Questions about my potential PhD advisor

  • #1
I am considering a PhD program in Physics, and my prospective advisor is a more mature faculty member (full professor, late career). I am really interested in the field of study, and the advisor's students speak really highly of their experiences.

Are there any advantages or disadvantages to doing a PhD with someone who is an late-career advisor such as this? My goal after completing my PhD is to be competitive for postdocs and, ultimately (long-shot, I know), to secure a faculty position. With this goal in mind, what should I look for in an advisor in general?

Thank you for your advice!
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
12,836
6,717
I think a mature PhD advisor is likely a better choice than a younger one who would be still trying to establish his/her academic career with cutting edge research.

The younger PhD would be more focused on the research and less so on the students working on it.

I knew a friend who got caught in the backwash of a research focused PhD who initially was interested in the work he was doing and then moved on to some other hot topic and pretty much ignored the hapless grad student.

He wasn’t alone there were others who got so frustrated they left the university believing they would never get their PhD while remaining in the program.

Eventually, the dept chair had to step in when one of the senior faculty asked why this prof wasn't graduating any of his grad students.
 
  • #3
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,687
1,860
Generally speaking, you want to make sure that you have a frank conversation about what your graduate program is going to look like over it's entire duration. If he or she is planning to retire fully in 2 years, what's the plan for your supervision over a PhD, that's likely to last 4-6 years? But this goes for any professor, regardless of career stage. Someone who is new might decide to pack up and move across the country if an opportunity comes up. It's important that the supervisor and student both formally discuss the duration of the commitment.

It's also important to discuss things like expectations: what milestones are reasonable to aim for? How much independence can you expect as a student? How much are you comfortable with? (Both in terms of day-to-day work and project definition.) Formal weekly meetings or informal hallway chats at random? How will you be supported over the duration of the degree? When will that support run out?

Other things to consider are the professor's other commitments. What committees are they on? How many other graduate students do they have? Where have their previous students ended up?
 
  • #4
caz
Gold Member
368
307
An established professor can be a remarkable asset in getting a job post-graduation. While not the only thing, networks can be incredibly important.
 

Related Threads on Questions about my potential PhD advisor

  • Poll
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
5K
Replies
2
Views
5K
Replies
10
Views
11K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
4
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
3K
Top