a student and supervisor in the lab

Doctoral students and their supervisors work together to produce ground-breaking and quality research

Doctoral students and their supervisors are jointly responsible for working together to adhere to the College time-frame of 4 years between registration and submission of the PhD thesis.

Although the relationship is one of cooperation and working together, both student and supervisors have individual responsibilities and expectations of each other, as detailed below.

Responsibilities and expectations of students and supervisors

For prospective students: Useful information to ask your proposed supervisor

Choosing a research project and supervisor that best fits your scientific interests is fundamental when thinking about where to apply to study for a research degree. Once you have discussed the research project with your supervisor, you may which to discuss other aspects of Imperial and supervision which will contribute to your overall experience.

The document in the following link is intended to help you explore what it is like to carry out research at Imperial College London in your chosen research field and suggests topics you may wish to discuss with your proposed supervisor when you visit the College - Guidance for Postgraduate Research Applicants

Supervisors expect you to:

  1. Take responsibility for your thesis - in the end it is your work and your supervisors are here to help you accomplish your research objectives, but not to do the thinking for you!
  2. Work hard - a research degree cannot be accomplished with only a 9-5 effort. Imperial is a top ranking  University and we expect that students will strive to accomplish good work.
  3. Display initiative - ultimately, the person who drives the process and strives to understand the research area is you. We expect you to be curious about your work and to think about how other ideas/work have an impact on the research you are doing. In light of this, it is a requirement for you to attend all lab meetings, work in progress etc plus other seminars. TO BE A SCIENTIST - YOU SHOULD BE CURIOUS ABOUT SCIENCE!
  4. Write papers (this is dependent on field of study) before you have submitted your thesis. The process of writing enables you to develop skills which are useful when writing up your thesis, and the fact that you have had papers refereed/accepted by International journals satisfies the external examiner that you have what it takes!
  5. Be self-critical of your own work and results, and use these skills in being sceptical of results in the literature.
  6. Help colleagues (especially less experienced ones) in the laboratory to learn through discussions and demonstrations.
  7. Keep up with the literature in your field.
  8. Provide regular reports detailing your results - you should be conscientious about keeping a laboratory notebook and regularly entering all your data into tables and Excel spreadsheets.
  9. Be aware of safety at all times and follow safety procedures, especially if you are working in a laboratory.
  10. Develop your skills and learn new ones by attending the transferable skills courses and lectures provided by the Graduate School, your own and other College departments/divisions/faculties and by any other external providers.

Students can expect supervisors to:

  1. Be supportive of you both intellectually and personally;
  2. Set up a viable project and ensure that you have a clear idea of aims and objectives and an initial work-plan;
  3. Provide an adequate work space for you;
  4. Be available (or provide an identified substitute) to talk about research problems at relatively short notice although, at certain times of the year, you may need to give a few days notice;
  5. Help and guide you extensively in your first year; help you in your second year; and be a sounding board in your third year. The help is tapered as you develop confidence in your own abilities and research skills, to enable you to learn to work more on your own and to make more of your own decisions;
  6. Help develop your skills in technical writing, oral presentations, problem definition, statistical data analysis and critical literature reviews;
  7. Help enable you to attend at least one conference to present a paper;
  8. Provide adequate funds and/or facilities for your research project;
  9. Read your thesis thoroughly and make constructive comments on both style and intellectual content.