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Graduate student relationship with supervisor

  1. Mar 4, 2008 #1
    I'm graduating soon and as part of the university's requirements, I have to leave feedback regarding my supervisor's supervision of me.

    I hope to leave feedback that is fair and constructive, so would like to hear your comments about my experience.

    (1) When I enrolled, I took up my supervisor's project proposal, who set the general topic but left me alone to set the direction. Nevertheless this was settled fairly quickly with agreement from both parties.

    (2) Through the course, I had to clear many of their misconceptions and gaps in their understanding & basic knowledge in certain fields. Like they say, "I'm sorry I don't know much about this" and I'm left stumped because the subject in question is part and parcel of such a field.

    (3) I found this particularly challenging because I had to pick up almost all the knowledge myself - there wasn't a single graduate-level course in my department that helped. kinda like a multidisplinary project.

    (4) Needless to say, I was led on many dead-ends, and I went through some dead-ends on my own.

    (5) However they did give me excellent feedback on my communication skills.

    Comments welcome!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2008 #2
    Items 2-4 are pretty typical of the experience of most Ph.D. students, I think. Item 2 is the reason why professors hire graduate students instead of doing all of the research themselves, and item 3 & 4 are pretty much the nature of original research.
  4. Mar 4, 2008 #3
    great, thanks so much!
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2008
  5. Mar 4, 2008 #4


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    Upon entering grad school I got the following advice from a friendly post-doc:
    "By the time you finish, you will be the world's expert on whatever little slice of physics you choose to study. It's lonely because there will be very few people who care about, let alone know about, your specialized topic. But it's the greatest experience there is."
  6. Mar 4, 2008 #5
    yes, it was particularly lonely for me because the rest of the people in my lab were pure engineering grad students, while i had one foot in physics. not to mention that I had to develop my own computational tools, while the rest of them had commercial Finite Element Software to use. no prizes for guessing who is the longest-serving grad student there now :)

    I guess what i found most challenging was that in order to communicate all these technical stuff, I had to first learn them and know them to some depth. Being one foot in physics without a formal physics background (mine's in engineering) added to the challenge.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2008
  7. Mar 4, 2008 #6


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    Personally, I haven't found anything my professor doesn't know yet. I'm sure there are lots he doesn't know, but he seems to know his field through and through and more! Which is awesome.

    I would guess heading into dead-ends is normal (I start next year) and that you will need to learn stuff on your own even if your prof. knows about it. Your supervisor won't have the time to teach you everything he knows.
  8. Mar 4, 2008 #7
    For the first two years of my studies I had all sorts of dead-ends. All my supervisor could say was "I can't publish all these negative results". After that it took a bit of luck to keep him happy on that respect (ie. publishing papers) as I managed to find something else to do that could give good results while I sorted out the first issue.
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