Breaking Up with… a Professor

Before you start making assumptions about the type of life I lead, let me clarify: I am not currently, nor I have I ever dated a professor. The “breaking up” I’m talking about is with respect to a professional relationship – – ending a professional relationship before it ever really began.

At UC Davis, there are many opportunities for research. I am currently in the process of applying for a summer research project that would provide me with a nice living stipend. For the project, I need to find a faculty member to serve as a mentor and supervise my research. I have met with various faculty members to discuss the types of research they do. Until this past week I was making progress towards working with one professor in particular. What happened this week was that a particular professor that I had contacted a while back got in touch with me and wanted to meet. Her work is probably the most in line with my experience and current interests, so I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to discuss a possible project.

The meeting went well, but the deadline is approaching – just about a week until the proposal is due. That means I need to decide on a project to go ahead with. The problem is – neither of the professors know about each other. This is a very peculiar situation that I have never been in before. I must “break up” with one of them. The problem is, I do not want to burn bridges with either of them. They are both brilliant researchers that I would love the privilege to work with.

So what did I do?

I emailed the original professor to let her know that I had met with the other professor to discuss a possible project. I explained that while I genuinely wanted to work with both of them, with the deadline approaching need to decided upon a project that I feel we will be able to throw together a proposal for in a matter of 1 week.

The end result was better than I could have ever expected. She completely understood my predicament and put to rest any worries that I might have had about burning bridges.

Now, I am left to move ahead with a project, do research, and write a proposal all the while studying for the 4 exams, 0f which is a final in the next week and a half before the proposal is due. And while I am pretty confident that my proposal won’t be accepted because my area of interest is not a huge priority for research funding given the state of the economy and lack of funds in the UC system, I can only do my best and try. Try…and have a back up plan!