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  • yishaox

General Guideline

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

1. Introduction

It is my very best intention to provide every group member with a wonderful and supportive educational experience. I would like to support each member to realize her/his unique dreams. I would be equally happy if my students want to become academic researchers or industry leaders in the future. I will adjust my mentoring plan to best support each member’s personal goals, so please communicate with me frankly and as early as possible.

2. Expectations

I expect each member to develop strong interpersonal and presentation skills by, for example, presenting in our group meetings and conferences. Our group’s ‘official’ language is English. Under academic settings, please communicate with each other only through English even if you may share other mother-tongue languages; this is very important for an inclusive environment.

Please acknowledge that each member has her/his unique dreams, habits, background, and culture, I require that all group members fully respect each other. I require each member to actively contribute to an inclusive and dynamic group environment.

2.1 PhD students:

PhD students need to submit a research thesis that presents significant contributions to the science and technology through addressing at least three interrelated and specific research questions. To graduate, each PhD student should have published or submitted three very high-quality journal papers, which should individually represent unique and significant advancements in science or technology. When graduate, I expect each PhD student would become the leading expert in a specific field and would be able to write a review paper about this field.

For students who wish to pursue an academic career, they would want to publish at least five journal papers from their PhD. They would also want to become teaching assistants for at least one semester and try to deliver one guest lecture; teaching experience is valued during faculty interviews. Further, they would want to mentor undergraduate or masters’ students to improve their mentoring skills. They would also want to participate in the writing of at least one research grant with me; the ability to secure funding is a critical factor in faculty search.

For students who wish to enter the industry after graduation, they may pursue an internship after they have published/submitted three very high-quality journal papers. They would want to help with our group’s communications with the industry to establish industry connections.

I expect each PhD student to present at least one academic conference. I encourage them to explore travel awards from McGill or the conference organizers.

I will typically guarantee four years of full funding for each PhD student. Funding beyond four years will be subject to the availability and progress of your PhD work.

2.2 Masters’ students (thesis-option)

Master’s students need to submit a reduced-scale research thesis or project report that discusses one independent project. To graduate, I expect each Master’s student (thesis-option) can submit at least one high-quality journal paper. At the end of your Master’s education, I expect you to gain a deeper understanding of the field and are ready to take on research projects independently.

2.3 Undergraduate students

UG students are expected to work with a senior member or independently on a small-scale research project. Through research training with us, I expect you to understand the basics of conducting research and your work may contribute to one section of a research paper.

2.4 Visiting students

Visiting students are expected to work primarily on their PhD projects from their own institution. They may participate in my lab’s projects, which need to satisfy the regulations set by McGill and their own institution.

2.5 Postdoctoral scholars

Postdocs are expected to work mainly independently. I expect you to contribute to teaching, mentoring, and grant writing in my group. To find a faculty position, you may want to extend your research into a diverse combination of areas. Your PhD work and Postdoc work should be able to combine to form a good foundation for your future research plans. You need to develop a short-term and long-term research plan that is unique and influential.

3. Communications and meetings

To help me realize my duty as an advisor, in-time and sufficient communication are necessary. I expect to meet with each individual member at least bi-weekly. My schedule can be very packed, so please make sure you reserve enough time with me in advance. A 30 min meeting is typical for quick updates, while a 60 min meeting is typical for research discussions.

A short story: I once co-supervised a student who conducted many tests for four months without communicating with her/his primary supervisor and me. After all the tests are done, she/he came to us with a complete report, but we identified problems with her/his test setup, so all the results are not useful. This unfortunate event tremendously wasted her/his time and lab resources. This short story emphasizes the importance of communicating with your supervisor in-time.

When discussing research matters with me, I strongly encourage you to express your thoughts, even if they contradict my advice. I have many students, so you will have much more time to think about your project, so it is definitely possible that you have better ideas about your project.

A short story: I was on a PhD qualification exam from another group, which did not go well. The candidate seems not passionate about her/his PhD project. After digging deeper into her/his thoughts, the committee found out that the candidate actually hated her/his PhD project but in her/his culture, she/he has to obey her/his supervisor’s instructions. This alerts me to emphasize with my group members that please do communicate frankly with me about your thoughts!

Our online communications will be mainly through Slack. Slack allows more real-time and diverse communications. Please install Slack both on your computer and phone. For urgent matters (e.g., lab emergencies), please text/call me.

If you feel sick, please inform me and stay at home. In this case, please take care and rest. If we have to meet, we will meet via Teams.

Email courtesy, every group member should learn Email courtesy when communicating with outside members, especially industry partners. There are many resources online. Please be polite and respectful.

We may have group meetings every month, where group members will have the chance to present and give each other suggestions. It is an important skill to raise good questions after others’ presentations, which will help you build your professional network through attending seminars/conferences.

If you need my support or reference letter for any applications, please inform me at least one month in advance so I have time to prepare and give you enough guidance.

4. Publication rules and academic integrity

Our group only publishes papers in journals and conferences with a good academic reputation and strict peer review rules. Our authorship sequence is purely based on your contributions. Typically, the student who leads the project and conducts most of the work will become the first author and I will become the last author.

I require the highest integrity in all our academic or research activities. Although I trust the integrity of all my group members, there have been inappropriate practices in other groups. Fraud, plagiarism, or falsification of any kind (data, figures, observations, etc.) is strictly prohibited. If I notice alerting signs or want to verify the repeatability of your study, I may ask a second group member to duplicate part of your study.

5. Writing papers

It is beneficial to start writing your paper once you determined a research topic. You can start writing the introduction and methodology sections when you conduct a literature review and develop test methods/matrix. This practice helps you organize/clarify your thoughts and save writing time when you complete your tests and analysis.

For all papers, please use Grammarly (or other grammar-checking software, e.g., ChatGPT) to perform a language check before sending the documents to me. It is free and very powerful in identifying your written errors. For PhDs and Postdocs, I require you to learn the book Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams and Joseph Bizup. Even native speakers will learn many academic writing skills from this book. I have copies in my office that you can borrow. I also have class notes from Stanford’s academic English writing classes.

For Line figures, try to use distinct colors and line types for each line so readers can easily distinguish them. It is usually required to use consistent bounds and units for axes of all sub-figures, so readers can easily compare across sub-figures.

6. Preparing PowerPoint slides for presentation

Remember your intention is to deliver your thoughts clearly. A few good rules are:

1. Have at most X+2 slides for a X min presentation. You will need almost one minute for each slide.

2. Try to remove all unnecessary information, don’t distract and overwhelm your audience. For example, you may not use your figures from your papers directly since they may have some unnecessary information and font size may be too small to read.

3. Use illustrations, especially figures, instead of big chunks of words.

4. Use at most two fonts in your slides. The minimum font size should be 18 points except for references. Anything below 18 points will be hard to read for the audience.

5. At footing, include the current page number/total paper number.

7. Reading and managing literature

When a student starts conducting research, I would encourage you to only read English papers from reputable journals or researchers. Also, it is beneficial to find review papers/books in this field to establish a more comprehensive understanding of the field. When reading academic papers, please think critically about their claims because researchers can make mistakes, or their understanding may be limited due to insufficient knowledge. Please develop your critical thinking through your research training.

I strongly encourage my group members to use Endnote to manage their literature. Endnote is free to all McGill students. It allows you to collect, read, comment, and cite literature easily. If you have been using another software that allows you to manage and cite literature easily, that’s totally good and you can keep using your current one.

For all of your research-related files, I require that all students back them up in could services (e.g., Microsoft OneDrive for Business), so you won’t lose them if your computer accidentally breaks. Please communicate with me if the free version or McGill-supported version does not satisfy your needs; I can provide a subscribed version of Dropbox. For large data files, I will provide external hard drives to back up the data files.

8. Awards, Fellowships, and Honors

I expect all group members to proactively pursue awards/fellowships/honors that are eligible to them (e.g., NSERC, ACI, PCI, FRQNT, ASCE, conferences).

9. Working hours and vacations

I expect my students to be hard-working to achieve maximum personal development in my group. Meanwhile, I believe working smartly is more important than only working hard. Further, I believe having good-quality relaxation is beneficial for improving your work efficiency. Therefore, I would recommend that you spend 7 hours working on your project energetically instead of 12 hours working on your project (while surfing the internet or wanting to chill). Therefore, every week, I expect each group member to spend a minimum of 35 hours of high-quality, undisrupted time on your research. Outside this 35-hour range, you can arrange your time based on your own situation and desire.

Our group observes all McGill legal holidays. In addition to the legal holidays, our vacation policy is flexible and can be arranged to help you get needed relaxation and seek a family reunion. In general, I expect that each member takes a two-week extra vacation during winter break and a one-week extra vacation during summer given that such vacation won’t disturb your experiment progress. You may choose to combine these three weeks into one vacation and then work from home for one to three weeks so you can have a longer family reunion. Additional vacations will be allowed if you have reasonable needs (e.g., medical) or make good research progresses.

Undergraduate students can take breaks anytime unless they are funded by us (e.g., through the SURE program).

10. Collaboration and protection of your academic work

Based on the nature of each student’s research, I intend to connect each PhD student with at least one external expert so they can gain access to more expertise and start building their academic network. PhD students may also suggest appropriate external experts, who they wish to collaborate with. External experts are usually leading researchers in a field that our group does not have strong expertise in. All collaborations must be explicitly approved by Prof. Yi Shao in advance. I need to evaluate the nature of such collaboration and its benefits to your study and your career.

Note that establishing external collaboration is a privilege instead of a promise. A student has to present good work so I can proudly present you to another expert.

While academic communications are encouraged, there have been inappropriate practices where people may steal your research ideas or plans. Therefore, please be careful when you share your research projects with external people. Usually, details of your projects should not be disclosed until the related paper is formally accepted. You may share general directions/research areas that you are working on. Please don’t disclose ongoing projects by other group members.

11. Reflections and feedback

In general, I expect that we have three reflection meetings every year (in May, Sep and Jan). During this reflection meeting, I expect that you make a presentation summarizing your work in the past four months and future plans. I will give you feedback on your progress. I also expect that you provide your feedback to my mentorship, which can include more computational power, lab resources, meeting time, vacation, and professional development guidance.

12. Conclusions

It is my very best intention to ensure every group member. If you disagree with certain aspects of this wiki or have any suggestions, please do let me know and I am very open to discussions. I aim to constantly improve this guide.

There are also other good resources of tips, for example:

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