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Finding a Research Advisor

There were a few questions in the survey concerning finding a research advisor. Of the 120 females who completed the survey, 12.5 % do not have a research advisor, 86.7 % do have a research advisor, and 0.8 % did not answer the question. From these numbers, we also looked at the year of the graduate student. Of the students who did not have a research advisor, 80 % are in their first year as a graduate student. This is an expected result since most students explore possibilities during their first year. The remaining students were in their second year (13 %) and third year (7%).

Of the students who do have an advisor, 62 % are with their first advisor. Most of these students are in their first (35 %) or second year (25 %) of graduate school. This is another expected result since most students at the beginning of their graduate career choose one advisor. The remaining students with their first advisor are in their third (11 %), fourth (9 %), fifth (9 %) and sixth+ (11 %) year of school.

There were 22 % of the students who were with their second advisor. These students are somewhat equally distributed over 1-5 years of school (first (14 %), second (22 %), third (22 %), fourth (17 %), fifth (17 %), sixth+ (8 %)).

Those students with their third research advisor (12 %) were mostly in their third (25 %) and sixth+ (33 %) year of school. There were a few (8 % each) in their first, fourth and fifth year, and slightly more (17%) in their second year who had switched advisors.

One comment from these numbers is that students should try different advisors during their earlier years of graduate school. This way students can find someone who is compatible in personality and work habits earlier in their career.

Research Advisor and Happiness in Graduate School

We also looked at the relationship between the number of students happy with graduate school and the number of research advisors they tried. Of those that did not have an advisor, 33 % were not happy with school, 40 % were mixed about school and 27 % were happy with school. This is not surprising that most students who do not have an advisor are not happy or have mixed feelings about graduate school.

Of those that do have an advisor, we found the following:

First Year
Second Year
Third Year
Not Happy
6 %
13 %
17 %
Mixed Feelings
37 %
48 %
33 %
57 %
39 %
50 %

Those that have an advisor, 40-60 % are happy with graduate school with their first 1-3 tries for an advisor. It was noticeable that the percentage that are unhappy with graduate school increases from 6 % with the 1stadvisor to 17 % when they have reached their 3rdadvisor.

Research Advisor and Mentorship

Another interesting relationship was between the number of students who used their research advisor as a mentor and the number of advisors they tried.

First Advisor
Second Advisor
Third Advisor
Advisor is not a mentor
29 %
57 %
50 %
Advisor is a mentor
71 %
43 %
50 %

The survey results showed that 71% of the students whose research advisor was their first try also looked to the advisor as a mentor. This decreased to 43 % for the second try and 50 % for the third try. This result is not so surprising since students may not feel as comfortable with having their advisor be a mentor after changing multiple times. We also found that about half of the students who have tried one to three advisors have a mentor other than their advisor.