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The priceless value of an experienced supervisor

When I began my PhD almost 3 years ago, I had a vague idea of how it would work. Up until then, I been working as a financial consultant and mortgage agent - both as a part of a team and as a team manager. Embarking on a completely different and unknown path, I was ready to endure the ups and downs of a 3 year long research project. There have been times when it felt as though the world would collapse over my head. Deadlines and poor results don’t go hand in hand...

One thing I have definitely learnt over the past 30-ish months is that “things don’t work until they work”. It’s a very different approach to what I was used before. Solving a problem in a linear way, knowing exactly how to do it, is one thing. Trying to solve a problem that was never solved before, without knowing where to start, is another. I have to acknowledge the invaluable help I constantly received from my supervisor. Weekly (sometimes bi-weekly!) meetings and discussions helped me gain the confidence I needed to test my own ideas and theories. This type of guidance is completely different from someone simply telling you what to do, or expecting you to deliver by cracking the whip. It genuinely creates a healthy environment in which cooperation is the key to success.

I am truly thankful to my supervisor who was always there for me, as I am aware that this is not always the case for some PhD students. My take-home message is: if you don’t have a good relationship with your supervisor, if they don’t devote some of their time to you, then take responsibility and use some good communication skills to avoid clashing with them. It's in both of your interests to construct a lasting relationship. This can only translate into a profitable outcome for both of you.

Alvin Pastore, PhD student (Computer Science)
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