Monday, October 18, 2010

There is no perfect Ph.D project

Students tend to pick the topic not the supervisor. This is a mistake. A colleague once said to me "students are very good at picking bad supervisors."

My view is you should find a supervisor who will train you to do good research. Later you can pursue your own very particular interests and tastes, if you have the opportunity. Pursuing them as a novice at the Ph.D level is usually the kiss of career death.

You need to own your project, whatever it is. Don't wait for your supervisor to make it work. If your project seems a struggle, a bit boring at times, .... welcome to research! If it was a breeze and exciting someone else would probably have already done it!
It is your responsibility to find what works and what does not. If you do make progress, solve a problem, or discover something new and unexpected you will find that in itself may be a greater reward than pursuing your favourite topic which you thought would be interesting.


  1. I agree. Supervisor, then topic. A well-funded lab helps, depending on how ambitious the project is.

  2. What makes a good supervisor ... I was lucky I had two - one got the money the other the paper hankies. Be strong and finish it whatever you do

  3. I think that first come your motivation...then a supervisor and a fresh/virgin topic...