Criteria to consider when choosing PhD institution (research)

In summary: They may have some great ideas about a project you're thinking of doing, but they need to be able to trust you to take on that project and give you the time and attention it deserves. Finally, be honest about what you're capable of and what you're looking for in a graduate program. Some programs are more hands-on than others, and some professors are more lenient with time commitments. Likewise, be honest about what you're expecting from the program in terms of support, both in terms of financial and mentorship.
  • #1
martin_blckrs
43
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I'm currently in the process of deciding where to go for my PhD studies (in Europe, i.e. I already have a masters, PhD is then just research).
I wonder what are the criteria I should consider when making the decision?
Of course active research in the area I want to study is in the first place, but what else? I guess having a lot of seminars/workshops/conferences is also a vital thing.
Is there anything else I should look at when I make the decision?
 
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  • #2
In no particular order:
- potential supervisors - spend time talking with/interviewing them, find out: how often they meet with graduate students, whether they meet formally or informally, how many students they supervised in the past, expectations of student performance (it's surprising how many people sign on without considering such things)
- PhD program itself - course requirements, candidacy and/or comprehensive exam, examination format, thesis format
- the city where you will be located
- renumeration/financial support - availability of TAs, RAs, scholarships
- opinions of graduate students in the department
- university facilities - both research related and recreational
- where recent graduates of the program are going
 
  • #3
Thanks for the advice!
So how should one interview potential supervisors? Should one do this before applying or after having obtained a decision?
 
  • #4
martin_blckrs said:
Thanks for the advice!
So how should one interview potential supervisors? Should one do this before applying or after having obtained a decision?

Ideally, you should visit a potential graduate school before applying. Make sure that people know you're coming and try to book some time with professors who will be accepting graduate students. (You can figure out who those my be by emailing the graduate advisor or the associate chair in charge of graduate students).

When you have time, be polite and professional and find out as much as you can about potential projects they have. As I said, try to ask what they expect from graduate students so far as time committments, what is required for a PhD thesis (ie. some will say you require n publications, others will be more project specific), how many students they've had in the past, general outlines of potential projects, sources of funding, how much time they have for graduate students (ie. a professor with ten grad students of her own on five different departmental committees and who regularly teaches three courses will have less time to devote to individual students than the professor who has a single student and minimal other committments).

They will interview you as well, but it's important to remember that the process goes two ways, even if at times it may seem a little intimidating. Keep in mind that you're trying to find the best match for the both of you. Essentially, in a supervisor, you're looking for a mentor.
 

Related to Criteria to consider when choosing PhD institution (research)

What factors should I consider when choosing a PhD institution for research?

There are several important factors to consider when choosing a PhD institution for research, including the reputation and ranking of the university, the availability of funding and resources, the faculty and research opportunities in your field of study, the location and campus culture, and the potential for collaboration and networking.

How important is the reputation and ranking of the university for my research career?

The reputation and ranking of the university can greatly impact your research career. A higher-ranked institution may offer better resources, funding, and networking opportunities, and may also carry more weight in terms of credibility and recognition in your field of study. However, it is important to also consider other factors, such as the specific research opportunities and faculty expertise at each institution.

What types of funding and resources should I look for in a PhD institution?

When choosing a PhD institution for research, it is important to consider the availability of funding and resources to support your research. This can include scholarships, grants, and assistantships, as well as access to state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, and technology. It is also important to consider the support and mentorship opportunities provided by the institution.

How do I determine if the faculty at a PhD institution align with my research interests?

One way to determine if the faculty at a PhD institution align with your research interests is to review their publications, research projects, and areas of expertise. You can also reach out to current students or alumni in your field of study to get a better understanding of the faculty's research focus and their mentorship style.

Is it important to consider the location and campus culture when choosing a PhD institution for research?

The location and campus culture of a PhD institution can have a significant impact on your overall experience and well-being during your research journey. It is important to consider factors such as the cost of living, proximity to research opportunities and collaborations, and the overall campus environment and community. It is also important to consider if the institution offers resources and support for international or out-of-state students.

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