Grad School Visits - some advice

I am at the airport, waiting for my flight home after the first semester of my PhD. This time last year I was visiting prospective labs; for any anyone starting that process now I want to share questions you should consider asking prospective advisors and lab mates!

First, most important: Are you happy? This is a question for everyone you meet! You can ask more specific things like: Are you happy in this lab, in this department, in this city? People will be honest, and you can start to get an idea if you would be happy there.

Another good general question: What changes do you see occurring in the lab/department in the near future? For me, this helped to get a sense of department priorities. I was looking for answers around diversity & inclusion, because we can all do better.

Some questions for advisors. What makes up a PhD? What is your mentoring style? What do you expect from students day to day? How are students typically supported? How do students fund their theses/dissertations? How do you maintain work life/balance?

Q’s for potential labmates. All the questions from ⬆️, get their perspective on advisor. What is time to graduation? Where are recent grads working? Is there collaboration within/between labs? Is there travel support, for field or conferences? What is the lab/office space?

General grad students q’s. How accessible/social are faculty? What is the process to candidacy & defense? What do you teach? Where do you live? How affordable is the city? Do you feel prepared for job market?

Make sure to ask about things that are going to be important for your research or career: training for teaching, or available supercomputing, or what lab equipment is available. What classes are offered and do the students like them?

But of course, probably don’t ask everyone all of these questions. Make sure to ask people about themselves, about their research and what they do outside of the lab! Have fun and try to make some new connections.

**This was originally posted on my Twitter: @kpmercier

Written on January 24, 2019