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Home » Discover Rackham » Faculty Connections: My Relationship With My Advisor

"What is it like working for/with your advisor?" I am often asked this question when we compare notes among friends on our relationships with our advisors. My advisor amazes me with the amount of energy and creativity he brings to every meeting. I see him juggling between offices in multiple buildings, teaching classes in the department, attending several meetings with his collaborators and presenting at conferences and yet making time to meet up with me and several the other students at least once a week!

Although we often limit ourselves to discussing project or thesis related ideas we share a candid moment once in a while. There are two instances that strike out the most when I think of my relationship with him. The first involves his compassionate side when I did poorly in my qualifying exams; he took the time to go over my answer papers and point out my mistakes and areas of improvement. I knew that I do not do well in taking exams but knowing that he was so interested in seeing me excel motivated me to hang on and give my best shot the second time around.

When I got done with my coursework and achieved candidacy last fall, I felt less inclined to sit through a class that met at 8:30 in the morning in the Winter. After the first two weeks it became really very difficult to get to class in the morning and I switched to auditing the class. After a cold, strong blizzard morning I decided to skip class which continued into the next couple of classes and not too long after I dropped the class. Later during one of our weekly meetings that semester my advisor asked my opinion on the class and I told him that I dropped the class because it was too cold to attend in the morning. He seemed too startled to reply and chuckled that my honest answer threw him completely off guard!

As time progressed I got to learn more about my advisor’s working style. I see that he gives a lot of space for me to explore the ideas and work them out after providing considerable details of the method. I do find ample encouragement but need to be proactive in finding opportunities to develop my career in terms of attending conferences or presentations. Sharing such a space and trust with my advisor are the key highlights of the relationship. I aspire to translate his work ethics in my own life and would love to know more about how he effectively manages so much in his personal and professional life.