I defended my thesis and graduated with my PhD in 2013. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work: many blind alleys in the research process, lost weekends, and general sacrifice of well-being. It’s a price that all PhD students pay to some extent. My mentors played an essential role in my success.

I Love Mentors

What did I do when my research got stuck in one of those blind alleys? I’d send an email to someone on this list, a curated list of mentors I acquired during my PhD. My advisor, my fellow peers, researchers I met at conferences: they came from a number of places. When I needed advice on a critical decision about my work, career path? I’d send an email to someone on that list.

All of my mentors were helpful, but there were some game-changing mentors. If you’re lucky, one of these is your PhD advisor. I had the pleasure of working with three amazing advisors during my BS, MS and PhD work. They had several common traits:

  • Extremely competent in technical knowledge (something you can grantee every advisor has).
  • Balance of mentorship and support, with the goal to produce independent researchers.

While advisors have technical competency, faculty hiring sometimes overvalues it at the expense of good mentorship.

Are PhD Advisors Succeeding at Mentorship?

With the goal of producing independent researchers, many advisors have the leeway to neglect their obligations as mentors. The wide reports of the decline in PhD student well-being are possible indicators of a failure in mentorship from advisors.

A suggestion from an author at Science magazine:

Ideally, the supervisor should be an expert teacher, a mentor, and a facilitator to catalyze the student’s professional growth, such that the student’s accomplishment is limited only by the extent of his or her ability.

Does YOUR PhD advisor meet these goals? Is it even possible, on average, for PhD advisors to satisfy all of these goals? The answer is likely, on average, no.

I look back at my 3 advisors, compare them to those of my peers’ and wonder: did I just get ridiculously lucky? I think so.

Filling in the Gaps

Mentors in our community seek to provide the missing mentorship that PhD students require. Formal studies have also shown just how important personal, high-quality mentorship is to the success of a PhD student, particularly with respect to defining your individual goals.

Because we are not your advisor, department, or peers, we can discuss any/all aspects of your research, including the often-ignored aspect: YOU. Your goals, your issues. We like answering the questions that don’t seem to get discussed very often, for example how to:

  • Preserve your mental health
  • Design your PhD experience based on career goals
  • Publish high impact research
  • Compete for tenure-track positions
  • Utilize cutting-edge research tools and techniques, maximize productivity

We’ve dealt with all of the issues you’re likely to be facing. We’re interested in helping you with your problems, and we’re interested in improving the research process of your PhD.

So, ask the questions that are really troubling you.

Support Groups

While we offer private 1-on-1 mentorship through phdmentors.org, we also provide public Q&A groups on Facebook:

Consider posting if you have any questions that are immediately troubling your PhD journey.

Jason Larkin
Cofounder & Principle PhD Mentor