If you’re a current UQ student interested in writing Masters, Honours or a PhD thesis with me, send me a short email introducing yourself and suggesting a meeting time. You don’t need to send me a CV or already have a thesis idea.
We will discuss potential research questions based on your interests and skills at the initial meeting. After the meeting, you will need to decide if you’d like to work with me. Choosing not to work with me will generate no hard feelings, and I will be happy to advise you on potential alternatives.
When we work together, I will give you a lot of ownership and treat you as a colleague. It’s more exciting and educational for both of us if you don’t only execute what I tell you but think actively and critically about what we are doing. An essential aspect of this kind of participation is driving projects forward proactively. When you think we are at the stage where input from me is needed to move the project along, please don’t wait for me to reach out; instead, set up a meeting, send an agenda ahead of time, and tell me what you think the project needs in general, and what you need from me to make that happen.
The most important principles governing our work are honesty, trust, and communication. You don’t have to pretend to understand and should ask questions even if they seem stupid. After we have worked together, I will know how smart you are, and you will know how stupid I am.
We all get things wrong all the time; coding errors, forgetting meetings, and missing deadlines. You will inevitably make mistakes, and I will inevitably find out about them. What you can control is my perception of whether you deal with them constructively: by actively looking for them, owning up to them as soon as possible, and fixing them.
I rely on you to tell me what you think is going well or wrong with particular projects or with our working relationship. I don’t take such feedback personally and will never be angry with you. If something isn’t going well, I will work with you to fix it. I ask the same of you when I give you feedback about your work.
I will always make time to meet with you. You don’t need a particular reason for a meeting – it’s ok to want to chat. Please email me to ask for a meeting. If I don’t respond, it almost certainly means I have forgotten. It never means that I am harbouring ill will towards you.
Your health and happiness are more important than any research project. I expect you to work hard, but whenever work gets in the way of you being healthy and happy, please let me know. If you are aware of specific things you want to change, I’m eager to discuss whether and how we can make those changes; if you don’t know what you want to change, I’m keen to brainstorm with you about possibilities. I will always be supportive of you seeking healthcare, physical or mental. Please let me know if you need to take time off unexpectedly for reasons related to family matters.
Once we have started working together, I consider it part of my job to help you achieve the things you want to achieve. Because it’s your life and not mine, I’m not entitled to an opinion as to what that should be, and I will support you in equal measure in whatever you decide to do. I encourage you to share your thoughts and plans with me as early and as frequently as possible.
If you have worked with me for at least six months and we have had regular interactions during that time, I consider it part of my job description to write reference letters for you for the remainder of my career. You don’t have to apologize when asking for them; you’re entitled to them. If we’ve worked together for less than that period, I may still write the letter if I feel that I know you well enough. Sometimes it will happen that we didn’t work together particularly well, and I may not be able to write a strong letter. If that’s the case, I will tell you in advance so that you can ask others if you want to. If I don’t say anything along these lines, you can assume I will write you a strong letter.
When you ask for a letter, please send me a CV, transcripts, and a statement of purpose or other motivational documents if the application requires you to write one. I ask that you give me two weeks to write your letter; if you give me less time, I will try to make it but I can’t guarantee it. Once you’ve asked me for a letter and I have said that I will do it, you are strongly encouraged to remind me regularly about getting it done. It helps if you send me a list of the places where you are applying and, where applicable enter me in all the relevant application systems in a single session so that I have all the request emails in one place.
Adapted with permission from Johannes Haushofer