The supervision agreement helps you and your supervisor plan and complete your doctorate. This document makes each party’s rights and obligations transparent, and defines the focus of qualification and traceable milestones. The elements of the supervision agreement can and should be adjusted and changed as the dissertation project develops. The synopsis and the name of your chosen mentor can normally be submitted up to six months after your entry into the doctoral candidacy list.
The following elements are part of every supervision agreement, and must be completed by you and your supervisor:
- Content and research design
- Qualification elements
You can find the supervision agreement on the website of your respective Graduate Center.
In addition to your supervisor you will choose a mentor, who ideally will support you throughout your whole doctoral program. This person can be, but does not need to be, your second committee member. We recommend choosing someone outside your department in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest. It could be a former supervisor or colleague from the industry, an employee or professor from another department, or even one of your friends or family members, etc. In order to make sure they understand your situation as a doctoral candidate, it is usually best if the mentor also has a doctorate.
One requirement for choosing a mentor is a trusting relationship. The mentor’s tasks are different from those of your supervisor. The main goal is to provide you with personal and professional advice during your doctoral program, to share experiences and information, to build networks, and to help you deal with problematic situations. However, mentoring can also be helpful in planning your career. A mentor from the science sector, for example, can arrange valuable contacts for you and give you insight into the unwritten rules of academia.
In order to ensure you make the right choice in your search for a mentor, you generally have up to six months after your entry into the doctoral candidacy list. During this time, you should think about where you need support other than at the content level, and who would be the best person to help you with this.
The Graduate Centers or other doctoral candidates in your department can give you ideas and information. However, you should also talk with your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to ask people you may have met at conferences, in other research projects, etc.
Some Graduate Centers require their prospective PhD candidates to name a mentor already when applying for entry into the doctoral candidacy list. For further information, please contact your Graduate Center.
|How did you find your mentor?|
|My mentor was the advisor for my Master’s thesis.|
|Did you actively seek help from your mentor?|
|Yes, often. Sometimes even more often than the chair of my dissertation committee.|
|How satisfied are you with your mentor?|
|First of all, she was very helpful at the specialized level, since my mentor comes from a different field of study than my committee chair. Second, she also looks at my non-subject-related, personal further development and offers a different perspective. You are usually very absorbed in your project, but the end often comes sooner than you think. Your mentor helps you keep the big picture in mind, gives you advice about life after the dissertation, tips and ideas about other possibilities, and helps you think about long-term goals while you’re still working on your dissertation.|
|Michael Matiu, IGSSE|
|“It was clear right from the start of my doctoral program who my mentor would be. That was partly because of the unusual circumstance at our institute, which is where I am actually spending all my time during the program. My advisor, who is our station director, is not on site most of the time. The physical distance means there’s no way to have daily personal contact. But my mentor is a Group Leader and also an IGSSE PTL. So she is also very familiar with my doctoral project.|
|I actively consulted my mentor almost every day, for theoretical and practical academic problems as well as project planning, etc.|
|I work closely with my mentor, and I’m very satisfied with this arrangement.”|
|Pia Scherer, IGSSE|