Tips for Contacting a Graduate Supervisor

At uLethbridge, several of our research-based programs require securing a potential supervisor in your desired field of research and discipline prior to submitting an application. Be sure to start contacting prospective supervisors early as it can take time to receive a response. Making an informed decision on your supervisor choice is of utmost importance. Whether you are currently completing your undergrad degree or you are returning to post-secondary education to advance your knowledge, these tips will help you find a supervisor that is right for you.

Your supervisor will be a guiding light as you navigate through your thesis-based graduate program. It is important to choose a supervisor who shares your research interests and makes you feel comfortable to share your ideas and concerns. Your supervisor is integral to your graduate program and should show the same passion for the thesis research as you do.

 

All applicants to the following programs must secure a supervisor prior to submitting an application for admission: 
Master of Arts (excluding Economics major)
Master of Science (including Health Sciences majors)
Doctor of Philosophy 

Securing a supervisor requires confirmation that the professor has agreed to supervise you.

Applicants to the following programs are not required to secure a supervisor prior to submitting an application: 
Graduate Diplomas
Graduate Certificates
Master of Arts (Economics)
Master of Education
Master of Fine Arts
Master of Music
Master of Nursing
Master of Science (Management)
Master of Counselling 

Make sure to carefully read the admission requirements of the graduate program to which you are planning to apply.

The role of your supervisor is to provide academic mentorship and guidance, and to evaluate your performance and progress as a graduate student. Supervisors must provide professional guidance and aid, and support you in your academic journey to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to plan and conduct original research. Read the School of Graduate Studies Policy and Procedures to learn more about the role and responsibilities of a graduate supervisor, including:
• Make a commitment to supervise the student throughout the program and help the student to achieve the highest levels of academic achievement.
• Ensure the student has adequate supervision at all times during one’s program.
• Be open and accessible to the student.
• Give the student ongoing guidance on expected academic standards and rigorous research.

Now that you know more about the role and responsibilities of the supervisor, you should begin asking yourself questions about your own research interests and learning style:
• What topics of research do I want to explore? Why do I find a particular topic or area of study interesting? How familiar am I with this topic?
• What skills and knowledge do I have that compliment my research interests? What expert knowledge do I want to acquire? What skills do I want to enhance or develop?
• What level of supervision do I thrive under when completing independent learning? Am I an independent learner and worker, or do I require more supervisor involvement and guidance?
These questions will help you understand your personal needs as a graduate student. It is important that both the student and supervisor are able to communicate clearly and to understand roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

Once you’ve determined your field of study, and, if the graduate program of your interest requires securing a potential supervisor at pre-admission stage, you can begin your search. Specifically, on the Search Supervisors page you are able to filter supervisors by various search options.

When looking for a potential supervisor, use these various search options to narrow down your list of potential supervisors:

  • Faculty search: Choose the faculty that offers the program of your interest
  • Department search: Select a department from the dropdown list to see the available potential supervisors in that department or area.
  • Keyword search: Type the keywords related to a research area, discipline or topic that interests you to find a faculty member with similar expertise. This search option is also helpful when you are looking for a faculty member for an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary program.

The Search Supervisors page provides a Student/Supervisor Contact form that you can access by selecting a faculty member’s name and clicking the Contact Me button on his/her information page. This is the preferred method for contacting a prospective supervisor.

First, familiarize yourself with their research areas and projects by viewing their profiles online and reading a couple of their publications. It is advisable to have a CV/Resume prepared with your educational history, research interests, and CV/Resume highlights (e.g., work experience, scholarships, publications, conference papers) to aid you as you fill in the contact form. Do not copy and paste your CV into the form.

Be concise but informative by choosing relevant highlights that emphasize your skills, knowledge, and research interests. As soon as you submit the Contact Form for the faculty member of your choice, both you and the faculty member will receive an email copy of your submission.

Some faculty may request additional information such as unofficial copy of transcripts, CV, a sample of writing, and research proposal. After contacting a potential supervisor, please allow 5 business days for the faculty member to respond. Faculty members are very busy and it may take time for them to respond to your email.

Remember: a positive first impression is your goal.

• When filling out the Contact form (available on each faculty member profile) indicate your awareness of their research and how the potential supervisor’s expertise and research areas fit/align with your interests (be specific, refer to their publications, and link your research interests with their research areas and projects).
Address your message carefully. For example, if you are submitting a contact form to “Susan Smith, PhD”, address as “Dear Dr. Smith” in your message. (Note: Greetings such as “Respected Sir/Madam” and or “Dear Ms. Smith” demonstrate a lack of prior research on the faculty member’s rank, position, and gender).
• Let them know your intention to apply to a relevant major in a specific graduate degree program and your reasons for wanting to work with them.
• Tell them a couple of relevant highlights/points about your background and your experience with research projects, if applicable.
• Ask if it is OK to list him/her as a prospective supervisor in your application.
• Customize every email or response submitted to each faculty member as much as possible to begin developing a positive first impression and building a studentsupervisor relationship.
• Keep your responses concise and informative, think of it as your first impression as you introduce yourself to a potential supervisor.
• Proofread your email or have someone proofread it for you. Grammatical slippages and and spelling errors reveal a lot about your academic abilities and your attention to detail.
• If you already have funding, state the amount, duration and source.

If you are still struggling with identifying a supervisor, reaching out to the Department Chair might be beneficial (listed in the University Directory). Each Department Chair is familiar with the research areas of each member of the department and may direct you to faculty members who are available to supervise graduate students. Remember, professors are busy people and they may not respond to your email immediately. Department Chairs are not responsible for identifying a supervisor for you.

Please allow at least 5 business days to receive a response from a faculty member. Faculty members can have very full schedules; this will vary depending on the time of year.

If you have tried to contact a supervisor and have not received a reply, you can follow up with them again through their contact form on our Search Supervisor page. You can also send a breif, polite follow-up email. You can find their contact information in the University Directory. If you still do not hear from the faculty member after sending a message followed by a polite reminder, you should start looking for an alternative supervisor to contact.

Also note that some faculty members may not respond to an email from a potential student that appears unrelated to that supervisor’s particular field of study, or it may be that this supervisor is not currently taking graduate students or not available to supervise for the intended start date of your program of interest. Please follow the guidelines laid out in our guide for effective communication with your potential supervisor.

Please note the School of Graduate Studies cannot secure a supervisor for you.

Developing a productive supervisor-student relationship with your research supervisor and supervisory committee is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of graduate education. Once you have contacted a potential supervisor, consider meeting with him/her in person, or via video conference/skype for an interview. This will provide an opportunity to start building a professional relationship and learn more about your graduate program, research opportunities, the University and Lethbridge area.

Some helpful questions you may want to ask are:
• How many students have you supervised? What are they doing now?
• How often do you meet with students? Hold lab meetings?
• Do you have any planned leaves of absence during the period of study?
• Will I get the chance to present at conferences?
• Will I be working independently, or as part of a research team?
• May I contact at least one of the supervisor’s current graduate students?

Asking the potential supervisor questions shows your passion and excitement for graduate research and provides an opportunity to determine if the faculty member is a good fit for your graduate program and your research interests.

Provide a copy of your CV/Resume prior to the interview with the potential supervisor. Your CV/Resume provides a snapshot of your qualifications, and help you steer the interview towards your areas of expertise!

The supervisor will be your mentor and advisor for the next two or four years. Success in the graduate program will be more easily attainable if you choose a supervisor that suits your graduate needs! 8 Building a Relationship Meeting the minimum admission requirements and securing a potential supervisor do not guarantee admission to the University of Lethbridge due to enrolment limitations.

Talk to current graduate students. Graduate students are an excellent resource to find out more about your potential supervisor. They will have firsthand knowledge on current projects, supervisor availability and supervisory style, student workload, etc. This information will give you a better sense of how the faculty member will fit your individual educational needs and how to narrow down your dream list.

When entering into a graduate program, there are student and supervisor roles and responsibilities, and expectations that need to be understood to create a positive experience in your graduate program and to develop a professional student-supervisor relationship. A list of roles and responsibilities are outlined in the Student-Supervisor Guidelines document that can be used as a discussion framework to establish guidelines for supporting and managing your relationship and interactions