phd supervisor

January 27, 2017, by lpxnt

Finding the Perfect PhD Supervisor

Natalie Thorne, MSc Psychology Research Methods

After the panic of leaving my job to start a masters subsided, I was ready to face the first big hurdle when it comes to doing a PhD: finding a supervisor.

It’s sort of an academic dating game. And just like dating, my process started by looking at profiles online. Sadly I had to rule out staying at The University of Nottingham as my specialism just isn’t covered by any of the staff. However, my specialism was actually created just down the road at Loughborough University, so it seemed a good idea to start there. A quick look through their website brought up a few potential PhD supervisors.

Sometimes it is hard to choose between them and at other times, there is one clear winner. In my case, I felt there was one the stood out against the others. So then came the tricky bit, the initial email. It feels really odd emailing a stranger and asking if you can spend the next three years working with them, but after a lot of typing, deleting and typing again, I decided the best way is to keep it simple. I said who I am, what I am doing now and what I want to do for my project. I was really happy when I had an offer to meet replied straight back.

I’d been given various bits of advice beforehand, such as making sure they are somebody you could go down the pub with and just be yourself. However, it is still really hard to know what to expect from this first meeting and walking down a corridor bearing the names of people you have read about, who have been cited hundreds of times, made it a little hard to hold my nerve!

The actual meeting went really well though. This first meeting is to see how you can get your research to meet their interests. Although it is essential to read up on your potential supervisor before you go, it is also a chance for them to really explain in detail what they do. You may have already submitted a draft proposal, but do be prepared that you may need to totally change it. Use the meeting as a time to find something that interests you, fits with the supervisor’s own work and that will impress whatever funding body you are applying to. It’s a lot to do in a short meeting and I must admit I walked away with a totally different project idea, but one which I’m really excited about!

And now it is on to the next hurdle, applying for the funding…

Thinking about a PhD? Looking for PhD supervisor? There are a range of helpful resources online or you can book an appointment to see one of our advisers who specialise in postgraduate study. 

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