Choosing a PhD


Hi, I'm starting a PhD. Can I please get advice on how to choose where to go? Afterall it'll be a big committment for the next many years. I heard supervisors are important, but how will we know if we haven't worked with them, how can we find out? how much time are they supposed to spend with you? What about the institution, is it better to go to a large prestigious one or not? What would you advise in choosing the right PhD ? (health science biomedical field) thank you :)


Hey Lost,

Maybe a good place to start is by looking into websites like and, to see a topic you like and apply. Checking out the university websites and the local area might give you an idea about the environment you'd be working in and the facilities available. Also try and secure a couple of interviews and see the supervisor in person to find out more about them.

Best wishes,


======= Date Modified 29 May 2010 12:46:42 =======
Agree with CB, go and see a couple of potential supervisors, and see whether you would be able to work with them. I have been accepted to do a PhD at the department where I'm doing my MRes and during these two years I met quite a few lecturers, and some of them offered to supervise me when I mentioned that I would like to carry on with a PhD. So I kind of did the rounds, talked to all of them about my project, and it turned out that even though some of them were experts in my area, I didn't think I could have worked with them for 3+ years. I ended up with two great sups, though at the end of the process and cannot wait to start in September.


Hi Lost.

It's a good question you ask about supervisors! You probably meet them for an hour at most when you have an interview, so it can be tricky! Make sure when you go to interview to ask lots of questions as different supervisors will have different expectations. I had three supervisors (due to interdiscplinary topic) and I would see all of them for ten minutes once a week and then individually where I needed help. This ended up a case of seeing one of them for an hour, sometimes two, during my final year. But each will be different - some like to be more hands on and set up a weekly/monthly meeting, others are happy for you to see them when you're stuck instead of something formal. But ideally you should make sure they would want to see them at least once a month.

Also depends what you want to do after. Within academia people will know who is a good supervisor/department. Outside, nobody will care and will recognise the name of the institution. I say this because I work in private sector and it was a case of "oh you did your PhD at a decent Uni" and that was it.

But you need to be somewhere you feel comfortable. Go and have a look around the Unis your interested in if possible, either at open days or just even turn up and have a wander around.