PhD: Review your ‘Supervisor’ before the literature review

Why PhD? Firstly one has the luxury of adding Dr. to his/her title which is amazing. It’s the highest level of academic achievement one can have. One has the opportunity to work with the exciting research team using cutting edge research techniques, have the opportunity to develop valuable therapeutics and skills in the respective area of research. One gets to interact with leading researchers and scientists all over the world through national and international conferences. One develops the quality of finding answers to any problem as it enhances your critical thinking ability, decision making aptitude and of all one get to learn how to overcome failures and move ahead.

But apart from all these factors, the decision of pursuing a PhD is not an easy one. It requires commitments of hard work, time, energy and many more. It can be extremely stressful at times when your results are not favourable, multiple failures thus unsuccessful project, the stress of publication etc. A recent editorial published in Nature cell biology naming ‘A PhD state of mind’ talks about such PhD blues. Nature in 2017 performed a survey on the life and career aspirations of 5,700 PhD scholars worldwide. The survey reported that only three-quarter of the participants was satisfied with their PhD programme whereas more than a quarter have issues with their mental health with 12% of them have sought help for depression and anxiety during their PhD studies. The editorial talks about many other surveys where they have linked academia and PhD to a greater risk of experiencing mental health issues.

Of all the mentioned points, having a mentor who does not cooperate will surely make life miserable. A PhD supervisor-student relationship is very important for a healthy PhD. When this relationship between the two is neither efficient nor effective, it surely results into negative consequences which are mentioned earlier. Conducting literature survey and preliminary research before choosing the topic of research is primarily a responsibility of PhD students, but the suggestions and advice of an experienced and supportive mentor are very critical. Firstly know your supervisor’s area of expertise and how much excellence he/she has achieved in it. A mentor lacking research knowledge, ethical considerations and insensitive to the students will surely make things hectic. If you come across someone narrating their PhD success stories, the first thing one will speak about will be their PhD mentor and their wonderful relationship with him. A failed experiment can be repeated with full enthusiasm and positivity if you receive motivating words from your mentor. A good mentor will support you in every step of your PhD. He will be discussing your work progress time to time, improve your analysis skills and will ultimately help in overcoming the pressure of PhD world. So how does one find out the perfect mentor that has all the mentioned qualities one is looking for? The best option is to go and personally meet the supervisor, have a scientific discussion with some relevant research area. Try to have a chat with current and majorly previous students of the lab, try to get insight about the nature and behavior of the mentor. Always look into the year wise publications and scientific activities of the mentor one is thinking of joining. Ultimately a good and healthy relationship with your mentor can last lifetime and will open several opportunities for the future endeavors. So take time to review your supervisor carefully and make your doctoral journey a great success.

Kavita rawat

Kavita Rawat is a Senior Research Fellow (SRF) at Department of Zoology, University of Delhi, her research focus is Cell signalling and Molecular Immunology.


1 thought on “PhD: Review your ‘Supervisor’ before the literature review

  1. A must read article by Kavita Rawat. I did same before enrolling into PhD programme. My supervisor is the best supervisor of the world and I am extremely happy to be associated with him. 😊

    Neeraj Joshi
    Junior Research Fellow
    Department of Statistics
    University of Delhi



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