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Kazu Saitou

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Mentoring Plan for PhD Students

Communication and Meetings

How would you describe your advising style? Does your approach vary over the course of a student's progress within their degree?

My general advising style is promoting self-learning for the students to gradually become an independent researcher before graduation.  Initially, I ask the students work on series of specific tasks for basic technical training.  Next, I ask the students to read many papers and generate a “map” of relevant work and help them define the scope of the thesis that fills a gap in the map. After that, I will gradually reduce the degree of specificity in my advices and encourage the students to take ownership of their research.

What is the best way/technology for students to contact you? Are there time frames in which students should expect to hear from you?

I prefer emails. I hate door knocking without an appointment. My response time varies from hours to days, depending the type of response and my workload.

How often do you plan to meet with students one-on-one (be as specific as possible, it's okay to describe multiple styles that may vary with student needs)? Is an agenda required? How long are meetings?

I usually meet with the students once a week for 30-60 minutes depending on the needs. I expect the students to bring their laptop and show me slides summarizing the progress during the past week and any questions. For questions, I need to see the evidence that the students have made reasonable efforts to find answers themselves.  Then I provide the feedback for the progress, answer the questions to the extent possible, and suggest the next steps. Occasionally I spend time to discuss mid-term (months) and long-term (semesters) goals associated with the program milestones (RFE, DPE, and defense) and publications plans (conferences and journals).

Do you have regular group meetings? What does student participation look like in a group meeting?

I have not had group meetings recently.

Research and Teaching Expectations

Describe your students' primary area(s) of responsibility and expectations (e.g., reading peer-reviewed literature, in-lab working hours, etc.).

I expect students to be responsible to take courses in or self-learn the subjects relevant to their research, to self-acquire computer skills necessary for their research, and to keep up with the conference and journal papers relevant to their research. In particular, I expect students to debug their codes themselves.

How do you decide authorship and/or authorship order?

If students are major contributors, then they are first. I am first only when I do the bulk of work (rare these days).

Do you ask students in your group to serve as a GSI over the course of their program?

Often times yes, for the courses I teach.  I believe the type of courses that I teach (those involving design projects) would help the students to prepare for academic job as well as industry jobs.

Do you have general expectations for graduation?

The minimum of one, ideally three or more journal paper(s) in a reputable journal(s). I expect students to be ready for PhD graduation in 3-5 years.

Are you supportive of your students going on internships? If so, is there a time of year that is best? How many internships can they do?

Yes, especially if the student’s research is funded by an industry sponsor.  I actively seek an internship opportunity with the industry sponsor, either during summer or during the regular semester (through Rackham Doctoral Internship Program), so the students can make progress or do technology transfer of the research during the internship.  In that case, it usually makes sense to do an internship toward the end of the project (which is also close to, but not during, the semester of anticipated graduation).

Opportunities for Feedback

How do you provide students with feedback regarding overall progress, research activities, etc.?

The weekly meetings are a time for feedback and discussion.

How far in advance of a deadline should a student expect to provide written work for feedback, such as publication drafts?

I usually do extensive edits, especially for maths.  I need at least a month to do a good job.

How do you solicit feedback from your students?

I would prefer a constant discussion of what I can do better to help each student in their own way. If the student has difficulty bringing up criticism face-to-face, the student can send me an email.

Conference Attendance

Which meetings do your students generally attend? What funding is available to attend these meetings?

ASME IDETC and WCSMO, if we have a paper(s) to present.  I encourage students to apply for Rackham Travel Grant.  If that is not enough (it usually is not), I provide supplement fund from the grant that supports the student.

Time Away from Campus

Discuss expectations regarding vacations and time away from campus and how best to plan for them. What is the time-frame for notification regarding anticipated absences?

I expect the minimum of a month’s notice for vacations or time away. I ask the students to be respectful of deadlines and schedules associated with sponsor reporting.

Are there specific standard times that students in your group generally take vacation?

The holiday break between semesters and July, if there is no need for sponsor reporting.

What do you do to facilitate students taking time off (e.g., do you proactively encourage people to take vacation after major deadlines)?

I take comptime and I would encourage students to do the same, to prevent burn-out.

Additional Information

Are there any additional points that you would like to share?

Drop me an email if you have any questions!

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