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

Given the increasing number of research supervisory requests and requests for referee with time, 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. Further, many organizations require 2 or 3 referee reports; thus, you need to have worked on multiple projects/classes 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, MSc, and final year undergraduate students. I prefer full-time students over part-time or course-based graduate programs
  • I’m equally interested in basic and applied research, especially ones that could have direct applications
  • I’m more interested in distributed systems, security, data engineering, IoT, networking, and performance engineering. I’m keen on multi-disciplinary applications that have a connection to these areas. I have realized that areas like image processing, natural language processing, bioinformatics, and UI/UX engineering don’t excite me.

Qualities that I look for:

  • Basic domain knowledge and awareness of current topics
  • Good analytical and programming skills
  • Grit, get-go attitude, and professional 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)
  • Groundwork 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, projects, and involvement in professional and volunteer activities, they also want to know whether you possess the intellectual ability, creativity, problem-solving skills, ability to work independently and in a team, fluency in speaking and writing in English, and correct attitude. They also look for qualities like dependability, assertiveness, timelyness, openness for feedback, and honesty. Some organizations even keep track of referee’s and the 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 some of the following:

  1. Have done a 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. I have seen and evaluated your writing, presentations, projects, and other forms of tangible work
  4. Have been leading extracurricular activities of the department/university under my supervision (being a member is insufficient)
  5. Have a demonstrated track record on the 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 3+ month full time or 6+ months part-time

If you could claim 4 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 programme or job (50 – 100 words)
  • If it is for a research programme, attach your research and personal statement
  • Your CV and transcript