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Research with professors outside of your university


bioarch_fan
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So, my discipline is a relatively small field and I have a huge array of interests. My major professor isn't exactly doing much research right now and the research she is doing she has 2 other graduate students working on it (it's literally just database design stuff because she already collected the data). I know a lot of other scholars within a couple hours drive that I wouldn't mind getting a chance to work with on projects that they are part of.

Is it common for a graduate student not at your university to attempt to work on a project with you? How should I go about trying to do this?

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10 hours ago, bioarch_fan said:

Is it common for a graduate student not at your university to attempt to work on a project with you? How should I go about trying to do this?

It's not terribly common but it's not unheard of. It's usually easier if your own advisor or someone in your department puts you in touch with the person from the other school to get things going. Otherwise, there are different ways to get collaborations underway; most will include making yourself known to the faculty member by attending events at their school, taking their classes, etc., and establishing that you have shared interests. You might meet with them about your current work, and you might even straight up ask if they have a project you can get involved with. The main thing before you do any of this is to have a clear sense of how your own department (and especially, your advisor) take such out-of-department collaborations. Some might frown on them, and if that's the case, you could be walking right into a mine field that is best avoided. I'd talk to knowledgeable individuals (advanced students, trusted mentors) before making any big moves. 

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On 12/2/2017 at 3:22 PM, fuzzylogician said:

It's not terribly common but it's not unheard of. It's usually easier if your own advisor or someone in your department puts you in touch with the person from the other school to get things going. Otherwise, there are different ways to get collaborations underway; most will include making yourself known to the faculty member by attending events at their school, taking their classes, etc., and establishing that you have shared interests. You might meet with them about your current work, and you might even straight up ask if they have a project you can get involved with. The main thing before you do any of this is to have a clear sense of how your own department (and especially, your advisor) take such out-of-department collaborations. Some might frown on them, and if that's the case, you could be walking right into a mine field that is best avoided. I'd talk to knowledgeable individuals (advanced students, trusted mentors) before making any big moves. 

Thank you so much for your response! There are a lot of professors around where I go to school who I'd love to collaborate with because their research always interests me. Some of these schools don't have grad students of their own, so that would help me and them both I think. I'll talk to a couple of the grad students who are graduated or know my advisor and see what they say before I talk to my advisor about it. I don't think they'd mind too much but you're right, it'd be better to check with them before I initiate contact with these other professors!

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Are you asking about collaborating on additional projects (or some components of your thesis) with external professors, or actually doing your thesis with the external professors and only using your on-paper advisor as well, an "on-paper" advisor. Either way, you'll definitely need to do this through your advisor and your department. The first type (collaborating with external people) is fairly common in my field and a great way to get a LOR from outside of your institution (a plus for postdoc applications in my field). The second type is more rare.

One of my good friends from grad school was the first type. They finished the first four years of their PhD at their home institution and spent their last 2 years in my department (across the country) working with my advisor in my department as a visiting graduate student researcher. It's not as common for the student to physically move but it made sense in this case as my advisor was much more closely aligned with my friend's work than their original advisor. My advisor and their advisor are long time collaborators so that made things easier for everyone. One thing to keep in mind if you plan on moving like this is that my friend was still a student (and therefore paid) by their old advisor according to the policies at their home institution. So due to cost of living differences, this could be very good or very bad! I have some other friends who have done this and was able to draw their high stipend from a high cost of living place but actually live and do work in a very low close of living area.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This would be just as a collaborative project. I am currently working on my master's, so it wouldn't be beneficial to do the latter of the two. I just know a lot of professors somewhat close to where I am currently in school and their research has always interested me. But they don't have graduate students, so I figured it would be good to try and work with them a little bit.

Something that's not along this topic that one of you might be able to help with. I am trying to convince my advisor to let me get an outside reader from another university on my committee because her dissertation work was on the same thing I'm doing for my thesis, just in another country (I'm literally looking at the same thing but from another region of the Europe). But my advisor says that she thinks the other professor might be too busy to join my committee. But she suggested to another of her students that she thinks it would be beneficial to have said professor be on her committee because she used a specific method. But as my thesis is looking at exactly what the other professor did, wouldn't it be more beneficial for me to have this professor and the other student to have the professor who created the method on her committee?

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Honestly, for a Masters thesis, I don't think it's worth having outside readers. They add so much work to you, the outside reader and your advisor. If you really want to discuss the topic with this other person, you can still do so via email or other communication. This will allow you both the flexibility of not having to commit to anything while also still getting whatever advice you wanted to get.

Also, maybe one reason the advisor told you not to use the outside reader but told another student is that perhaps the outside reader is no longer active in their area of research that overlaps with yours, but this other method is something they are still working on.

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3 hours ago, TakeruK said:

Honestly, for a Masters thesis, I don't think it's worth having outside readers. They add so much work to you, the outside reader and your advisor. If you really want to discuss the topic with this other person, you can still do so via email or other communication. This will allow you both the flexibility of not having to commit to anything while also still getting whatever advice you wanted to get.

Also, maybe one reason the advisor told you not to use the outside reader but told another student is that perhaps the outside reader is no longer active in their area of research that overlaps with yours, but this other method is something they are still working on.

I already have one outside reader that I actually want to replace with this other scholar. My current outside reader used to be our department chair before they received a job offer at another university. And the only thing that they are bringing to my committee are the connections that they have in the country I intend to do my thesis on. But the other potential reader also has a lot of connections in Europe as well. So I think they'd both be good.

And no, the potential reader is still regularly doing work on the same area of interest. She consistently uses the same assemblages for her research and for her current PhD students to research. I'm hoping to apply to work with her as a PhD student after this. That's one of my main reasons why I'd want to have her on my committee. But I'll talk it over with my advisor and see what she says. Hopefully I can convince her to either a) let me have her on my committee or b) to at least talk to her at our conference in April about my research and to get her take on if I'm going in the right direction.

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  • 5 weeks later...

To the OP, definitely make sure you talk to your advisor about this. I made the mistake of proposing a project with someone outside my institution (since I am externally funded, I thought I would be free to pursue my own projects), and it turned out to be very much against the wishes of my advisor. 

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