Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to be a Good Phd Advisor

I'm not sure how many PI's read this blog, but in case there are more than 1 of you, here's a couple tips on how to be a good advisor. These are totally based on New PhdAdvisor:

  1. 1. Be compassionate and talk to your students about things outside of science.
  2. 2. Be professional and maintain a professional relationship with your students (current advisor does not talk negatively about the other lab members / colleagues.
  3. Model good conflict resolution skills, people management skills. For example Mr. SM had been wanting that new TV for, like over a year. We finally purchased it because I wanted to watch the UFC match between GSP and BJ Penn (After watching it, I really don't know why I wanted to in the first place). I mentioned this to GradAdvisor prior to telling Mr.SM. She quickly advised me not to tell Mr.SM that I wanted to watch the fight. She reminded me that hubby really wants the TV and that not everything is about me. To be exact she said "tell your husband that you think he really deserves to buy the TV because he has been working hard and passed his exam." You are giving him permission to buy the TV that he wants, thereby making you the AWESOM wife. She reminded me that he doesn't need to know that I want the TV only that I want him to buy it for himself. You may think this is trivial but it she really does model and provide advice on how to deal with people so that you are able to get the outcome you want. Another example is when I was annoyed with the Daycare because they had decided to bring someone in to provide music classes for the kids at a cost of $15.00/per child. I was pissed because no one asked me (a) am I OK with my child participating in this and (b) whether I was willing to pay for it. I said to advisor, I am not saying that I don't want my kid to participate but I want to have the option to say no. She looked at me at said, "I agree SM you totally should tell them that you would like to have opportunity to say yes this is something I want for my child." Again it doesn't seem like much, but phrasing it the way she did would be more positive than how I said, even though we are saying the same thing. When discussing conflicts, saying things less agressively usually results in a better outcome because the other party is not put on the defensive. I really really appreciate GradAdvisors providing these learning opportunities.
  4. A couple weeks ago Grad Advisor told the scoop on some new data that was collected in our lab. She provided me with a hypothesis, some questions that needed to be tested and asked me design some experiments to test them. She is not spoon feeding me, nor is she throwing me in the deep end. She's thrown me the ball and asking me to run with. Once I have some ideas on some experiments, she'll help me find the holes and to optimize them. I have a way cool advisor.
As a teaser I heard this Guy talk, I'm sure a few of you physiologist types know who he is. :) He gave the most awesomest talk that I will summarize tomorrow... or maybe not cuz I really haven't told you about the MIL yet either!


JLK said...

Is your advisor a social psychologist? Cuz it sounds like she's at least been trained by one. LOL

Melanie said...

Did I not tell you that she ROCKS? :) Seriously, I have never heard anyone breathe anything truly negative about her. I'm so so so glad you wound up in her lab!

Mimi said...

WOW! You are one lucky duck. She should write a book.

drdra said...

This is a lovely post. It is incredibly important to learn people management, and it sounds like you have a great role model. It is a good idea to remember that the goal is to get what you want in the end, and to do that you don't necessarily have to be right... or to let people see/feel your frustration and anger.