Questions about my potential PhD advisor

In summary: The advisor can also offer help with letters of recommendation, CV writing, and so on.In summary, a more mature PhD advisor is likely a better choice than a younger one who would be still trying to establish his/her academic career. 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, and the professor's other commitments should also be taken into account.
  • #1
Alex_Walker
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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!
 
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  • #2
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
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?
 
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  • #4
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 to Questions about my potential PhD advisor

What should I consider when choosing a potential PhD advisor?

When choosing a potential PhD advisor, it is important to consider their research interests and expertise, their availability and communication style, their mentoring approach, and their track record of successful graduate students.

How can I find out more about a potential PhD advisor's research interests and expertise?

You can research a potential PhD advisor's publications, attend their talks or seminars, and reach out to their current or former graduate students to gain insight into their research interests and expertise.

What should I do if I am interested in working with a potential PhD advisor but they are not currently accepting new students?

If a potential PhD advisor is not currently accepting new students, you can express your interest in their research and ask if they have any upcoming projects or if they can recommend another faculty member who may be a good fit for your research interests.

How important is it to have a good relationship with my PhD advisor?

A good relationship with your PhD advisor is crucial for a successful graduate experience. It is important to have open communication, mutual respect, and a supportive and collaborative working relationship with your advisor.

What should I do if I am having issues with my PhD advisor?

If you are having issues with your PhD advisor, it is important to address them early on. Schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns and try to find a solution together. If necessary, you can also seek advice from other faculty members or the graduate program coordinator for guidance on how to handle the situation.

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