Academic Horror Stories – 5 Real Life Worst Nightmares for Halloween

Academic Horror Stories – 5 Real Life Worst Nightmares for Halloween

In this special Halloween blog post, we aim to give you chills and keep you on the edge of your seat with these blood-curdling academic nightmares.

Here at INOMICS we like to focus on the positive sides of academia – the great economics jobsprograms and other opportunities we encounter every day, and the many successful people taking advantage of them. In the spirit of the season, however, we’ve decided to take a look at the other side of things – scouring the depths of the internet for tales of mishaps, betrayal, embarrassing and outrageous experiences that all happened within the walls of the ivory tower.

In this special Halloween blog post, we aim to give you chills and keep you on the edge of your seat with these blood-curdling academic nightmares. While we of course hope that you’ve never had such dreadful encounters, we would love it if you add your stories to our post on Facebook or Instagram! Share your spooky, panic-stricken or downright terrifying tales of academic horror, and offer your fellow academics a vicarious thrill.

1. Trivialized conclusions – A PhD candidate’s horror story

This tale comes from the Academic Water Cooler blog. AWC writes that a star PhD candidate was just rounding the corner into the conclusions section of her pre-dissertation defense “brown bag” seminar when a young professor piped up with “Since you haven’t developed a theoretical basis for any substantive hypothesis, aren’t any of your conclusions therefore trivial?”

Although the star PhD candidate was already teaching full-time and had numerous publications in the works, such a harsh blow – met with utter silence from everyone else in the room – knocked her off track so fully that shortly after the presentation she simply packed up her belongings, left the office and was never heard from again. An absolute nightmare!

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2. A rescinded offer – A new professor’s horror story

This story is taken from a series of posts by The Professor Is In about rescinded job offers. The guest writer for this post tells of how she was in the midst of a postdoc at a large research university when she applied for a tenure track position in a related department. Following an in person interview she was offered the position by the department chair and told to return a few days later with a proposal for her starting package.

After working enthusiastically on said package, the postdoc met once again with the chair, only to be told that the dean had reconsidered and a firm offer had already been made to another candidate for the job. Since the postdoc was still employed by the university, her nightmare continued as she had to hear about the negotiations with the new hire and receive muddled sympathy from colleagues.

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3. Poisoned research – A scientist’s horror story

This is an ongoing story about a Yale graduate student who is now suing her former mentor and the university itself for their inadequate response after a fellow student tampered with her research. The grad student was conducting a study using zebra fish eggs, which kept mysteriously dying despite all signs showing that they should be healthy. After leaving some eggs in the marked container that she had been using and putting others in a separate unmarked container, the student caught a fellow Yale researcher on camera poisoning her fish and thus sabotaging her research.

Rather than providing support in the face of this nightmarish sabotage, the grad student’s advisor criticized her work ethic and character and left her out of an awaited co-authorship. The horror story has an open end, as the results of the lawsuit remain unknown.

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4. A blundered interview – An engineer’s horror story

An electrical engineer posted this job interview horror story to Reddit not too long ago. During an interview for a job dealing with power systems his interviewer asked to draw a transformer on the white board and explain how it works. Before thinking about it he quipped, “Okay, do you want Optimus Prime or Megatron?” The elderly interviewer clearly had no idea what he was talking about and simply didn’t respond. After blushing a deep red, the engineer proceeded to draw a transformer then stumbled through the rest of the interview. Needless to say, he was not offered the job.

5. Plagiarism and failure – A political science student’s horror story

This story was told a few years back in the Huffington Post blog, referencing something that had happened to an acquaintance of the author. When the friend was a senior in college he wrote a term paper on the British Cabinet for a class on the British Political System. The evening prior to the course’s final exam he received word that he was charged with plagiarism, which upset him so much that he bombed the final exam.

Believing that he was wrongly accused, the student fought back and the case was brought to a hearing. The professor charged that the student had listed the ten functions of the British Cabinet without a source. Shocked, the student argued that such knowledge was considered general and thus did not need a citation – yet despite the grey area such a case falls in, the horror story ended with the full academic board backing up the professor and the student being charged with full plagiarism.

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