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From the Chemical Engineer's wife

My husband has been begging me for quite some time already to write a post here in his blog. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I personally think you guys out there prefers to here from him than from me. Out of his mountainous work load, he seems like the busiest men on earth. Despite of him trying his hardest to update, sometimes he can’t catch up. So here I am, writing my two cents worth…..

I am now in my fourth semester of my Chemical Engineering Phd in a local university (Malaysia). It is not the most joyous experience for me. Since I was little, I hate studying. I have to do this one just because my faculty wouldn’t let anybody off without a PhD. What a bugger. However, it is not as heavy as doing my first degree back in England as I don’t have to attend classes or any exams..what a relief. The hardest part is getting myself organized and focused.

My supervisors are both very helpful and they do not force me to do anything. They just let me be independent. I don’t have to see them every week and they don’t even bother if I don’t see them for months…hahaha. There are goods and bads in that. The good part is that you don’t have to work like a horse in meeting their target and you don’t feel pressured. However, the danger is that you will be progressing very slowly. You will not be writing papers (journal, conferences), your experiments went on in a slow pace and you will be jeopardizing you PhD. Therefore, the key is discipline!! No matter what kind of supervisor you have, just discipline yourself and have your own set of targets. If your supervisor is the pushy type of person, just work with him/her and do everything he/she asked for. If your supervisor just let you be, arrange appointments to see them to discuss your targets/progress/plan. They wouldn’t say no, they just want you to work on your own pace. So if you think you are not a highly disciplined person, choose a supervisor that can make you work for it.

The relationship between student and supervisor is often difficult to orchestrate. Some supervisors treat their students as colleagues and friends, others prefer to maintain a formal teacher-pupil relationship. In any case, your PhD supervisor will be an important figure in your life for at least the next three years. Your PhD will inevitably affect the rest of your career, so take some time to consider not just what and where you'd like to research, but who you'd like to work with.

Here are some tips on How to Choose your PhD Supervisor.

1. If you’re doing your PhD in the department where you're doing your first degree or where you are currently lecturing, just ask these questions: Does he know your name? Can you face another three years of his jokes? If you're already calling him 'Uncle Keith' it may be time to move on.

2. If you’re doing your PhD in another institute:

- Approach someone whose work you know from the literature. It's important that there won't be a major clash of interests and personalities.

- Look around the department and assess your potential supervisor's standing. (if you could go)

- Talk to his other students (emails are also ok). Are they relaxed, confident and busy or do they have a glazed expression and a compulsion to look over their shoulders? Have they published single author papers? First author papers? At all?

- Communicate with him through emails. If he always answered your emails between lecture tour of Japan and a conference in Brazil, will you ever see him?

Hopefully this would be useful for those planning to do their PhD. Good Luck…

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posted by zura @ 11:02 AM,


At Saturday, October 27, 2007, Blogger naza sundae said...

hai, my name is naza,a chemE student.
it's my first time to leave comment though i'm quite regular here. Love your blog. (^-^)

Owh yea, thank for the tips. It will be useful for student like me to choose the right supervisor.

Do you have some tips about choosing specialisation??

At Saturday, October 27, 2007, Blogger Kipas Repair JB said...

Glad you like the blog...

On behalf of my wife, she'll make a post on choosing specialization later....hopefully soon.

At Saturday, October 27, 2007, Blogger naza sundae said...

Thanks for the effort.
Cant wait to read the next post.

At Sunday, October 28, 2007, Blogger Kipas Repair JB said...

Thanks to you to....


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The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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