Two of my PhD students have successfully defended their thesis in the past three weeks. For both of them, they have accomplished what constituted the biggest project (in term of scope and time) of their life yet.
However, is it really one project or a collection of multiple projects forming a whole, called a PhD thesis?
In a discussion with a postdoc of mine, she was telling me that she observed that advisors are of three types: opener, middle cruncher and closer… I am not sure this is the whole story but there is something to it
Opener corresponds to those individuals that the exceptionally good in defining projects in details, breaking it in smaller parts, imparting a vision to it and setting an achievable target for success. They are also especially good in getting all that is needed to get the project going.
Middle “crunchers” are highly efficient to step in resolving issues, pointing out important elements during the realization and getting new ideas along the way. They can turn around a project that appears to be failing and make them winner. At the same time, a number of individuals in that category tends to jump from project to project without always finishing the previous one: once they understand what’s going on, they get bored and move to a new “problem”.
Closers are particularly good in identifying key moments in project where enough have been done and, for example, a pause should be taken to write a paper and your thesis. They will guide you to destination and make sure everything is perfect.
I found out that getting ideas for projects is usually an easy part for most peoples. However, it does take more to be successful as a researcher. You have to be able to funnel those ideas to actual projects that are executed and in the end published in a form that is accepted in your field. A good mix of the above categories is essential. We all know or have encountered peoples for which one or more of the above is lacking… they usually experience difficulties in being independent researchers.
Have a critical look at how you are conducting your research activities and try to find out which one of the three types need your attention right now. Repeat once in a while. See how improving your weakest “side” help you get better overall!
Which types are you? What type is your thesis advisor?