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How to Find a Thesis Supervisor

If you study at graduate level, in a program with a research profile, you will need to write a thesis or dissertation. This project must be supervised by an ÉTS regular faculty member who will become your thesis supervisor. Here are a few tips to help you find one.

Role of the thesis supervisor:

  • Helps you define your topic and establish your scientific approach (literature review, methodology).
  • Ensures you know and comply with the rules of ethics specific to the field and the rules of intellectual property and confidentiality, if applicable.
  • Ensures that your work progresses well.
  • Advises you on your choice of courses (master’s with thesis).
  • Authorizes the submission of your report, dissertation or thesis for evaluation and ensures conformity with the corrections made after the evaluation (dissertation and thesis).

When should you choose your thesis supervisor?

  • If you are in a master's degree with thesis program (M.A.Sc.): it has to be either before the beginning of your first session or during your first term. Indeed, it is a prerequisite to be able to register for your second session.
  • If you are in a doctoral program (PhD): at the time you apply for admission.

How to choose your supervisor

Contact the faculty members that you had the opportunity to meet during your bachelor's studies (if you studied at ÉTS). Give preference to those whose expertise is linked to your desired field of study. To do this:

  • Check the Research Projects for Students page.
  • Browse the faculty listings, looking at areas of expertise, published articles and associated research chairs and units. 
  • Subscribe to Substance, the ÉTS science and innovation newsletter, to learn about our research projects and faculty members.

How to contact a professor

Have you identified a potential supervisor? Make your first contact by email. In this email:

  • Explain why you are reaching out.
  • Demonstrate that you are aware of the person’s work and achievements. If you already have a fairly precise idea of your future research topic, mention it. If not, describe your research interests. Sometimes the supervisor suggests a topic.
  • Briefly describe your experience, your previous education and your accomplishments, like membership in scientific associations and groups.
  • Specify clearly that you would like to discuss with him or her, either in person or on the phone, the possibility that he/she acts as your supervisor.
  • Mention your availability.

To your email we recommend you attach: 

  • A short curriculum vitae
  • A transcript of grades
  • A significant document (for example, an end-of-program report or a thesis) so the professor can assess the quality of your prior work

How to prepare for your first meeting

Be well prepared for your first meeting with a professor you hope will become your supervisor.  To get ready, think about the following things:

  • The subject of your project or your research: Define your area of interest. Do you already have a specific topic or do you want the supervisor to suggest one?
  • The main phases of the study program: Do you need more information about the studies, the doctoral exam, the writing, the submission (and evaluation), the defense?
  • The supervisor’s mentoring methods: Mentoring methods vary among individuals. Discuss the subject at the first meeting to ensure that the proposed methods suit you.

Sample questions

About professor-student relations

  • What degree of autonomy does the professor expect from his (her) student?
  • Does he/she favour a task-based relationship or one which also takes into account more personal aspects?
  • Does he/she meet regularly with the student? How often?
  • Does he/she have specific production requirements (e.g.: a periodic report, summary sheets) to monitor and evaluate the progress of the work?
  • Does he/she expect the student to be present daily at the university?
  • What is his/her level of involvement in the planning of the main phases of the project and the creation of a timetable?

About funding your planned studies

Adequate funding for the entire duration of your studies is an important success factor, especially if you plan to study full time. Ask about ways in which your supervisor could support you financially. For example:

  • Is he/she in a position to give you a grant from research funds?
  • Is he/she able to hire you as a research assistant?
  • Are there opportunities for collaborating with partners (laboratories, universities, industry)?
  • Is he/she in a position to offer you income from laboratory work, marking or teaching courses?
  • Can he/she advise you about scholarships and grants that may exist?

About workspaces, equipment and materials

  • Will you have a work space (office) at your disposal?
  • Will you have access to equipment and facilities needed for your project?
  • Will you have access to required supplies, materials and human resources (technicians)?
  • Does the professor have a budget to cover certain research costs (supplies, travel, etc.)?

About laboratory facilities/team and industry connections

  • Is the professor a member of a research team or laboratory?
  • To what extent can you use the laboratory facilities?
  • What will your role and status be within the team or the laboratory?
  • Does the professor have ongoing projects with industrial partners?
  • To what extent might you be involved in these projects?

Choosing a topic

Ways to pick a thesis topic: