I’m a PhD student travelling to the US for a conference and my supervisor has contacted a former colleague to arrange for me to visit his lab. Under the current circumstances, I only have 2–3 days available for the visit, which means I won’t be able to do any meaningful lab work. They do some interesting techniques that I’d like to learn, but again, I’m not sure if there will be enough time – and I don’t want to be an annoyance for busy staff/students who’d rather just get on with things.

So, for such a short visit, what are the expectations? I’ve offered to present my conference talk at the lab meeting (met with somewhat of an “if you really want to” attitude), and I”d like to see their lab and chat to fellow students about how they do things differently to me... but I don’t think I need multiple days to do that. How long should a visit without any actual research be?

I also don’t know what to expect from them; as a visiting student and not a PI, I don’t think I can expect them to arrange meetings or visits for me, but for the same reason, I’m unsure about reaching out to others at their institute – should I be arranging to meet other people? Is that rude? Is it expected?

I don’t want to waste an opportunity – or embarrass my supervisor, and be a nuisance to a research group that I respect. Should I limit my visit to a single day? Any advice would be great!

2 Answers 2


Ask your supervisor for some advise, he knows his former colleague and can probably give you some insight into how to "get the most" out of your visit.

  • 1
    That's a good idea, since the lukewarm response to your offer to give a talk is a bit weird. May 5, 2017 at 5:17
  • @aparente001 That depends a little. Maybe the conference is local and most of them will anyway be there to see the talk.
    – skymningen
    May 5, 2017 at 6:52

I second asking your adviser for advice.

You should also consider that, if the visit is announced, as yours is, the host is likely to arrange some kind of schedule/program for you. They probably planned to take you on a tour, perhaps even some hands-on knowledge exchange. It is not unheard of that they will assign you a designated host, e.g. a fellow graduate student, who you can turn to with any questions, logistical, administrative or otherwise.

I know that this is a leap into the unknown, as I get the impression that this is your first time visiting them, but assume that neither your adviser nor his colleague want to cause you a hard time (rather the opposite) and that they've arranged such visits before.

So again, feel free to talk to your adviser about your uncertainties as well es etiquette, i.e. what will be expected from you over there. Protocols and etiquette are quite normal conversational topics, there is nothing to fear or be ashamed of.

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