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I am a recent PhD student. My adviser is really a very nice, kind, and open-minded person. They are always open to discuss about subjects of my interest. As I am almost at the half of my first year, my rhythm of working has evolved from making lectures to doing something concrete. So, I have started to contact my adviser more often in the last month.

How often a PhD student can see his supervisor? Is it really disturbing to send them some results to take their opinion every week? For the moment, my adviser does not seem to be disturbed but are there some "implicit" norms that have escaped me?

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    If you are in the US, taking classes, and not yet working on your own research, once a month could be fine. Just be sure that you are making progress appropriately. If you are working on your own research, a once a week shorter check-in meeting is better for both of you. – magi182 Apr 2 '15 at 12:38
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    Anecdotal evidence: I meet mine every week generally. – Ander Biguri Jun 27 '16 at 16:08
  • My personal experience: my adviser and I meet every single day (whether I want to or not haha). We don't always talk about research or ask questions, but he does make himself available during our daily check-in, and if I have things I want to discuss I can bring them up. Our lab is considered somewhat abnormal with how often we see our adviser, and it's something of a joke in the rest of the department, but it's a really great system for us students! – pocketlizard Jun 28 '16 at 12:24
  • I once read about a university rule stating that a supervisor has to meet his/her PhD students at least once a year. I saw real world examples who violated this rule. – J. Fabian Meier Oct 18 '16 at 10:54
23

The frequency that students and advisors meet depends a lot on the particular student and advisor, and also varies highly by time. In my experience, once a month is quite a bit on the low side, but not unusually so. A more typical pacing is once a week or once every two weeks.

The reason for this frequency is not for the sake of "norms", but rather is a good spacing for giving enough time for the student to accomplish something but not so much so that the student is likely to end up wasting a lot of time or becoming very frustrated going down a bad path that the advisor might have been able to detect and help remedy.

If your advisor is meeting with you once a month and happy with your progress, then perhaps you are simply doing very well at self-direction. It is quite reasonable, however, to ask for more frequent supervision if you think that you will benefit, and as a new Ph.D. student, I think that you likely should do so.

11

Let me give you an answer from the "high side", just to remind you that Academia varies more than you think it does.

I typically meet my PhD students from three times a week to once a day, at least for a short meeting (or just for a coffee or lunch). Among the many reasons for such high-frequency meetings, I wish to highlight the following:

  1. I see here on Academia.SE many PhD students asking questions, like yours, which really should be addressed to their own advisors. So, I make clear with my PhD students that questions pertaining our relationship and their activities should be first addressed to me, whenever the need arises, because it's my duty, as advisor, to answer them. Should I eschew from answering this kind of questions, they'd better call me "unadvisor".
  2. There are fields, especially among experimental sciences, where a PhD student cannot work independently on a research topic, but he or she are instead part of a group which works on a certain number of already ongoing experiments. Frequently, these experiments should follow a certain schedule, especially when devices and instruments should be built by other co-workers, or when there is an ongoing international collaboration (e.g. devices and instruments might need to be exchanged between institutes at certain dates). Therefore, I want to be sure that PhD students can complete the assigned tasks on time, and correctly.
  3. In certain experiments, mistakes are always around the corner and results need to be cross-checked between different people, even between senior researchers. Therefore, I want to cross-check the results from my PhD students as soon as the data are available.
  4. Personal issues can lower scientific productivity (see e.g. How to handle pressure from collaborators when life circumstances make it impossible to get work done?): I think these kind of issues should be discussed as soon as possible with the advisor, and I ask my students to do so.
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    I really appreciate advisers with such restrict advising policies like yours. Your PhD students should be lucky indeed that are working with you. – Enthusiastic Engineer Feb 12 '15 at 21:08
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    Thanks so much for this clear response. As I am doing a theoretical study without experiments, my case differs a little bit I think. – optimal control Feb 13 '15 at 14:15
3

I think the existing answers are quite comprehensive, but I want to reiterate that you should be asking your advisor what is expected. What I'd like to add is another example of how the relationship can vary.

With my advisor, we would often meet informally several times a day. This was often while critical experiments were happening, or just to bounce ideas off of each other. As my advisor requested for everyone, our lab as a whole kept this culture, where we all were available in the lab for each other. We were also welcome to stop by our advisor's office whenever something needed to be discussed, as he kept an open door. I found this to be very positive and enabled faster progress on our projects.

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