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Finding a Mentor

Finding a Mentor

Steps to finding an advisor in graduate school

A mentor is one of the most important parts of graduate school. As you explore potential advisors, one place to start is matching your interests to laboratories doing similar work. Consider key qualities such as funding, publishing opportunities and conference whether they are accepting students into their labs. Next, email them and tell them what you are interested in and why you want to work with them. You could also ask about the research they are currently conducting. Remember advisors are also looking to see if you can work well together.

Much of what you learn in graduate school happens outside the classroom and in the lab. So find out about the whole learning environment, from one-on-one interactions with the professor and other faculty to collaborations with graduate students, events and networking activities.

It is also helpful to consider where a professor is in their career. For example, assistant professors might have more projects and diverse interests but might not have as much funding since they are earlier in their careers. Although, all graduate students can contribute to these labs in some capacity. Professors with more established labs might have more specific, focused research interests and more funding to support your research activities.

Other factors to consider are publishing opportunities and support for conferences. To determine if a research team or lab offers publishing opportunities, review faculty CVs to see whether students are included on publications or if they are first authors. Sometimes this can indicate that the advisor is mentoring and helping students get published.

Any research or laboratory experiences you had as an undergraduate can help you get into a lab in graduate school.

After you are accepted to the OSU Graduate School, it is helpful to visit campus and meet potential advisors. If this isn't possible, perhaps you can communicate with them by phone or online via Skype or Zoom. This can help you get a sense of compatibility, on social as well as academic levels.