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Dr Miriam Gifford

Dr Miriam Gifford

Dr Miriam Gifford
University of Warwick
Who is your scientific inspiration and why?

When I went to study biology at the University of Edinburgh I’d never heard of plant sciences (it was just photosynthesis that was taught at school) and thus chose a specialisation in genetics. But in my 1st year I had a terrific lecturer called Philip Smith, an old-school botanist, who introduced us to the excitement of plant sciences. In 1st year he told stories of plants “killing their neighbours”, trailering later more specialised courses (“something you will learn, but only in your 2nd year”). This definitely inspired me to pursue research and I hope I convey some of this excitement in my teaching!

In three words or phrases how would you describe your supervision style?

Student-centred, spontaneous, supportive.

In one or two sentences please describe your strategies regarding the following.
Provision of training:

At the beginning you’ll be trained in different lab techniques and protocols by my experienced post doc/PhD students as well as the fantastic technical support teams in SLS. I’ll also be in touch to guide you and take care of your problems and needs. In time, you need to take charge of your own project as an independent researcher and by later stages I will expect you to devise appropriate methods and changes to methodology.

Progression monitoring and management:

We’ll meet at least every two weeks to discuss about your progress. You need to update me on new results, failures and plans. Based on your situation, I’ll provide my advice and guide you towardsthe best possible outcome. I will set out my expectations of your progression on a weekly/monthly basis. If these progression criteria are not met we will always discuss a plan of action together. I am here for advice and guidance to help you reach the goals you set for yourself.


I am always available to be contacted by email. In addition, we use ‘Slack’ for communicating within the group 24/7. This is not only useful to contact me, but others in the group and share files, documents etc. I am happy to discuss any issues that are impacting your ability to fulfil your potential or my/our expectations.

How often do your PhD students see you in a timetabled group meeting?

At least once per week

In year 1 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per fortnight, but usually once a week if you are carrying out a lot of lab work. However, I use 20 minute meetings since this is most effective for me!

In year 2 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per fortnight with 20 min meetings.

In year 3 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per fortnight with 20 min meetings. If you are in the final writing phase I might send feedback on your chapters every fortnight then meet monthly for overall progress checks.

What form do your 1:1 meetings with PhD students take?

Ideally face to face (if allowed under current health and safety advice), but I’m happy to do this via the phone/chat if you prefer.

Open door policy?

Yes, I am usually contactable for an instant response (if required) on every working day.

My expectation of PhD student working patterns?

The timing of work in my lab is completely flexible, and (other than attending pre-arranged meetings), I expect students to manage their own time. However, I expect my whole lab to coordinate with each other and overlap in the times that they are in, to facilitate discussion, planning and support. Most students and staff have core hours in the lab and we find that this is helpful to make sure that each person supports each other.

Notice for feedback (e.g. on reports, manuscript drafts, thesis chapters)?

I need at least 1 week’s notice to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words, but it’s most effective if we can discuss submission timings together since I have a big departmental load of work.