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Weighing Your Adviser Options

Over at Bitesize Bio, Jode Plank dissects the decision-making process behind choosing a graduate adviser. "Do you want to work for the energetic assistant professor that joined the department last year, or go for the seasoned full professor with a twenty year history of training young scientists?" Plank asks. He opines the "good, the bad, and the ugly" ramifications of both choices. New assistant professors, he writes, "will be heavily invested in your success, since he or she is unlikely to be successful themselves if you flounder or fail." Newer academics are more likely to be working on "hot" research topics "since hiring committees aren't likely to hire someone proposing to start their career on a well-worn path," he says. On the flip-side, newly minted professors often haven't properly cultivated management skills, Plank says. "Working in a young lab can be exciting and rewarding, but make sure you are being trained, and aren't simply a tool that the assistant professor uses to gain tenure," he warns.

Choosing a full professor as an adviser is wise because they're more likely to run economically secure labs, they have a "system for training graduate students and running a laboratory that has evolved over time to create a functional environment," and, because "what you are doing isn't necessarily the key to the future of the lab…you are more likely to be given the time and independence to develop the project and yourself." Senior professors, however, are more likely to have a rigid management style, and may be less likely to work on cutting edge projects. The blogger says that some senior academics even view "their trainees as children whose behavior is simply an obstacle to research." At the end of his post, Plank offers tips for making the choice. Associate professors, the blogger notes, "can fall anywhere in between. ... The best way to determine if you will be happy in a well established lab is simply to talk to the current lab members."

The Scan

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