Questions for Potential Advisors

Advice: Take some time to think about what is important and valuable to you (personal and professional) and let those guide the questions you should ask, as it will serve to inform what your experience will be in their lab short- and long-term.

Disclosure: These are questions I asked potential advisers who I was interested in working with for my PhD because their research was very interesting to me. Thus, why these questions are framed to address information outside of research topic.

Advisor Specific Questions

  1. How would you define your mentorship style?
  2. Do you have a time-in-lab commitment preference/requirement? What is your time-off/vacation policy?
  3. What is your funding and professorship situation?
  4. How many grants does the lab currently house?
  5. Do you encourage your students to apply for fellowships and/or grants?
  6. Do you provide constructive criticism, as well as positive feedback?
  7. Do you encourage students to pursue low- and high-risk/high-reward projects?
  8. How was your experience as a trainee (PhD and postdoc)? Was there anything you disliked or any take-home messages that you would like to share?
  9. Do you have one-on-one meeting with your students? If so, how often?
  10. Do you have an open-door policy?
  11. Do you help your students prepare for qualifying exams?
  12. How would you define your lab dynamics (structure, social outings, life work-life balance)?
  13. Do you prefer students that have background knowledge or experience?
  14. Which Department/Program are you affiliated to? Do you hold any administrative roles?
  15. Do you encourage/fund students to present at conferences, seminars, and retreats?
  16. Do you encourage students to write review articles?
  17. Do you have an expectation of the number of publications and journals?
  18. Is there anything in your lab you would like to improve? Where do you see your lab within the next 5 years?
  19. Are you happy at Yale?
  20. What type of relationship do you build with your students?

Lab Specific Questions

  1. What are your expectations for rotation students (i.e. work ethic, personality, development, background experience/knowledge)?
  2. What are your expectations of new to senior graduate students?
  3. Do you have rotation students lined-up for all rotation periods/sessions?
  4. How many graduate students are you planning on taking/having space for this year?
  5. Have your trainees previously applied and/or received fellowships/grants?
  6. What if your lab meeting’s structure (journal clubs, progress reports, joint meetings)? What is the duration of these meetings? Do you discuss troubleshooting?
  7. How does the lab communicate (i.e. email, Slack, phone, text)?
  8. Do I require any training prior to rotating/training in the lab?

Research Specific Questions

  1. What are the available/potential rotation projects? What current questions/projects are the graduate students in the lab pursuing?
  2. Once a student is committed to your lab, do you assign them a project or allow them to create a project of their own?
By Paola Figueroa-Delgado
Paola Figueroa-Delgado