Finding a Supervisor

Professor Brian CoxMSc and PhD students in Physiology must secure a supervisor before they can begin their course of study. 

We encourage prospective students to reach out to potential supervisors as early in the Admissions Process as possible. 

Connecting with a supervisor in advance significantly strengthens your application and demonstrates your deep interest in a certain field of research. 

We realize the process of finding a supervisor can be confusing or intimidating for some. 

The steps below are intended to break down the process and empower you to connect with a supervisor and lab that match your interests and approach.

1. Getting Started

Determine your research interests:

  • Research in Physiology is divided into four platforms.
  • Read through the descriptions of each platform and see what stands out to you.
  • Choose a couple of Primary Investigators (P.I.'s) from the platforms that interest you, look up their recent publications, and get a sense of their research.

Please note:

  • Some faculty members publicly announce when they are seeking new students.
  • Some faculty members prefer to review the skillsets of students who have reached out, and decide the needs of their lab based on that.
  • If you'd like to work with a faculty member who hasn't specified that they're accepting new students, you may still contact them with a carefully tailored email. 

What's Next?

When you've narrowed down a few P.I.'s you might wish to work with, move on to 2. Contacting Potential Supervisors.

2. Contacting Potential Supervisors

Write your emails carefully:

The emails you write to potential supervisors are:

  1. A job application.
  2. Your first impression on the faculty member.

Remember to:

  • Tailor the email to the specific P.I. and their research.
  • Explain why you are interested in their field and how you see yourself fitting into their lab.
  • State your longterm goals. If you plan to go to a professional school in the future, it is advisable to note this.
  • Attach a CV or resume and a transcript to your email.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar.

Following Up:

  • If you haven't heard back from a potential supervisor, you may write a brief follow-up after a few weeks.
  • Our faculty members have many competing demands, and are looking for students who take initiative and show persistence in a professional manner.
  • If a P.I. has indicated that they will not be accepting you as their student at this time, that decision should be respected and not pursued further.

What's Next?

Once you've received a favourable response from a potential supervisor, move on to 3. The Interview - Ensuring a Good Fit.

3. The Interview - Ensuring a Good Fit

Schedule an opportunity to talk:

  • An in-person interview or telephone call will help determine if the lab is a good fit on both sides.
  • Use this opportunity to ensure you understand the lab's research and what your role would be.
  • Ask questions about the organization of the lab to ensure that it fits with your working and learning styles.
  • Ask the professor to share contact information for some of their lab members and reach out to them as well.

Contact lab members:

  • Deciding on a lab is a big decision; make sure you have all the information.
  • Reach out to lab members by email and ask relevant questions such as:
    • What is the P.I.'s leadership style?
    • Do you enjoy working with the P.I.? Why or why not?
    • Is the atmosphere collaborative or more independent?
    • If I am a particular type of learner, do you believe I will be supported in this lab?
    • What is the publication record for this P.I.'s graduate students?

What's Next?

Once both you and the P.I. have established a good fit, move on to 4. Finalize the Arrangement.

4. Finalize the Arrangement

Finalization happens in this order:

  1. Once you secure a Supervisor, you must notify the Graduate Office.
  2. Once the department approves the supervisory arrangement and you have set up your U of T email address, you will be invited to complete the GEMS Student - Supervisor Agreement Form online.

6. Troubleshooting Difficulties

Your Committee will help you with issues:

  • Early in the program you will be asked to assemble a committee, consisting of at least two other Professors, who will advise you in your studies.
  • These professors will serve as your contacts should problems arise in the lap or your program.
  • Ensure that your Committee members are able to meet two to three times a year.
  • Use these meetings as a forum to discuss any issues, and ensure that problems don't fester.
  • The Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Studies Administrative Assistant can also offer advice should you encounter difficulties.