We often get undergraduate students coming into the lab to complete their final year projects. These students are assigned to an academic supervisor who then in turn will assign one of their PhD students or post-docs to be the students supervisor in the lab. Now that I’m in my second year I’ve been assigned my first student. His project is a continuation of a side project I’ve been working on which has gathered the initial data. Having a project student to work on this is really nice because it means someone is dedicated to exploring the topic rather than me looking when I have time, and it also frees me up and allows me to concentrate on my main work.
It’ll definitely be a new experience for me, while I’m quite used to demonstrating in undergrad labs this is very different. When I’m demonstrating I’m not focused on my own work, I’m there purely to help those students, now I’ll need to learn to balance getting my own work done and supervising a student at the same time. At times this might be a challenge but I definitely think it will benefit me, my teaching skills, time management and patience will all hopefully improve.
Supervising students is obviously a key skill to develop if you intend to pursue an academic career and I doubt many lab based PhD students will get away without supervising at least one student. In addition to undergrads there are also Master’s students who come into the lab later in the year and stay for longer (generally ~6 months not 2-3) so there is a fairly constant rotation of students through the lab. I’m looking forward to it, although I’m also slightly nervous, hopefully I’ll do a good job and my student will develop some good lab skills while I develop the ever important teaching skills, either way I’ll let you know how I do.