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Professor Nicholas R. Waterfield

Nicholas R. Waterfield

Professor Nicholas R. Waterfield
University of Warwick
Who is your scientific inspiration and why?

I find the amazing insights into the fundamental laws / building blocks of nature delivered by many scientists; for example, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Maria Currie and Steven Hawking, truly inspiring. Anyone who works on quantum theory also gets my admiration as it is so counter intuitive. In the biology world, there have been many great scientists; obviously Charles Darwin, Barbara McClintock (transposons), Rosalind Franklin (DNA structure) and Richard Dawkins. I also find the out-reach TV programs and books from Jim Al Khalili are also fascinating and explain complex subjects very well (e.g. “Life on the Edge” – about the field of Quantum Biology).

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

Spontaneous and enthusiastic, student-centred and I like to encourage the students to “take ownership” of their projects.

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

Initially training will be supervised predominantly / guided by peers in our large shared laboratory (experienced post docs/PhD students). I would also be happy to provide direct lab supervision when necessary. I would also provide a clear steer on what experiments and methods are needed to achieve clear outcomes. From a more general perspective I would expect the student to learn the skills to independently figure out appropriate methods. I encourage independent ideas and input into the direction of the project as it progresses.

Progression monitoring and management:

I will expect you to take full ownership of your progression but when you need help troubleshooting or wish to discuss experimental plans / direction I will always be available. I maintain an open-door policy and always promptly respond to emails / calls. I would also expect weekly “official” update meetings. My office is next to the lab so opportunity for casual updates is always available. I do not adhere to any kind of strict “lab hours” as I would expect you to manage your hours as you see appropriate for achieving the goals we plan together in a timely fashion.


I am happy to discuss any issues that are impacting your ability to fulfil your potential or my/our expectations. I believe good communication between supervisor and student is crucial. I would expect you to come to me you have any work-related issues or other issues impacting work so that we can find a solution together. Bottling up any issues is very counterproductive. A happy student (and PI) is a productive student in my experience. I have been known to email my team/PhD students at all hours of the day and night, however I will not expect you to answer during these times, it’s just my way of getting an idea / plan out before I forget it. You would also have a second supervisor to turn to at any point for any reason.

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 fortnight

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 month (minimum)

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 (on line) and at least 3 or 4 days per week in person (usually 5 days a 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. Certain tasks may need to occur at set times, and students need to be able to commit to a rota/timetable shared with other members of the team. This includes purchasing of consumables or booking shared equipment.

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

I need at least 2 weeks’ notice to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words.