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Supervisor of the year balances structure and freedom

Published: 14 November 2018

Kentaro Umeki, Associate Professor in Energy Engineering at Luleå University of Technology, has received the prize from Teknologkåren as best supervisor of postgraduate education in 2018.

– I am very honored and happy, it feels great that the PhD students appreciate my effort as a supervisor, says Kentaro Umeki.

As supervisor, Kentaro Umeki thinks it is important to care about his PhD students. He tries to do his best so that the PhD students can continue to develop themselves and make good progress in their doctoral studies.

– I constantly try to develop myself in my role as supervisor and I want to have a good relationship with my PhD students, but overall I see myself as an ordinary supervisor.

Want to see others grow

In his profession as Associate Professor and researcher, he thinks that the role of supervisor is probably the best part of the job.

– No other role can influence and witness both professional and personal developments of young generation side-by-side as we do. So, I can definitely say that the best moment is when I see their development. For example, it made my day when one PhD student who required lots of help for research progress started suggesting research plans instead of asking me. Or I feel happy when the PhD students “beat” me during a research discussion, says Kentaro Umeki.

Learning occurs when it is tough

Kentaro Umeki thinks that one of the main challenges of being a supervisor is that each doctoral student is unique. An approach that works for one PhD student may be completely wrong for another. Another difficulty is being both teacher and boss at the same time.

– I usually have clear opinions what PhD students should do in their research projects. But, telling them what to do is not always good for their education. The ultimate goal with the PhD studies is to become an independent researcher, and the real learning happens when they have to struggle. So, I am always thinking about the balance between giving directions and freedom.

Kentaro's tips for becoming a better supervisor:

– Understand the person you are supervising and wish for their success for real
– Give the PhD student structured freedom. As much as they need freedom, they also need structured instructions, especially at the beginning.