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Supervisor Jan's story

Jan is a professor in an interdisciplinary area including both science and social science, which means that he has experience of supervision in different academic environments and cultures. He emphasises that external conditions have a significant impact on how supervision can be conducted.

He sees great differences in supervision where research is done in laboratories, in comparison to that in which reading and writing are central skills. The projects he has supervised in laboratories often include a large number of people, where everyone to some extent is dependent on each other. Jan has noticed the pressures which this leads to for the PhD students he is supervising to do their share of laboratory work. Even though he emphasises that mistakes in the research process can be tough, and working in a team helpful to limit such mistakes, the dependence on other researchers can sometimes be stressful for the PhD students.

Another problem related to this is that of how far the individual ambitions and aspirations of an individual PhD student correlate with the project. Jan was involved in accepting a PhD in a smaller, externally financed project where the PhD student turned out to be more interested in other questions which could not be included in the large, funded project.

This led to considerable strain when the PhD student wanted to develop his research in another direction, both in terms of the relationship with Jan and that with the project. Time passed and finance was consumed while no substantial results were produced because of this. Eventually, the PhD student quit, leaving Jan to try to reach useable results in accordance with the project application, but now with reduced funding. Because of this, Jan has become more restrained when he includes PhDs in projects.

There is no research conducted in laboratories in his current institution, and there are few projects where several researchers are involved. Instead, PhD students work more individually. However, Jan recognises that PhD students are still dependent on external conditions, not least on the seminar culture, and how the questions, methods and theories of the PhD relate to other research on the institution.

Established research environments, he argues, can be both supportive and inclusive, but can also exclude students if they do not fit in or are unwilling to adapt. He has seen PhD students who have been isolated and marginalised because of choosing a perspective in conflict with other research in the institution. For Jan, this means a difficult balancing act between giving PhD students independence and guiding them.

Contact person for Advice for doctoral supervisors

Margareta Jernås
Phone: +46 (0)31-342 94 33
Send e-mail to Margareta

These web pages were created by Silwa Claesson and Gina Wisker.

Page Manager: Olof Siverbo|Last update: 1/17/2013

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