By Amruta Pai
One of the first overwhelming tasks any new Ph.D. candidate faces is that of choosing an advisor. Not only is it exciting but it plays a crucial role in our graduate life as well. Few graduate students are gifted with the clear understanding of the kind of research they want to do but there are a lot of us who do not have a clue initially. Here at Rice ECE, we do not need to make up our minds before starting school.
Before our qualifiers in the spring semester, we get an entire semester to interact with the various faculties at Rice ECE as well as other departments. The best way to find the right advisor is to not narrow down your choices. Do not just look into fields you are currently working in but also consider areas different from the one you might have previously worked in. Some students end up working in fields which are completely new to them.
Every advisor has weekly group meetings with their students. Attending these meetings not only gives you an insight on the various projects going on in the group but it also gives you the opportunity to imagine if you can work with that faculty or not. It is necessary to ask yourself that question because the recipe for a successful graduate life is effective communication with your advisor. You need to figure out what kind of an advisor is most suitable for you. For example, do you want your advisor to meet with you weekly or let you decide when to meet him? Every faculty has their own unique way of interacting with their students. Hence finding the advisor that matches your interests shall help you a lot ahead.
Also, talk to as many students in research groups you are interested in. Senior graduate students can give you the sincerest guidance possible and they obviously know what they are talking about. Along with faculty, other students in the research group should play an important role while finalizing your decision. You will have to work side by side with these graduate students for the upcoming most important years of your life. Thus, choosing a research group that matches your personality helps you walk down the Ph.D. path a little more easily.
One can always approach faculty and try working on a small project to test the waters before fully committing to the group. This exercise provides an early research opportunity and also lets you get to know the faculty and vice versa. If you manage to make up your mind, getting an early start for your qualifiers will always help you in the end.
Amruta is a second-year graduate student working with Dr. Ashutosh Sabharwal and Dr. Ashok Veeraraghavan in the Scalable Health Group. Currently,Â she is working on a project about extracting vital sign like heart rate variability using a camera. She hopes her project will help measure our mental and physical health easily. During her free time, she is either reading fiction novels or painting. Read more about Amruta's research here.