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7 Tips for Picking the Perfect PhD Supervisor

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Picking the right PhD supervisor can make or break your graduate career, so it’s essential to do your research and select someone you can work with comfortably.

Now that you’ve been accepted into your PhD program, it’s time to decide what to do next.

The research process can seem intimidating, but it’s essential to be confident in your choice of supervisor if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

Here are seven tips to help you find the perfect PhD supervisor and enjoy the journey of the research process. 

1. Do Your Research for PhD Supervisor

Every research group and supervisor is different, so it’s important to do your research and make sure you find the right fit. Here are seven things to keep in mind when choosing a PhD supervisor:

  • What kind of research does this supervisor do? Do their interests align with yours?

  • What is the size of their research group? Would you prefer a smaller or larger group?

  • How well-funded is their research group? Does it offer opportunities that you would like to take advantage of (e.g., travel, conferences)

  • Does the supervisor have any other students that have gone through their program? Talk to them about what they enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the experience!

  •  Meet with potential supervisors before making your decision about a PhD Supervisor.

  • Try to meet more than one prospective supervisor, if possible. You may find someone who not only matches your research interests but also has a personality that suits you better.

  • Ask questions! Asking questions will help ensure you get an idea of what the day-to-day life of the graduate student would be like under this professor’s supervision and whether or not it matches up with what you want out of grad school.

2. Start With Someone You Know

7 Tips for Picking the Perfect PhD Supervisor

The best way to choose a research Phd supervisor is to start with someone you know.

This person could be a professor you had in undergrad, a family friend or someone you met at a conference.

If you have a connection with this person, they are more likely to be interested in working with you as your PhD Supervisor and can provide guidance and support throughout your research.

3. Research Their Work

The first step is to research your potential supervisor’s work.

This will give you a good sense of their expertise and whether they’re a good fit for your project as a PhD Supervisor.

You can find out about their research by reading their papers, attending their talks, or speaking to other students who have worked with them.

Be sure to ask about their interests and how these align with yours; there should be

some overlap between what they study and what you want to study in order for them to be an appropriate supervisor.

4. Talk About Your Expectations For Phd Supervisor

Before you start your search for a research supervisor, it’s important to sit down and think about what you’re looking for and what you expect from the relationship.

Here are seven factors to consider when choosing a PhD supervisor.

  • It is essential that you have mutual respect for each other. You’ll be spending many hours with this person during the next four years of your life, so make sure that they understand how much their opinion matters to you and make sure that they feel equally respected by you.

  •  The people who work closely with the supervisor need to be nice too! Research supervisors can be tough bosses but if their staff are unkind, then it will put more pressure on your already hectic schedule.

  • When choosing a PhD supervisor you should look at the department they work in and whether or not they specialize in your chosen field.

  •  If you can, try to talk to some current students before making a decision. Talk to them about their expectations as well as why they chose this particular professor/researcher as their thesis advisor.

5. Plan for Communication Challenges

7 Tips for Picking the Perfect PhD Supervisor

  • You communication session of about half an hour with the supervisor will give you any hints about his personality, and comfortable you are going to be with each other in your research journey. 

  • Don’t wait until you’re in a bind to start communication with your potential supervisor. Get to know them before you make your decision.

  • Establish what your expectations are early on. This will help avoid any misunderstandings down the road.

  • Have a clear idea of what you want to research before approaching a potential supervisor. This will make it easier for them to say yes or no to working with you.

  • Be prepared to compromise.

6. Assess Personalities and Motivations

7 Tips for Picking the Perfect PhD Supervisor

You’ll be spending a lot of time with your PhD Supervisor, so it’s important that you get along.

  • Think about what kind of personality you work best with and try to find a supervisor who has complementary strengths.

  • It’s also important to make sure that your supervisor is motivated to help you succeed.

  • Look for someone who is passionate about their work and takes an active interest in their students’ success.

  • Who is going to work with you according to your needs?

  • Don’t go for a supervisor who needs a self-driven researcher, if you are a hands-on person.

7. Choose a Co-Supervisor

Your Co-Supervisor is there to help support you and your research.

They can offer guidance and advice, and act as a sounding board for your ideas. It’s important to choose someone you get along with, and who has similar research interests to you.

Your PhD Supervisor will be the person with more expertise, having more number of phd students, funding, collaborations and relations. Still, your PhD Co-supervisor will be young, having more time to assist you, even if you need his/her help in the laboratory work. 

He should give your assurance to assist you against bad aspects when your main supervisor is busy with work or travelling.

Thank you very much for reading the full article. If you are a research student and feeling any difficulty regarding research, feel free to visit the research playlist on the youtube channel. We are pleased to have your attention. 

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