it's our job to nurture our supervisees in their best interests.

10601723A Fri 20-Jan-17 12:55:20

Thanks both - that's really helpful. I agree, I think this is a good opportunity and I've encouraged her to go for it. I know that if she is poached that ultimately could work out well for her, so as you say, a risk worth living with. Thanks!

PlushVelvet Fri 20-Jan-17 15:19:53

And you'll always be part of her network, and she'll always be grateful to you, so even if she is poached, your support will be remembered.

A PhD supervisor is for life not just for the viva

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 20-Jan-17 15:35:10

Will the funding body allow suspension for that? I think they are pretty keen to get people through in three years, four max and I don't think a suspension for an alternative job would be ok for some of them. I would check this before anything else, you don't want to invalidate her scholarship if she has one.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 20-Jan-17 15:43:02

I also don't think this is usual, it's a bit weird she was looking for a full time post elsewhere when she's on a funded PhD and I would encourage her to work and complete the PhD at the same time, not stop the PhD entirely. I think you are right there is something else afoot.

MarasmeAbsolu Fri 20-Jan-17 18:30:11

I would personally be very put off by this - but this may be discipline specific. In our work, we cannot really afford to "pause" work without suffering consequences like being overtaken by other groups (fast moving field). So unless the reason is illness/family energy, the pause is not sthg our grad school supports. If it happens, we make sure that there are contingency solutions in place to not lose the momentum too.

Regardless of the points above, I'd be worried about the student's dedication to her PhD and her general focus / resilience. If I were to look at her CV from an employers point of view, that would not impress me much (but again, maybe a science thing). Also, I just think that it is not fair to 1) the many people who would love to do a PhD full time, especially funded, and 2) the people who have actually completed a masters or a PhD, and could get that job. Again - I understand she was offered it, so maybe a moot point (but who on earth offers this type of job to someone in the middle of their study? I'd question the other team's intentions)...

10601723A Mon 23-Jan-17 10:53:01

Hi everybody. OK thanks, so this is all interesting. I am questioning the other team's intentions too, but on the other hand am taking the position that if this is what my PhD student wants to do, and I have talked through various implications with her, it's her choice. Thanks again for responding.

fivepies Mon 23-Jan-17 13:08:00

I did exactly that - interrupted my PhD for 15 months to work on a fabulous large project as an RA. The difference is that I was working for my supervisors.
They gave me an afternoon a week to work on my PhD. Which I didn't do (to my shame). Returning to the PhD was very difficult but the positives were that 1. I'd collected all my data (interrupted after end of year 2), 2. the RA project gave me valuable insights into my own work and 3. I got very good publications out of it that set me up for jobs after the PhD.
My advice would be to think about if it is a good point in her PhD to interrupt and how she thinks she'll manage the transition back to the PhD. Will she agree to say in touch with you? Do you know/can you talk to her prospective employers?

DamnCommandments Mon 23-Jan-17 13:15:25

I interrupted for a three month contract, and for twelve months maternity. I struggled with re-entry (and then my sodding supervisor left). And I didn't get any publications out of it, because I was so stressed about the state of my PhD and I poured all my energy into fixing it. I think there are inherent problems with interrupting, but as long as you've done due diligence in talking to the student about them, you've done your part.

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