Post-doctoral Fellow Mentorship Program:
FINDING A SUPERVISOR
Choosing a supervisor is one of the most important decisions a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow will make. We encourage you to look over the research interests of our investigators when considering the LDI, and offer the following tips for settling on the right supervisor for you.
Questions to Ask when Choosing a Supervisor
As a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow at the LDI, you will be registered at McGill University and be associated with one or more faculty. You and your supervisor will likely have a multi-year relationship, so how you get along and the expectations you have for each other are key to a successful and happy collaboration.
Below are some documents giving hints for how to choose the supervisor that is best for you. The list is not exhaustive. You are encouraged to search the web for other information on choosing a supervisor. To prepare for talking to a prospective supervisor, you should search and read the lab publications and read the research project descriptions on the LDI website. You should interview your prospective supervisor and your potential lab mates (don’t forget them; you will see and rub shoulders with them daily!). If you live far away, making travel expensive, don’t forget to use such avenues as Skype to see and talk to your prospective supervisor and lab personnel.
Instructions (How to Find a PhD Supervisor) by Rachel Kolar, eHow Contributor updated February 09, 2011) Read more.
Five key points –
1. Meet with as many members of the department as you can before choosing a supervisor. This will give you the chance to see whose personality clicks well with yours and whose does not.
2. Choose a problem or area that interests you. Find a faculty member who specializes in this area or a similar one, then see if the project he's working on excites you. A project that doesn't interest you can make your PhD program boring and unfulfilling.
3. Talk to your potential supervisor to see whether you have good personal chemistry. If you don't like them, you won't work well with them no matter how interested you are in their project.
4. Talk to other students in your potential supervisor's research group to see how they like working with them. Don't take any one student's word as law; a student may simply not click with the supervisor's personality or leadership style, or might disagree with the supervisor's interpretation of data.
5. Consider how much supervision you'll need. In general, senior academics are more knowledgeable but have less time to devote to your project, while junior academics are less experienced but have more time to help you. Of course, there are exceptions, so consider your impressions from meeting the professor and the research group.
Have a frank discussion with your prospective supervisor, and make a point of posing the following questions (modified from Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineering, A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies, National Academy Press, Washington, DC.):
• What are the supervisor's expectations?
• Will the supervisor or the fellow determine the research program?
• How many graduate students and PDFs has this supervisor had? Where did they go afterward?
• Can I contact current and past lab members about their experience? – Ask for email addresses or phone numbers. If the supervisor is reluctant that is a red flag for you.
• How will the relationship work? How much time will the supervisor have for mentoring? Will there be other mentors?
• How many others (grad students, staff, PDFs) now work for the supervisor?
• What is the expected publication rate and to which journals? What will your role be on publications?
• What is the supervisor's policy on travel to meetings?
• What is the supervisor’s policy on authorship and ownership of ideas?
• Will I have opportunities to practice grant writing? Oral presentations? Review of manuscripts?
• Will I have the opportunity to perform any teaching or mentorship?
• What will happen if I do not complete a project before I take another appointment?
• How long is financial support guaranteed? On what does appointment renewal depend?
• Can I count on help in finding my next position?
• Will the supervisor have adequate research funds to support the proposed research?