Any academics on here with advice on how to proceed when Masters gone wrong?

(8 Posts)
FinalYearCrisis Thu 05-Mar-20 14:25:20

I'll start by saying that I know, I know, parents shouldn't get involved, but our son has autism and used to have full-time 1-to-1 school support.

Also - I've namechanged, as this may be identifiable, but I've been on here for advice from the end of primary school.

DS is in his final year of an MEng at university. He was supposed to have finished the experimental stage of his Masters project last week, but has barely got it started after multiple delays. It's supposed to be extending a recent PhD and taking some specific measurements further with the equipment developed by this previous student, but DS thinks that the equipment is not capable of the job.

Reading the PhD thesis, we agree with him (we're both physicists). His supervisor disagrees, and as far as we can see, is just repeating that it IS possible and DS should have got on with it.

DS has MH issues on top of the autism and is deeply stressed. Part of the problem is probably a communication breakdown from both sides - but we are pretty sure DS is right that fundamentally his project cannot work as his supervisor thinks it can. Even if he's right, there is now no time to finish and write up, so an extension would be needed.

DS thinks that an extension would eat into next term's revision without producing a viable Masters project. It's already occupied time that should have been spent on academic work (he gets single minded).

The university are reluctantly including us in some discussions (they used to do so regularly at DS's request, but the support has fallen off over this year) but essentially seem to have no suggestions on how to proceed.

Has anyone any experience in what could reasonably be suggested? We'd wondered whether he could intermit but keep some credits or modules, spreading the final year over two (funded god knows how); or take the current three years and convert to a BEng instead.

Any suggestions welcome!

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Peaseblossom22 Thu 05-Mar-20 19:51:44

I would try posting in ‘academics corner /chat’ it’s in the work section. They were really helpful when I had a problem with my masters

FinalYearCrisis Thu 05-Mar-20 23:23:46

Thank you - I didn’t even know that section was a thing! I’ll try there.

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sendsummer Fri 06-Mar-20 05:27:36

Finalyearcrisis others will know more. My guess is that the most likely scenario is that your DS will be offered the chance of retaking the whole year (unless there is a part time equivalent for the year with the flexibility of credits that you mention) or converting to a BEng. He could apply for a masters elsewhere although that is more expensive than asking for a deferred year.
Equipment is a recurring issue with projects is n’t it. Trying and then working out where the equipment is causing problems is an important necessary skill in experimental work. Potentially your DS might still have done well in his project by going through the steps of troubleshooting if they had been fair (not a given). You are experts so I guess you think there may already be a very strong theoretical basis for the equipment not to work from what your DS did try?

hellsbells99 Fri 06-Mar-20 08:23:24

Hi op. DD is in her final year too - but will be at a different uni. I was chatting to her about her project as she is still waiting for ordered parts to be delivered so not been able to finish building it. She has been able to do some tests on it using borrowed parts etc but is now saying it probably won’t be finished until after Easter. But she says the marks are for the reports, viva and presentations, not for the final product. She has done a lot of writing as she goes along and still has the Easter break to try and complete most f it. So could he not still get a reasonable mark even if it doesn’t work?

FinalYearCrisis Fri 06-Mar-20 12:02:31

Hi and thanks,
We don’t know. The project seems to have gone from vague to very specifically pinned down to the use of a technique that he already knows won’t work, on equipment built by someone else.

I (re)write and edit science papers for a living. I can’t see any way of him making a coherent report out of this on time (even at masters level).

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GodwinsRulebook Sat 07-Mar-20 16:52:40

Why do you think that his supervisor has given him something you seem sure will fail? Most of us don't want our students to fail - we want them to do well!

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FinalYearCrisis Sat 07-Mar-20 17:11:10

A misunderstanding of what the previous student has managed, I’d say.

It happens. According to DS, this part of the thesis isn’t his supervisor’s speciality and he hasn’t himself used the equipment concerned.

I’m not suggesting he wants him to fail! But I do think he needs to listen to DS’s specific reasons why it can’t do what was proposed, and between them come up with a different purpose to the experiments.

DS doubts you can get a masters out of saying ‘So, I used this entirely inappropriate equipment, god knows why, and guess what, it doesn’t work...’

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