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Dr Megan McDonald

Dr Megan McDonald

Dr Megan McDonald
University of Birmingham
Who is your scientific inspiration and why?

I would not say that I ever had a specific famous scientist that inspired me to pursue a career in research. I had the opportunity as an undergraduate to work in a research lab and was amazed by the freedom I had to pursue any biological question that interested me. This freedom is what really inspires me to learn as much as I can about pathogenic fungi, with the aim of designing dynamic control strategies that can adapt as quickly as fungi do.

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

Not necessarily hypothesis driven, opportunity abounds when you observe something unexpected or weird.

Write early and write often.

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

The subject of plant pathogenic fungi is often new to most students so I provide a lot of support for basic biological fungal knowledge. I tend to supervise more in the beginning of a project, providing introductory code, statistics-training and training in experimental design. After year 1, I expect the student to take charge of the main experimental focus, driven by their data and personal interest.

Progression monitoring and management:

I expect to meet roughly once a week to discuss experimental progress and project direction. In addition I encourage written summaries of data, inclusive of statistical analysis as soon as possible after a completed experiment (before starting the next experiment!). In the later stages of a PhD I expect to mainly act as a collaborator and experienced researcher, off of whom the student can bounce ideas.

Communication:

I am available during normal daylight hours (9am-6pm) and generally will not respond to emails or questions on weekends. I may send emails outside of these hours but do not expect a response outside of normal working hours. I will maintain a Slack lab channel where common lab topics can be discussed.

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 week

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 week

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

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

A mixture of face to face or via video chat or telephone.

Open door policy?

Yes, I am usually contactable for an instant response 3 or 4 days per week.

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. I also expect to answer questions and assist students during my normal working hours which are generally 9am-6pm weekdays.

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.