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Kenn Oldham

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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?

Most advising is done through one-on-one or small group meetings, generally with a focus on helping new students understand past work and common analysis techniques used in my field early on, moving towards more of a focus on effectively justifying and communicating work as students advance.

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

E-mail.  Usually a response within hours to a day during the work week.  

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?

Usually once a week, though 

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

Yes, and also weekly or biweekly joint meetings with some collaborating research groups.  Usually another opportunity to check in on students and coordinate tasks affecting multiple lab members (experimental spaces, complementary methods).  Also used for students to practice talks before events such as conferences, workshops, etc.

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.).

Nearly all of my group's work involves developing physical prototypes, so students will cover some combination of engineering modeling and analysis to develop/optimize designs, hands-on prototyping, and experimental verification in the lab (and occasionally with human or animal subjects, for biomedical instrumentation).   I do not have a strong opinion on when students do the laboratory portions; I am often available to help during regular work hours, but I've had many students who preferred to work in off hours because that was when they liked to do so.

How do you decide authorship and/or authorship order?

I try to lay out tentative publications topics that I anticipate being the most prominent portions of each student's Ph.D. when they join my lab.  Research of course often evolves differently, but this gives the students and I clear aspects of the work that they are the prime "owners" of, to ensure that they have clear opportunities for first authorship.   In other publications, authorship is based on having made an intellectual contribution, generally broadly interpreted, to the work being reported.

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

I always like my students to be a GSI at least once, because I think it is a very good experience.   I don't believe I've had individual students GSI more than twice, though more could be considered if students were particularly interested in teaching and research progress made that feasible.

Do you have general expectations for graduation?

My rule of thumb is 4 years if coming off a master's degree, or 5 years if coming from an undergraduate degree.

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, I have had several students take internships.  Summer is definitely the best time, given my group's yearly schedule.

Opportunities for Feedback

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

I generally try to  set some goals for conference or journal publications, that can be used as gauge for how progress is going.

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

A few days is usually best.

How do you solicit feedback from your students?

Recently, began trying to set up mentoring plans through Rackham mentoring program.

Conference Attendance

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

American Control Conference, IEEE Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics, IFAC Modeling, Estimation, and Control Conference, Photonics West; funding from my research funds and Rackham travel grants.

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'm generally flexible on this with warning, and would like to see students take a significant break at least once a year.  A month notice is helpful.

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

Usually summer or winter breaks; I tend to do my own vacations in either July or August. 

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

I really leave this up to students, but times I'm more reliant on students being present are roughly the month before typical grant/paper deadlines in September, December, and May. 

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