How to Choose a PhD Supervisor & Complete Your PhD Successfully

How to Choose a PhD Supervisor & Complete Your PhD Successfully

Trustworthy Guide is a significant part of your successful Ph.D. journey…

How many times have your colleagues gossiped about a particular Ph.D. supervisor? Normally, as you enroll in a Ph.D. program you’ll hear different stories about people including your professors, deans, supervisors, and panel members.

While most of these unsolicited stories may seem unimportant to you, some tiny details are actually consequential to your thesis journey. This may be an answer to questions like “Who is the best supervisor for a biology thesis?” or “Who are you going to approach if you encounter issues with certain data?”

Choosing a supervisor who can provide guidance throughout your actual writing process can be a bit of a challenge. At least 70 percent of the students don’t know much about their supervisors until they start working with them. Trying to get as many information as you can point you to the right person.

So in this article, I am going to share to you the important tips of finding the best supervisor for biological science.

Tip 1: Shortlist your prospects

Don’t jump to conclusions right away. Research and make a list of your potentialsupervisors. These could be some people you’ve met from your undergraduate course or someone from the biology department who have the similar interest in your research topic.

Choose at least five persons and compare their educational background and expertise. You can even ask feedback from past advisees and find out how it’s like to work with this particular person.

These days it is important to think outside the box. Don’t expect to meet a perfect supervisor in a snap of a finger. You have to do your part in researching for prospects before making a decision.

Tip 2: Read their popular publications

The best way to identify whether a supervisor is a close fit to your own is through their publications. It could be some journal articles, textbooks, or blogs.

So you’re asking me “Do I really have to do this?” Unfortunately, just because your prospects look pleasant in their academic profile doesn’t mean their angels sent from heaven.

Some can look deceivingly meek but are actually terrors when it comes to thesis supervision. Of course, personal biases can also add a different mix to your thesis experience and you don’t want that to happen.

What I’m trying to say is that their books can reveal a lot of things about them. So pick some books and skim through the pages. Focus on the main logic and check on their views about a current scientific discovery or their stand on a particular issue. Their choice of words can also tell more about their standards and preference when it comes to the writing style.

As you go further, ask yourself these questions: “Is there a possible conflict of interest in one of my potential supervisors?” “Does any of them have a dissenting opinion on a topic similar to mine?”

If the answer is yes, then you should crash him out from your list. It will ultimately be futile to work with someone who can potentially and consistently disagrees with your work.

Tip 3: Make sure that your potential supervisor has a proven track record

Getting a PhD can be very isolating. Considering the rigid process of PhD completion, you will need someone who can motivate you on a regular basis – and that is your supervisor.

Whether you’re strong or weak, you will need someone who knows what he’s doing. So don’t forget to check whether your potential supervisor has experience in supervising a related topic.

Has your prospect published something similar to your study? Does he have experience in supervising in biological science? What is his success rate? Did he have an open, reliable, and trustworthy relationship with his past students?

Remember that a good supervisor must be able to guide you through your thesis journey and supplement your lapses with professional feedback. So don’t settle for less just because you ran out of choices.

Tip 4: Make an appointment to meet personally

There’s no better way to know how your next 4 years will be other than meeting with your supervisor in person. Meeting face-to-face will help you establish a good connection and a more thoughtful conversation.

First of all, send a formal email letting your potential supervisor know that you’re interested in his supervisory roles. Introduce yourself and your research topic. Mentioned pertinent details about him that made you think why he is the right fit. Then, indicate your contact details and your proposed time for a meet-up.

In most cases, big universities have pre-made letter templates with letterheads that you can send out to your supervisor. If this is your case, make sure that your letter gets on time. Try to send it through the registered mail instead of ordinary mail. If you’re lucky you’ll receive a response confirming your schedule.

Tip 5: Provide an alternative

Choosing a thesis supervisor can be a daunting task. Sadly, not all supervisors have the luxury of time to arrange for a meeting. But don’t take this personally.

PhD supervisors are extremely busy with too many students to handle and too many works at stake. So you need to develop a broad mind to accept refusals.

In case your application is rejected, don’t be disheartened. Avoid insisting on your schedule and refrain from firing off offensive messages as a revenge.

Hey, this is not the end of the world! You still have a second choice, don’t you? So the first step of moving on is to accept the fact that your first choice is never going to be your thesis supervisor.

Stand up and get your fingers working on your keyboard again. Start researching for alternatives while bearing in mind the qualities of your ideal supervisor.

Tip 6: Find the chemistry

How to Choose a PhD Supervisor

Your relationship with your supervisor plays a major part in the success of your thesis. This means that your work is more likely to prosper if you are on the same page with your supervisor.

The “chemistry” I am talking about is not like what you often see in love movies. It is the kind of understanding that you have to develop to get through the complex educational process of getting a PhD degree. If you have a lot of disagreements with your supervisor, your thesis will surely end up a mess.

So make sure that you know what to expect from your supervisor. Avoid sarcasm and surprises. Meet with them in person and ask away. Try to gauge the kind of working environment through the supervisory approach.

Tip 7: Find someone who can communicate regularly

Your relationship with your supervisor will continue to evolve throughout the process. It can either prosper or deteriorate as different obstacles come in the way.

For example, you might have shortlisted a prospect because he has a lesser workload. However, this supervisor later accepted a new work assignment and you suddenly became a lesser priority.

Then there’s this high-ranking supervisor handling ten PhD students which you’ve crashed out because you think he is too busy. But then he was very hands-on with his students helping them every step the way.

As you see, it’s not just about the schedule. Some supervisors can allow time for you amidst a busy schedule while others can drop you off any minute for inconsequential reasons.

So when you screen your potential supervisors make sure to ask about their ability to communicate. Set clear expectations on how often you will communicate with each other. It does not matter whether your supervisor is off-shore or on-campus. What matters most is whether he values communication as much as you do.

Find out whether your supervisor is tech-savvy. Some supervisors really don’t mind communicating through Google Hangout or Viber especially when they are on a trip out of town.

Tip 8: Get ready to reign

Writing a thesis is like sailing in the sea. You are the captain of the ship and your supervisor is just a member of the crew. This means that when choosing a thesis supervisor, you must imagine yourself as a leader.

How to Choose a PhD Supervisor

Your supervisor is just there to guide not to spoon-feed you. Considering their busy schedule, you can’t expect them to be present all the time. You need to work on your research independently and using as much guidance as they can virtually give.

So when choosing a thesis supervisor, you should know the qualities that you’re looking for. Do you want an off-shore supervisor or someone whom you can talk to personally? If you prefer the first, can he set aside time at least once a week to provide constructive criticism on your scientific findings? Can he provide a friendly working environment? Is he reliable enough to help you meet your deadlines?

Consider how you want to be coached in your research. Some students want to work alone and talk to their supervisors only after they’ve made the first draft. If you’re this type of person, find a supervisor who would agree to this setting.

Tip 9: Nurture your relationship

Once you’ve found your ideal supervisor, it is important to keep a good working environment. So make the best out of your supervisor by communicating on a regular basis.

Always take the initiative to give updates on your progress no matter how small it is. If both of you are extremely busy, I suggest that you set a schedule for submissions and feedback.

The supervisory process is a two-way system. You can’t just leave everything on your supervisor’s plate. You also need to play your role.

Honestly, there is no wrong or right experience when it comes to your PhD journey but your choice of PhD supervisor can make a difference.

I hope you enjoyed reading my article today. Good luck with your research and I hope that you will find your ideal supervisor.

How to Choose a PhD Supervisor, How to Choose a PhD Supervisor 

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