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Finding an Advisor or what to do after your Prelims

After your Prelims you should already know what area of research you want to work in. Usually that revelation comes after taking a class you really enjoyed.

  • Taking 280 classes is a good way to explore the research areas you could be interested in.
  • If none of the classes caught your interest, attend the seminars or check the papers on faculty websites or ask senior PhD students for advice.

The standard procedure then is to approach the instructor of the class (or other faculty member working in the same area) and ask for a reading course on a topic that you're both interested in.

  • Reading courses usually count for 1-2 academic units (3 if the faculty member feels generous).
  • It's a good idea to form a group with your friends to do the reading course together.
  • Don't hesitate to approach any faculty member. Teaching you and helping you on the research path is one of the reasons they took the faculty position.

After a quarter or two of reading courses you should be able to tell if the faculty member fits your research interests and work ethic.

  • Faculty members have different work ethic: can give you all the research problems or let you find your own problems, can be too personal or too professional, can give you too much feedback (negative or positive) or not give you feedback at all. All this counts when trying to find an appropriate advisor. Find a person you would be comfortable working with, otherwise the stress would hurt you in the long run.
  • Go to List of Advisors to find senior PhD students working with the professor. They would be happy to talk about their advisor in detail.

Together with your to-be advisor, you pick an open problem you want to work on, and that problem becomes the basis of your Qualifying Exam. That's why you must pick an advisor at least 6 months before your Qual, meaning you start taking reading courses a year before the Qual.

Here is what the graduate council has to say about the advisee/advisor relationship: Mentoring Guidelines

To see how to prepare for the Qual, go to The Qualifying Exam tab.

The timeline described here can be too late for some people. To find another version of the timeline, go to Wish I'd Known... tab.

findadvisor.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/17 10:52 by kirill