After our first Zoom meeting, my potential supervisor asked me to prepare a PowerPoint presentation about my thesis or any research I've done (it doesn't matter if it's not related to her research area), and present it in another Zoom meeting to the rest of the lab members. She said it will also be an opportunity to meet them and ask them questions about the lab environment.

She says she wants to see how I communicate about research. I found this request weird. I'll still do it of course.

However, I'm afraid because in our first Zoom meeting, even though the current went well between us, I feel likeI wasn't able to talk about my research project as well as I'd have liked to due to stress and some language issue, so she may have regretted answering my email in the first place, and now doesn't have the heart to just reject me.

Am I overthinking it? She said that with the next meeting she'll be able to make the decision.

  • 39
    This is not weird at all. If you ever interview somewhere, asking the candidate about what they do is a classical icebreaker. Look at it like this: you get to pick the topic, and it's one you are an expert in! That is pretty much the best position you can be in in a conversation. You get to portray yourself in the best possible light. Dec 11, 2021 at 20:14
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    Like others have mentioned this is a usual request. In fact recently I was asked the same when applying for a Phd AND to do individual zoom meetings with every single lab member.
    – MikeKatz45
    Dec 12, 2021 at 1:18
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    This reads to me like an online version of first interview (which is often done by Skype or phone) followed by a more in-depth interview including a presentation. It's a good sign. There will probably be a few other candidates doing the same, but not a huge number
    – Chris H
    Dec 12, 2021 at 13:18
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    If anything, I would consider it a compliment: a group of people will devote time and attention to your work. Giving a presentation may feel like doom, you might have to get used to that. But it's actually a gift of time and attention. If they want to reject you, they'll rather do so without listening to your presentation. Dec 13, 2021 at 10:33
  • All my job interviews post PhD (and some for PhDs) asked me to present my work. At this point I'd be suspicious if they did not! Dec 13, 2021 at 13:06

3 Answers 3


Seems like you are overthinking this. At my institution, prospective grad students often are asked to give talks about their current research. This is a good way to get to know the candidate, and evaluate how well they can communicate ideas (obviously very important for grad students), how committed they are (here via how "good" the presentation is), how it is to discuss research with them (which your prospective supervisor would be doing a lot with you) when discussing the contents afterwards, etc.

  • 17
    Absolutely. Making assumptions that you are doomed can lead to ... doom. I doubt they would bother to take the time if they've already made up their minds.
    – Buffy
    Dec 11, 2021 at 14:18
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    "prospective grad students often are asked to give talks about their current research" -- where are they doing their "current research", and how did they join that place?
    – MWB
    Dec 12, 2021 at 3:09
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    I'm in a country where typically students do a Master's before starting a PhD (the "real" grad program). But elsewhere, people who want to get into research often get some experience in an undergrad program, e.g., through their thesis.
    – cheersmate
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:23
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    Even here in the UK where a lot of students go straight on to a PhD from undergrad, they may still be asked to present on their final BSc project or something similar.
    – Chris H
    Dec 13, 2021 at 15:29

Short answer: you are overthinking this. Do the presentation. Keep it short and to the point. I have been on both sides for such presentations. Introduce your research and spend some time talking about the contributions that you made. Important to consider some things that you would find interesting to research and link them back to your research. Good luck!

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    +1 Highlighting your own contributions is the way to go.
    – cheersmate
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:24

You are in the best possible situation for this job. You are already an expert on the research topic of your choice. Now spend some time studying which concrete projects, they are working on in the lab. Round off the presentation of you topic, telling them how your research relates to concrete, current research activities in the lab. I am stressing 'concrete and current' because by referring to those, you demonstrate that you are really interested in their work.

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