Clinical Epidemiology Yellow Book

1.3 Selecting a Supervisor

All PhD/ MSc (thesis-based) students are required to find a supervisor who will act as a mentor and guide as they proceed through their degree.

The choice of a faculty member who will supervise the thesis work required to fulfill degree requirements is one of the most critical decisions a graduate student will make and should not be taken lightly. A student will need not only a competent supervisor in a particular area but also willing to act as the student’s advocate when necessary. It is important that the student be able to work and communicate effectively with the supervisor and not feel overwhelmed or intimidated in the relationship. Each student requires the guidance of someone who will stimulate thoughts, who has sufficient interest in the student’s topic to produce insights jointly, and who will challenge the student to think in a novel manner about the research.

The following suggestions are included to help students find an appropriate supervisor:

  • Look through the list of IHPME Faculty (Clin Epi or Non Clin-Epi) on the IHPME website to find a professor that fits you either by:
    • Content area (e.g. cardiology), or
    • Methodological area (e.g. health services research).

(You are NOT restricted to content – someone out of your area with a “method” match can be great!)

  • Ensure that your potential supervisor has the appropriate SGS appointment level:
    • MSc students need a supervisor who is an Associate SGS member (i.e. Level 2)
    • PhD students need a supervisor who is a Full SGS member (i.e. Level 3)
  • Students may get to know the potential supervisor whose research interests parallel their own. Consider doing a ProQuest ( search to see what they’ve published – see if it sounds interesting to you.
  • Graduate students working with a specific supervisor are an invaluable source of information.
    • There are tradeoffs in picking a supervisor by seniority/eminence. A very experienced supervisor may help “fast-track” your career. On the other hand, a senior person may not have time for you.
    • A supervisor is also a mentor, often for the first few years of your career. Someone who is a good mentor can be really helpful.
    • If possible, talk to other trainees. They will tell you who is a good supervisor.
    • Don’t be afraid to approach potential supervisors cold, i.e. without any personal connection or contact. They expect it. It’s their job (usually among many others) to teach and mentor students.
    • If you are really stuck, you may contact the Associate Program Director of Clinical Epidemiology and they will work with you to find an appropriate supervisor.

IHPME Faculty:

SGS – Find a Supervisor: full information on supervision

SGS – Graduate Supervision Guidelines: Students – [PDF]: includes checklist

SGS – Graduate Supervision Guidelines: Faculty- [PDF]: includes checklist–Introduction.aspx