So you want me to be your research supervisor or referee?

Given the increasing number of research supervisory requests, incomplete students, and requests for referee, as well as changes in my priorities as I gained more experience and exposure, I thought of listing a few things that I look for in a potential student. Some of these tips could work with other potential supervisors too, and I do encourage reading the references at the end. Moreover, many organizations require 2 or 3 referee reports; thus, you need to have worked on multiple projects with multiple senior people to begin with.

Will you be my supervisor?

Following are a few things you should consider before contacting me:

  • I’m willing to consider PhD (full/part time), MSc (full time and taught course), MBA, and final year undergraduate students. I’m not interested in students who plan to do only an MPhil or part-time MSc by research
  • I’m equally interested in basic and applied research, especially ones that could have direct applications
  • I’m more interested in distributed systems, IoT, data engineering, networking, security, and performance engineering, as well as new areas and multi-disciplinary applications that have a connection to these. I have realized that areas like image processing, natural language processing, bioinformatics, databases, UI/UX, and pure software engineering don’t excite me.

Qualities that I look for:

  • Basic domain knowledge and awareness of current topics
  • Good analytical and programing skills (programming not required for MBA students)
  • Grit, get go attitude, and ethics
  • Avid reader and curiosity
  • While good writing and presentation skills are important, eagerness to improve your writing and presentation is even more important

What to be included in your request message:

  • Introduce yourself (2 sentences)
  • Ground work you have done so far (3-5 sentences)
  • Which of my work you are interested in, how to improve them, even why they don’t make sense, or why I should consider your idea (200 – 300 words)
  • Your CV and transcript

Will you be my referee?

Whoever selects you for the next graduate program or job greatly relies on what referees have to say beyond what’s listed in your CV/resume. In addition to knowing how well you did in classes and involvement in professional and volunteer activities, they also want to know whether you possess intellectual ability, creativity, problem solving skills, ability to work independently and in a team, fluency in speaking and writing in English, correct attitude, as well as qualities like dependable, assertiveness, timely, openness for feedback, and honesty. Some organizations even keep track of referee’s and credibility of their recommendations. So recommending you, strongly or otherwise, put my reputation at stake, if you flop. Therefore, to be able to be a true witness of your accomplishments and capabilities, I really need to know you. Thus, I may give my consent to include my name as a referee or to write a letter of recommendation given the following:

  1. Have done a research project under my supervision (being a panel member isn’t sufficient)
  2. Have taken at least 2 classes where you have gained A- or above (at least one class needs to be 25 students or less)
  3. Have being leading extra curricular activities of the department/university under my supervision (being a member is insufficient)
  4. I have seen and evaluated your writing, presentations, projects, and other forms of tangible work
  5. Have a demonstrated track record on ability to work under minimum guidance, teamwork, dependability, ethics, and clear focus where I had an opportunity to witness
  6. Have worked with me for 9+ months

If you could claim 75% of the above, send a request message including the following:

  • Introduce yourself (one sentence)
  • Response to above 6 items (200 – 300 word)
  • Explain why you are applying for the particular PG program or job (50 – 100 words)
  • If it is for a research PG program, attach your research and personal statement
  • Your CV and transcript