Forming your PhD committee

I’m finally at a point where my supervisor wants to start talking about who will be on my PhD committee. Which is good, as it means I’m sort of making progress.

At my university, your PhD Committee needs to be composed of:

  • Your supervisor.
  • Two other professors in your department.
  • A professor from another department.
  • A professor from another university.

Depending on the size of your department, the committee may be hard to form just to have enough people to choose from. Add to this, you also need to choose your committee wisely.

You want/need people who are both interested in your research and knowledgeable about the areas your researching. They need to be able to ask you intelligent questions about what you’re doing and actually be able to judge whether or not you are successful.

I have an extra hurdle in that my research is somewhat interdisciplinary – which I really like about my research. However, there are some people who have a very strict definition of what counts as a reasonable <subject> dissertation. So, when making my committee we also need to focus on selecting committee members who are willing to look and consider a interdisciplinary dissertation.

After talking with my supervisor, we’ve decided that I’m going to work on a short thesis proposal or thesis description. We can then use this document to a) get feedback from others on on topic and b) gauge interest/ability to be on my committee. I’m actually looking forward to working on this, as I find writing things down helps cement and clarify ideas.

As I can’t go through candidacy until I have a committee, and the committee somewhat depends on this document, I need to get on it. While also finishing preparing for (and then executing) my user study. So lots to do.

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