Finding a Supervisor

All students must confirm an appropriate IMS faculty member as their research supervisor before initial registration in the IMS graduate program.

We recommend that prospective students reach out to potential supervisors as early in the Admissions Process as possible. ​​​​​To find out more about graduate supervision, visit the Quick Guide to Supervision.

Securing a supervisor significantly strengthens your application and demonstrates your commitment to and interest in the research area. 

We understand that finding a supervisor can be confusing or intimidating for some applicants. The information below is intended to help guide you in securing a graduate supervisor and lab that is a good match for you.

How to Find a Supervisor Workshop 2023

In this workshop, designed for prospective and incoming students, IMS staff, faculty and current graduate students share tips on securing research supervision.

Click above to see the list of IMS faculty members actively looking to supervise graduate students for September 2024 entry.

Getting Started 

Determine your research interests:

  • Research in IMS is divided into seven themes:
    • Cancer
    • Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Musculoskeletal
    • Endocrine, Gastroenterology
    • Infection, Immunology
    • Neuroscience, Brain Health
    • Population Health, Education
    • Regenerative Medicine, Development
  • Look through the Supervisors Recruiting Students document. It is updated regularly each admissions cycle.
  • Use the Faculty Search Tool to find Primary Investigators (P.I.'s) from your research theme of interest. You can narrow down the search further based on research interest key words and lab location.
  • Once you have a shortlist of potential P.I.s visit their lab websites (if applicable), look up their recent publications, and get a clear sense of their research.

Please note:

  • Some faculty members publicly announce when they are seeking new students via the Supervisors Recruiting Document and/or on their web profiles.
  • Some faculty members prefer to review the skillsets of students who have reached out, and decide the needs of their lab based on that.
  • If you'd like to work with a faculty member who hasn't specified that they're accepting new students, you are still welcome to contact them with a carefully tailored email. 
  • Once you've narrowed down a few P.I.'s you are interested in working with begin contacting them.

Faculty Appointment Status 

All supervisors must hold an IMS appointment either as an Associate Member or Full Member to supervise students. An Associate Member (non-restricted) can supervise MSc students. Students in the PhD program or transferring from MSc to the PhD must have a supervisor with a Full Member appointment at IMS. 

A student can only be supervised by a faculty member of the department to which they are admitted to.


Although it does not constitute guaranteed admission, identifying a potential supervisor is very helpful in deciding on a course of study and structuring the Letter of Intent required for the application.

  • Domestic MSc applicants can be accepted before identifying a supervisor, but cannot register without one.
  • Domestic PhD applicants are required to identify a supervisor and provide an outline of their research project at the time of application. PhD applicants will not be accepted without a letter from the proposed supervisor confirming willingness to supervise and fund the applicant.
  • All international students must identify a supervisor before applying, see here

Contacting Potential Supervisors 

Write your emails carefully. The emails you write to potential supervisors are:

  • A job application.
  • Your first impression on the faculty member.

Remember to:

  • Tailor the email to the specific P.I. and their research.
  • Explain why you are interested in their field and how you see yourself fitting into their lab.
  • State your long term goals. If you plan to go to medical school, for example, it is advisable to note this.
  • Attach a CV or resume and a transcript to your email.
  • Keep the email relatively brief.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar.
  • Copy any relevant lab managers, administrative assistants or research coordinators on your email.

Following up:

  • If you don't hear back within a few weeks you may write a brief follow-up email.
  • IMS faculty members have many competing demands, and interested in students who show initiative and persistence in a professional manner.
  • If a P.I. has indicated they cannot accept you as their student you should respect that decision and move on to contacting other faculty members.

The Interview 

If a P.I. has indicated they're interested in taking you on as a graduate student, schedule an opportunity to speak with them.

  • A virtual or in-person interview will help determine if the lab is a good fit for both of you.
  • Use this opportunity to ensure you understand the lab's research and what your specific research project and role would be.
  • Ask questions about the organization and management of the lab to ensure that it fits with your working and learning styles.
  • Ask the P.I. to share contact information for some of their lab members or former graduate students and reach out to them as well.

Contact current or former lab members:

  • Deciding on a lab is a big decision; make sure you have all the relevant information.
  • Reach out to lab members by email and ask relevant questions such as:
    • What is the P.I.'s leadership style?
    • Do you enjoy working with the P.I.? Why or why not?
    • How often do you meet with the P.I. - individually and as a team?
    • Is the atmosphere collaborative or more independent?
    • If I am a particular type of learner, do you believe I will be supported in this lab?

Finalizing the Supervisory Relationship

Once you have secured a P.I., you must: