I'd like to ask two professors who work at my university to be the co-advisors of my Masters thesis (mathematics).

They work in the same research group on (almost) the same topic (which is well-aligned to my interests), although they actually never published together, and get along well.

The first one (A) is an Emeritus professor who has been for over 40 years one of the world leaders in my research area and is still very active; the second one (B) is younger (mid-forties) tenured professor but has already established a very good research reputation; also, he is A's former student.

In my opinion they complement each other very well and working with the two of them will be an extremely instructive experience.

Who should I contact first to talk about my research proposal to avoid being disrespectful to either of them?

  • Unrelated, but one is the former student and they never published together? Surprising, but I guess this is normal in mathematics...? – Emilie Apr 13 '16 at 22:35
  • @Emilie Yes, this happens quite often (because of many diverse reasons or circumstances) and appears to be perfectly normal. – user51802 Apr 14 '16 at 11:51

The emeritus professor might not be allowed to advise any students officially because of his retired or semi-retired status, so talk to the Prof B first and discuss with him that you'd like Prof A to be involved. You can work with him to figure out how to approach A and in what role he can "legally" act under your university's regulations.

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  • You've made a very good point; thank you. I'm just a bit concerned that this approach might be construed as a little rude (or disrespectful) towards Prof. B. – user51802 Apr 14 '16 at 11:49
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    @Riku, how would B be offended by this approach? Having co-advisors almost always requires consent from both, so it seems to me best to start with one of them and work together to build the team. If there are questions about the legal capacity of one of them to advise, then it might be best to start with the one who can best navigate the system to find out about the other's status before approaching the other one. It's as simple as saying "I'd like to work with both you and Prof A on my thesis." That shouldn't be offensive to anyone. – Bill Barth Apr 14 '16 at 13:31
  • You're right; I'm probably overthinking this. Thanks again; I'll let you know how it turns out. – user51802 Apr 14 '16 at 13:54

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