THE Outstanding Supervisor of the Year Shortlisting

THE Outstanding Supervisor of the Year Shortlisting

Issued: Wed, 15 Feb 2017 15:34:00 GMT

THE Outstanding Supervisor of the Year

Dr Matteo Cerrioti from the School of Engineering was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards 2016 ‘outstanding supervisor of the year’. The nomination was made by Matteo’s PhD student who obtained a considerable number of exceptional testimonials from fellow students and academics to support his case. Matteo describes the experience in the following:‌

My nomination as THE Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year came as a very unexpected surprise. The proposal was written and submitted by my students: Alessandro, Nicola, Sittiporn, Abdul, Minghu, Chen, Leonel, Yohei and Alvaro. They then asked for letters of support from some of my colleagues, researchers I have hosted at Glasgow and my line manager. I actually think that the spontaneous and unprompted nomination was one of the keys, together with all the nice words written about my supervision practice and relationship with the students, that led to my shortlisting, and hence taking part in the award ceremony in London.

The award ceremony was a truly magical experience, and the first of its kind for me. Hosted in a grand ballroom in the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, the evening was really in ‘academy award’ style (THE Awards are called the ‘Oscars of UK higher education’ for a reason!). After a standing drinks reception, the chief editor of THE – John Dill – introduced the awards and the proceedings of the evening. This was then followed by a first-class dinner and the awards ceremony. Richard E. Grant went on stage to call the nominees for each one of the twenty categories, followed by the announcement of the winners, in pure Hollywood style. We were also honoured with the presence of the Minister of State for Universities and Science Jo Johnson MP, who stated, among other things, the importance of international students for UK universities. This message was particularly welcome, being an immigrant myself and given that my students are all from different countries.

Despite the fact that I did not win, I think that the greatest reward for me was in fact in the initiative and the time that my students took for nominating me; this alone, more than the award itself, is motivating me to continue in what I do, and even try to do it better year after year.

In terms of supervision, I think that good supervision practice starts even before meeting the students, with the definition of a challenging and exciting project. To me, it is important that the challenge is not only for the student, but for the supervisor too: it is the continuous exploration of new avenues that keeps the motivation and the excitement for a project. The other important aspect is that supervision should be so only during the initial part of a PhD or MSc in research: in fact, the project should really be a journey that starts with supervision, and evolves into collaboration: the student increasingly gains control the research topic, and the supervisor’s role becomes that of a collaborator or advisor, as well as a support person.

‌Finally, if I were to give advice to students applying for an MSc (Res) or a PhD, I would suggest two things. The first is not to be shy in contacting your future supervisor, before applying for a specific project. Try to have a chat with them. Ask about the project, the research group, the resources available etc. Try to understand the supervision style, the frequency of the meetings, the workload of the supervisor. And try to understand if you would be compatible with all of the above, and most of all, if you are excited by the research project. The second is to try to write your own research proposal when you apply. It’s your projects, and your supervisor will be pleased to see that you are into it before even starting! It is likely that an abstract will be available: some topics are very well defined, possibly because they are part of a larger project; some others are more based on explorative, blue-sky research, and leave you more freedom. Read the abstract carefully, then try to think what you would like to do. Start from the abstract, and shape your own research. Try to find and read some past research on similar topics. Mention tools, techniques, methods that you want to use. Highlight where your previous experience will help you through the research, and state what you would like to explore. Be as creative as you can! Creativity and new ideas are the base of an exciting research project!

To conclude, I want to thank all my students for this incredible achievement, which I think is the result not just of my student supervision practice, but of successful teamwork and collaboration among us all. I would also like to thank the School of Engineering, for sponsoring the trip to London, and the College of Science and Engineering, for sponsoring my participation in the award ceremony.