Meeting with your supervisor

Hopefully you meet often with your supervisor. Over the course of my grad school career, for me this has fluctuated from once a week to once every two weeks depending on where I am in my research. We may meet more often should we be in the middle of writing a paper, have an experiment to discuss or some other important topic has come up. And, we may miss a meeting should one of us be out of town or there’s nothing to discuss (like when I was in the middle of classes).

We did a poll once during a meeting of the graduate students in my department to see how often they meet with the supervisor. The consensus was that most of us meet at least once a month, with a large percentage of us meeting more often.

The reason I bring this topic up, is that it’s important to be in constant contact with your supervisor. This may just be through email or phone calls, but it’s better to be face to face every once in a while. There’s something to face-to-face conversation that can’t be replicated in other forms.

Your supervisor is suppose to be a cross between a mentor and your boss. You’re there to do work for them, but at the same time, they’re there to help teach you the ropes and the skills you need to succeed in academia.

If you’re not in constant contact with your supervisor, it can end up being a problem. If you don’t feel like you can approach your supervisor, who are you going to talk to when there are problems with your research? When your topic falls apart? When you don’t know how to analyze some of your results?

There are lots of different types of relationships students have with their supervisors. I know some who rarely to never see theirs (and usually these relationships are at least somewhat problematic). The next, is those like me, who meet their supervisor every few weeks or more often. I also know others who are invited to their supervisors houses for meals and holidays.

What ever level of contact you have, it’s important to feel comfortable approaching your supervisor about any problems you are having. If you don’t feel like you can do this, or you have difficulty even getting a hold of your supervisor, I highly recommend talking to the grad chair in your department. A bad supervisor/student relationship can make it much harder to finish your degree and possibly impossible. I do know of friends who have dropped out of their program because of this problem.


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