The Sassy Scientist – Continual Conclave

The Sassy Scientist – Continual Conclave

Jay likes to put in a couple of continuous hours on his project. No distractions. No students. No nothing. Nothing, but focus and progress. And then his supervisor wants to talk. Again. He grumbles:

How often should you meet with your supervisor as a PhD student?

Dear Jay,

Unfortunately there is no one-fits-all answer to this here question. It simply depends on the PhD student. And the supervisor. And the project. Obviously.

That said, you shouldn’t expect the meeting recurrence time to stay the same throughout the duration of your project. In the beginning, both of you are testing the waters; personalities are unknown in a new professional relationship. So are the skill sets both parties bring to the table, especially those on the communicative side of the spectrum. At the start, it will thus not be a surprise you’ll come across your supervisor quite often.

After finding your grooves, the need for a check-up every fortnight becomes obsolete. Until you find some new experiences for which you could use some guidance, like writing a paper, presenting at a conference, joining larger research efforts, or jumping into new research avenues. Then a new cycle of decreasing lengths of meeting intervals starts.

When you’ve passed about half the duration of your project, you as a fully-functional PhD student should be able to do your research fairly independently, with real meetings every other month or so. I’m not talking about a quick update on your latest results during lunch or mentioning some new emails and papers at the coffee corner. I’m talking about fundamental changes to your chosen research path. A path which you’ve cemented yourself, in concert with your supervisor, on the basis of old information. So updates are natural, often possible yet not always necessary.

On the home stretch things might change just once again. You know, the ol’ writing of the thesis. Some constructive criticism, guiding words and recurrent face time is simply a must have for every soon-to-be-PhD to experience. So, a little mayhem at the end of this rollercoaster of continual conclave wouldn’t go amiss.

Do you not recognize this natural development of the supervisor meeting life cycle? You’ve got a weird relationship with your supervisor. Are you insecure? Are they? Are they never around? Are you? One thing you could try out yourselves in case you’re insecure about your own supervisor meeting interval is ask around your (international) colleagues and find out you’re doing just fine.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written without supervision.

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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