How to get inputs/feedback?

Dear Academic Insider Community,

I’m doing my PhD in computer science at the intersection of robotics and computer vision. Having done my BSc and MSc at different Universities, I already worked in quite a few research labs (also in different research areas). From my time in research labs before I started my PhD, I was used that a PhD meets their supervisor weekly or bi-weekly so that the supervisor is quite close to the PhD’s research and can guide him/her. I was also used to have Postdocs around (normally 1 Postdoc for 2-4 PhD candidates)

Unfortunately, in the research lab, I’m currently doing my PhD this is quite different. The professor meets one student per week. Since our group has around 15 PhD candidates, we have one meeting (approximately one hour) every 15 weeks. In the first 15 minutes, we have to remind him what we discussed during the last meeting. Depending on the problems/ideas I have during the time of the meeting, I do get some good feedback, but it is obviously nothing like him guiding or really supervising us. It’s more like if you have a good question and lucky that he has some spontaneously good feedback, the meetings are worthwhile. But it can also happen that he doesn’t like an idea you previously discussed with him.

In addition, we don’t have any Postdocs in the lab. The research of the group is quite scattered, and therefore it is also quite difficult to get good inputs from other PhDs about your research.

This situation leads to the fact that we have quite some freedom in which direction we want to focus our research, which I appreciate. However, it is quite bad to publish. I feel that the only really valuable feedback we get is from the reviewers of the conferences/journals we are submitting our papers to. Given that I actually like to publish more, the situation is quite frustrating.

I do have some contacts outside the research lab who are working on or worked on the same research area. However, so far I was a bit afraid to reach out to them for advice and discussions since I know that in other research labs this happens internally.

Do you have any advice and/or recommendations for me?

Advice: reach out to your contacts!! Especially if they are experienced in your topic!!

You are not the first one who is in a Ph.D. and have practically no advisor. I was in a Management program and had the same situation. I believe it is very likely that the students and the faculty from the other labs heard that your situation is more common than not if they had not gone through something similar themselves.

They will probably have their lives, are busy and everything. But if you get to talk with someone for, I don’t know, 1 hour every month or two it will already be better than what you have with your absent advisor. And it doesn’t need to be the same person you talk.

Do reach out to them!!

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Check to see if there is a real/virtual/blended post-grad society or association on campus. A large part of a PhD is becoming an independent researcher, so whatever support you are getting at the start… you can expect it to diminish, and then resurface at key points and ahead of your viva voce.

Good luck.