How did you pick your supervisor?

I was thinking recently about how I ended up with my supervisor. And to be honest, I’m not really sure how it all came about.

One of the reasons I picked the university I’m at, is that in my department, when you start as a Master’s student, you don’t start assigned to a supervisor. Instead, the goal is to spend the first eight months (while you do courses) to find and choose a supervisor. That’s not to say that many students don’t come “attached” to a supervisor. But it means for some of us, we “shop” and see what’s going on. We attend different research group meetings, and talk with different professors about the projects they have. We also attend a course where many of the professors come and present about their research.

I guess there’s a downside to this arrangement, as it’s possible that you a) may not find a supervisor you connect with; b) may not find a project that you’re interested in; c) that you feel so disconnected from the department, that it’s easy to not finish. However, I don’t know anyone (in my department) who’s dropped out of their master’s.

I think it’s really important who you end up with for a supervisor for a few reasons:

  1. If you don’t like your supervisor, you’ll have a hard time talking with him/her about any problems your having. This means minor issues can quickly become major problems.
  2. You need to be able to count on your supervisor to help you get you through your research. This includes helping give you direction, someone to bounce ideas off, reminding you when you’re not being productive enough.
  3. You need a project that both you and your supervisor are interested in.  If you end up with a project your supervisor is only semi-interested in, it’ll be more difficult to get the mentoring you need on the project from him or her.
It’s also really important that you like your project your working on. If you don’t, it’s easy to lose all motivation and not finish, or to get very apathetic and not put in 100% on your work.
In the end, I saw the presentation by my supervisor and liked how there was a connection between what he was doing an education (an interest of mine). I went and talked with him. I also started attending the research meetings. We met and talked about what kind of research I was interested in and were able to come up with a project that fit in with his research and my interests.
How did you end up with your supervisor? Did you seek him or her out? Or did they seek you out?
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