3 Tips for Better PhD Candidate and Principal Investigator Meetings

By ASN Staff

Principal investigators (PIs) are an integral part of the PhD student experience and they can offer a wealth of knowledge and experience that is worthwhile to utilize. The mentoring meetings offer an excellent opportunity to ask questions and round out your education, so it’s important to take advantage of the one-on-one opportunities.

Three tips or practices that help to optimize this time are:

1. “Asking the PI about all aspects of their job”. Don’t just focus on your studies or research, but ask them about things such as “interacting with journal editors and recruiting lab members”. These are things that you won’t otherwise have an opportunity to learn about, but are excellent things to be aware of once you complete your PhD and reach the next step.

2. “Preparing an agenda for each meeting”. By having a list of topics to address during the limited time, you can ensure that you will actually get advice and learn about the topics you’re most in need of assistance with or simply most curious about. Even start the meetings with the phrase “’I made a list of topics I wanted to talk to you about’”. Chances are, the PI will appreciate having a set agenda for the conversation. It can also help you to introduce uncomfortable topics. Since it’s on the list of topics to address, it’s more difficult to simply forget or avoid bringing up.

3. “Negotiating new experiments without explicitly saying ‘no’”. If your PI suggests new experiments or a different take on an experiment you’re pursuing, try not to quickly dismiss their ideas. Although it may not work for your goals or otherwise not fit your ideas, their advice or ideas may entail something you hadn’t yet thought about that may assist in your current or future experiments.

It’s important to take full advantage of the opportunity to sit down with your principal investigator and the above tips can help those meetings be more enlightening and flow more smoothly.

For more information, please visit Nature’s Career Column.

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Principal investigators (PIs) are an integral part of the PhD student experience and they can offer a wealth of knowledge and experience that is worthwhile to utilize. The mentoring meetings offer an excellent opportunity to ask questions and round out your education, so it’s important to take advantage of the one-on-one opportunities.

Three tips or practices that help to optimize this time are:

1. “Asking the PI about all aspects of their job”. Don’t just focus on your studies or research, but ask them about things such as “interacting with journal editors and recruiting lab members”. These are things that you won’t otherwise have an opportunity to learn about, but are excellent things to be aware of once you complete your PhD and reach the next step.

2. “Preparing an agenda for each meeting”. By having a list of topics to address during the limited time, you can ensure that you will actually get advice and learn about the topics you’re most in need of assistance with or simply most curious about. Even start the meetings with the phrase “’I made a list of topics I wanted to talk to you about’”. Chances are, the PI will appreciate having a set agenda for the conversation. It can also help you to introduce uncomfortable topics. Since it’s on the list of topics to address, it’s more difficult to simply forget or avoid bringing up.

3. “Negotiating new experiments without explicitly saying ‘no’”. If your PI suggests new experiments or a different take on an experiment you’re pursuing, try not to quickly dismiss their ideas. Although it may not work for your goals or otherwise not fit your ideas, their advice or ideas may entail something you hadn’t yet thought about that may assist in your current or future experiments.

It’s important to take full advantage of the opportunity to sit down with your principal investigator and the above tips can help those meetings be more enlightening and flow more smoothly.

For more information, please visit Nature’s Career Column.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018