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Hi everyone...

While searching for universities to apply to, I generally search professors publications through google scholar & then check which universities they are in to apply to. As I'm not familiar with supervising conditions for PhD programs in America, I'd like to ask a few questions about advisers: ;)

1) If I apply to a certain departmental PhD programs, if I'm not able to have my supervisor from another department, is it at least easy to get a co-supervisor from another department?

2) Are "emeritus" professors eligible to supervise?

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What we call "supervisors" in other countries are often just called "advisors" in the USA.

1. It depends on the program. If you want to work with someone in Dept X and you are applying to Dept Y, you should ask the prof in Dept X and also the prof in charge of grad students in Dept Y to ensure that you can do this. Then, you should also check out the grad student handbook (i.e. a list of all the policies) to ensure that everything is okay.

While you're at it, it would be a good idea to also ask about courses---if you are in Dept X (or Y), are you allowed to take courses outside of your department?

I applied to US programs in multidisciplinary fields so these were common questions for me too. I often found that speaking with the prospective advisor in the US can often yield insights. Another thing to consider is where you want to be relative to your advisor. If Dept X and Dept Y are far away from each other, would you prefer being in the same building as your advisor or not? etc.

2. This depends on the school. Usually yes. However, many of them may not want to supervise students. You should definitely talk to the professor in question before taking a position at the school. Note that emeritus profs aren't usually paid and they basically only work whenever they want to, so it will be a different working style. Also, they might choose (or be forced to, for health or personal reasons) to leave the department during your time there, so I'd make sure there is a non-emeritus prof who could co-advise you if necessary.

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Thank you so much Takeruk for your detailed & comprehensive answer. I'm so much grateful for you :D

I would like to ask you also, if possible, about contacting US universities. While contacting departments & offices in US universities (through email of course) they rarely ever answer me!!! I mean I understand when a very few professors answer me, because they're usually busy, but I don't understand why communication administrators in universities don't answer!!! I rarely get the chance to be responded to from universities when I inquire about this issue (or any other issue, for that matter)! How could you deal with this lack of communication to know what you need to know?!

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1 hour ago, nushi said:

Thank you so much Takeruk for your detailed & comprehensive answer. I'm so much grateful for you :D

I would like to ask you also, if possible, about contacting US universities. While contacting departments & offices in US universities (through email of course) they rarely ever answer me!!! I mean I understand when a very few professors answer me, because they're usually busy, but I don't understand why communication administrators in universities don't answer!!! I rarely get the chance to be responded to from universities when I inquire about this issue (or any other issue, for that matter)! How could you deal with this lack of communication to know what you need to know?!

I know that there is a lot of variation between fields on how likely you are going to get a response. In some fields, applicants are told not to contact faculty while it is highly encouraged in others. So this is hard to tell.

One common piece of advice is that if you are going to write an email to a professor, make it short and ask a direct question that they can actually answer. And the question should be something that they might feel like they are the right person to answer. For example, I think lots of professors get very generic emails saying things like "I am interested in your research, how do I apply to your lab?" and they probably ignore these questions since they are not really the right person to ask. The applicant could find this information themselves and the professor may not have any influence on the admissions process at all.

However, a question to an emeritus professor to ask if they will still advise students is a good question to ask. If you ask this in a short email, and you don't get a response, you could consider it as a "no" for now. If that is the only person you are interested in at that program, I would probably not apply there. If there are 2 or 3 other people you're interested in, then I'd say apply and then try to talk to the emeritus prof again (either via email or in person if visiting) to see if they will take students.

I think the question about which department to apply to is a little trickier. Some professors will reply and some will not. When I emailed professors before applying, 1 out of 3 sent no response at all. If you don't get a response, then I wouldn't take it personally, but you don't really "lose" anything**. You'll just have to proceed without the information.

(** Exception: If you are in a field or a program that tells its students to not contact faculty members, then it could make you look bad. So find out what's normal in your specific fields first).

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Thank you Takeruk again so much :)

If professors don't answer me about the possibility of co-supervision from another department, like you said, I'd just move on & apply anyway.

But the problem is with the non-responsiveness of the department staff or director themselves, when I ask them about the possibility of co-supervision from another department. And although I can pass that, it's hard for me to pass needing to know from them if they currently offer any assistantship vacancies!!! This info is usually not available in the website of the department, & even more so, the website usually says "contact the department to know of any available assistantship positions". Knowing such info is very crucial for me, because I wouldn't want to waste time applying to a university/department where I wouldn't be able to fully cover my expenses through assistantship!!!

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7 hours ago, nushi said:

it's hard for me to pass needing to know from them if they currently offer any assistantship vacancies!!! This info is usually not available in the website of the department, & even more so, the website usually says "contact the department to know of any available assistantship positions". Knowing such info is very crucial for me, because I wouldn't want to waste time applying to a university/department where I wouldn't be able to fully cover my expenses through assistantship!!!

You're absolutely right. I would probably try again and phrase it differently. Maybe the email got sent at a bad time and got lost. Or maybe they didn't understand what you were asking. If you have a mentor at your undergrad school, perhaps you can discuss your email with them to see if you made a mistake or if you were not using the right word/phrasing etc.

If you still don't hear anything, then it's a tough decision to make. I personally wouldn't apply to a program where I need to arrange my own assistantship ahead of time but the program does not respond to my inquiries.

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Yes, I will try to resend my emails again. Thank you so so so much Takeruk for your very valuable advice :)

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