Recently, I was talking with a professor in my department about potential supervision of my Master's thesis.

The problem is, he holds regular meetings with his research group, but he intends to supervise me separately, so I will be isolated and not have access to group meetings or anything revolving there. Is this a common approach? I did not want to ask this to the professor since he might get offended. Did he politely reject me, but then why did not he give a direct "no" as an answer?

Should I give it a go?

  • 7
    Is the intended topic of your Master's thesis in line with the group research interests?
    – svavil
    Aug 12 '16 at 19:16
  • 5
    Just to be clear, is it that you are forbidden from going to group meetings, or that you aren't expected to go to them?
    – user4512
    Aug 12 '16 at 23:24

As far as I can tell, this is probably fine - it is definitely not a "polite rejection" unless you missed a lot of signs that the professor is too busy to work with you.

svavil's question is very relevant: if you are working on a broadly different topic than the rest of the research group, you wouldn't gain as much, and the research group wouldn't gain as much from you being there.

Even if you are close to the research group's topics, some professors will start beginning students off without the rest of the group. This way, early students can benefit from more focused attention, and the group meetings don't have to catch up the new students. I think this approach is more often taken in theoretical/computational science groups. As students move along, they are brought more into contact with the group. [*caveat = this last is based on my experience in groups that are mostly PhD students, so not sure if Masters research is similar.]

There are two possible ways I could see this being bad (both of which happen, but are not the majority of cases):

1) The professor doesn't actually have time to work with you, and you will have trouble scheduling meetings with him, and making progress.

2) The professor is isolating you because he plans on harassing you, e.g. as mentioned re "independent studies": http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2016/04/ban_the_independent_study.html


This sort of event happened to a colleague of mine before. Initially he did feel discomforted, but later realized the practical implications. The intent was not malevolent in any way.

Some professors (especially senior grades) do not encourage outsiders to reside at their team meetings. It's just a protective tradition they follow. According to his conduct, the fact that your are not a recognized member of his research group means that you just can't take part in the research meetings.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.