Context: I'm looking for an advisor for my master thesis in holography, and I've received some interesting proposals that include "the necessity to be able to use numerical methods to solve integrals and differential equations", because the professor's level of programming experience is pretty basic. Now:


  • the professor actually needs someone to work on this, it feels like I'm not "just" a student that needs a subject to work on
  • I think a knowledge of the subject might prove itself useful for a future doctorate
  • I like the subject!


  • if I have doubts on how to proceed, the professor probably won't be able to give me all the help I could ask for in a standard "the student works on what the professor's working" kinda thesis

Is there anything I'm missing that should push me towards accepting/refusing this proposal?

  • 5
    Make sure that there's someone in the department (PhD student, postdoc or other professor) who knows how to do the numerical/programming work so you can go to them for help if necessary. I was in this exact situation for my PhD and in the end it was great because I taught myself how to program. Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 8:37

1 Answer 1


It could be a good experience, as you are more independent, and thus has to take more responsibility.

However, as the advisor is less familiar with the field, it is crucial that you do a thorough literature review first, to ensure that the problem you are trying to solve has not already been solved.

Also, note that after a PhD, you are very likely (expected, almost) to be an expert on the topic of your PhD - you should be more of an expert than your advisor on your particular topic. It does not require extreme amounts of work to become a (word-leading, even) expert on something if you focus a year or two on it during PhD studies.

  • 4
    The question is asking about a Master's thesis, not a PhD. And also it seems like the supervisor is an expert in the field, just not in programming (common in physics). Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 8:35
  • 2
    I confirm what @astronat said: it's a Master's thesis, and the supervisor is expert in holography and can do very simple programming, but the problem they're working on would require more advanced skills. Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 12:53
  • @MauroGiliberti A master's thesis does not need to have a high level of original research, so then I suggest, no need to worry at all. Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 13:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .