How to advise students – tips for the future self :)

I want to jog down some things that may be worth a try when I have students to advise, maybe in the far, far future, when I become a professor.

High Expectation

I think one of the most valuable things that a mentor can give an advisee is idealism. Your students will not grow if you do not have high expectation on them. Sometimes, to a certain extent, the higher expectation you have on them, the more successful they will be (of course, based on a healthy way of communication and advising).

Something I learned from my own advisor, one of the most healthy way of communicating that you have high expectation for your students and advisees’ work, is, instead of telling them directly about this expectation or standard, showing them how high standard you have for your work. Of course this is more demanding of you too, but it might also be a motivation for the advisor too.

Advise the advisor too.

I will let them give me at least three pieces of advise every month, in how they want to see me or the lab to change or improve on. This can be how I can better advise them (advising style, e.g. should I give them more ownership to the projects, or more/or less guidance); this can be about research direction, do they think I should pay more attention to a particular area or domain of research; do they have any suggestions in general on how to improve their life & work here. Reason for this is I think students don’t get to openly express this to their advisors a lot, and if it is going to five years, it is kind of important Ph.D. in a way is a working environment too.It is important to create this open pathways for communication in working environment in general.

To a Ph.D. student, the most important person in their work is probably their advisors. Students are equally important to professors too. I might tell the students, I may or may not be able to make changes in any promised amount of time. But no matter if these changes are made, it is better to get these feelings out because I am interested in hearing what you care about.

Interact with people around and create community

I will want to make sure that people in the same lab have frequent time to meet each other, create such opportunities that they can talk about communicate with each other. Seminar is a good way where people come in and pitch ideas on research. I heard in DELTA lab they set aside 1-2 hours every week so people can do pair work – (whoever need help or want to help on research, e.g. pilot study, giving feedback on writing pieces). Academic life and Ph.D. journey can get lonely, your cohort get you through a lot of this difficulty. Sometimes, even just being in the same common space, even if you don’t talk, you will feel less alone.

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