What I learned from advising other people

Since the last year, I started to advise a postdoc and PhD student who work on topics of my expertise. In our group, it’s quite often that there are one or two more experienced researchers involved in advising together with direct supervisors who are usually professors. I find this system quite nice becaues one needs to learn not only key ideas from physics perspective but also numerical techniques to study these subjects. About the latter, sometimes it requires to sit down together for several hours in the office and struggle together, but a more important thing would be to bring “physics concepts” into specific problems that can be solved by the tools we have. I believe this is what I learned during the PhD and postdoc and what I am particularly good at.

Recently, I started to think different ways of supervising. These are what I’ve been trying to do so far:

  • Explaining key ideas in a “broad” perspective
  • Setting up a long-term vision of the research together.
  • Iteratively giving feedbacks so that the project does not lose momentum and get distracted.
  • Teaching technical aspects (theoretical background and methods)
  • Recommending good materials for study (textbooks, lecture notes, thesis of others, review papers, etc.)
  • Asking continuously rather than giving my own opinions so that they find their own motivation and paths of the research.

Also, finally I decided to go to actual office rather than working at home more often as the I got vaccinated from corona virus. So, I can chat with my colleagues . What I immediately realize is that everyday’s short discussion is much better than a lengthy discussion that occurs once a week. Maybe human brain is more adapted to continuous communication for processing information rather than being logical all the time. Well, I experienced many times during my studies that I just started to understand things that I could not understand even though I haven’t really studied nor thought about it.

Anyway, coming back to the original topic… I feel quite rewarding nowadays to see my colleagues finding their own paths and methods as the time goes on.

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