Quick Guide to Supervision

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The Graduate Supervisor is the most influential person in a graduate student’s program.

The following summarizes a supervisor’s responsibilities in the IMS. Click here to view the SGS Guidelines on Graduate Supervision for Students, Faculty and Administrators.

How to be an Effective Supervisor: Top 10 List

  1.  Mutually agree to a student project of interest to you and your student. 
  2.  Restrict the PAC members to U of T faculty with an SGS appointment. 
  3.  Include an experienced IMS faculty on the PAC of your first student. 
  4.  Ensure your student has a documented PAC meeting at least every six months. 
  5.  Be available for regular meetings with your student to review progress every week. 
  6.  Provide encouragement, nurturing and engaging mentorship. 
  7.  Create learning opportunities outside the lab (journal clubs, conferences, etc.). 
  8.  Discuss and plan for transfers and defenses well ahead of deadlines. 
  9.  Guide thesis writing and content according to IMS guidelines. 
  10.  Act as a positive role model, emphasizing research integrity and ethics. 

Guaranteed Minimum Stipend

Your responsibility as a supervisor is to ensure that students are fully funded (2 years for MSc, 5 years for PhD) according to the IMS Funding Policy

Your student cannot be accepted into a program, register, and remain in a program without this funding.  

Please do not accept a student into your lab without assurance of adequate funds. If your student has external funding, please have a plan in place for when that funding expires. Employment earnings are not part of the student stipend. 

Full Time Status of Student

The IMS program is a full-time program — students cannot be employed for more than 10 hours/week. 

If your student is absent from the lab, back in clinical work, or researching off campus, set up a meeting schedule and a timetable for work completion. Students are expected to maintain their full-time status for at least 14 out of every 17 weeks in each term. 

Provide Mentorship and Serve as an Academic Role Model

Students look to supervisors for guidance and support throughout the graduate program. Genuine interest and enthusiasm on your part, as well as kind, critical appraisal is highly valued and appreciated. 

Students need time with their supervisors. Frequent, open communication is a key factor. Don’t just talk about the science—discuss mutual expectations of supervision, career aspirations, level of independence, personal blocks to success, etc. 

Regular, Documented Program Advisory Committee Meetings

Choose appropriate Program Advisory Committee (PAC) members.

All members of the PAC must have an appointment with the School of Graduate Studies through a graduate unit at the university. PAC membership can be changed as the research project requires. 

You and your students are responsible for ensuring  a PAC meeting is held at least every six to eight months, documented on the IMS PAC report form (or CIP equivalent), and signed by you, your student and the committee members. A copy must be sent to the IMS office (the supervisor and student should keep a copy) within two weeks of the meeting.

The PAC meeting is meant to review progress and to discuss obstacles in your student’s program. 

Student Courses

You should counsel your students in their choice of courses to ensure that they provide good background knowledge of research, and specialized knowledge in the field of the specific research project.

Extra courses might be required. 

Facilitate Timely Completion of Thesis Writing and Defense

The IMS timeline to degree completion lists expected milestones.

You should form an agreement with your student about specific research goals within the first 6 months of enrolment.

Regular discussion between you and your student (e.g., weekly or biweekly) is essential so you can review data, plan experiments, review material written by the student, and discuss all aspects of your student’s program. 

Leaves of Absence 

If you anticipate a leave of absence from the University (e.g., sabbatical), please plan ahead to ensure appropriate continuing supervision of your students. Please notify the IMS by sending an email to sf.medscience@utoronto.ca

Student Presentation Skills

You should coach students on their verbal and written presentation skills and give them ample opportunity to present their findings at conferences and lab meetings. 

You should provide students with opportunities to write scientific abstracts and manuscripts as first author, and to present their research locally to other faculty members and students, as well as at scientific conferences. 

If you deem that your student requires additional help with written or verbal English skills, this should be noted on the PAC form and remedial English courses should be recommended (many are offered by the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication). 

Thesis Preparation

You are responsible for providing timely feedback on draft chapters (or parts of chapters) – ideally within two weeks (or a mutually agreed upon response time).

One of the most frequent complaints about supervisors is that emails are not answered in a timely manner and drafts of papers and thesis chapters are left without response at a time when speed is of utmost importance to your student. 

Other Important Suggestions

Choose a student who suits your research, mentoring style, and professional commitments. Ideally, your student’s research is an integral (and funded) component of your ongoing investigation. You must have the content knowledge and expertise to ensure appropriate supervision. Consider your student’s level of independence, mentoring needs, communication style and background when deciding to take on a student. 

Talk business. Discuss issues such as funding, vacation, lab attendance, and problems with coworkers on a regular, timely basis. Discuss with your student and then sign the Annual Statement of Agreement every year, updating it as required. Agree on a funding plan for the duration of your student’s degree program. Keep track of the research data. Follow best practice in recording data and regularly review raw and analyzed data. 

Many problems can be avoided if you are familiar with IMS policies and procedures. Policies and procedures differ among graduate units. If in doubt, check with the IMS Office. Faculty are strongly encouraged to contact the Graduate Coordinators directly if difficulties, whether personal or work-related, arise. Contact the IMS Office (416-978-5012) to request an appointment at any time. We can provide you with copies of any relevant policies and guidelines and refer you to any additional appropriate services. Confidentiality is assured.